Thursday, 1 March 2012

Laugh your way through WORLD BOOK DAY: Three Funny Books

Today is... go tell all your books you love them and give them a cuddle. That’s something e-readers aren’t great for isn’t it – cuddling.

To celebrate this day I will be mostly laughing. I’ll try to keep it up all day (especially on the train and among strangers), although I'll stop occasionally for eating, and it won’t be difficult because this week I’ve been reading some very hilarisome books.

This week I went to a talk about the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, where funny authors made me - and more importantly lots of children - laugh. It was a great event, mostly because I didn't stalk any of the authors (am scarred by previous author-trauma). I discovered Philip Ardagh's trick for saving time, which could result in getting cereal in your beard, and that if Louise Rennison could have any superpower it would be to be 'unexpectedly bendy'. I also learnt that someone in the audience has a cat that uses the human toilet. 

So I was inspired to read some funny books.  And also to worry that my cats aren't very advanced. Neither of them can use the human toilet. Tilly does lie on her back with her legs stretched out like a person, though. 

And Billie has started licking the wall, which is nice for her, but I don't think it can be described as a skill. I asked her if she would be interested in developing some more advanced skills and she looked at me with the tip of her tongue poking out. Which I think means 'no'.

So here are THREE FUNNY BOOKS to make you laugh your bum off:


Louise Rennison

After spending ten exceptionally marvy years with Georgia Nicolson, I was as happy as a happy hamster to find out that I was going to get to hang out with Georgia's cousin Tallulah, who is about to start at a performing arts school in Yorkshire and has long, uncontrollable legs.

Tallulah is less confident than Georgia, but she does have her cousin (and the rest of the Ace Gang) on hand to advise her (while wearing beards for added wisdom) on such things as boys and practising snogging on the back of your friend's leg. Through her first two terms at Dother Hall (nicknamed Dither Hall by the Yorkshire locals, who aren't especially impressed by a load of drama students 'miming their way to the bus stop') Tallulah assembles her own gang of friends - including short-but-violent Jo and Flossie, who speaks in a Texas accent for no reason - and discovers a talent for comedy and improvised Irish dancing.

Louise Rennison said at the Funny Prize talk that the Georgia books were essentially her own life (a lot of the time she didn't even change people's names. Fellow fans will be glad to know that Herr Kamyer was REAL and he REALLY fell out of a train). With the Tallulah books she has used different elements of her life, including time spent at drama school, having Irish relatives that forced her to dance for them on a table, and having long, uncontrollable legs. 

And there is, of course, a decent helping of boys. In the first book Tallulah encounters floppy-haired Ben and has her first kiss - unfortunately it is like having a bat in her mouth. Tallulah's big decision, however, is between the Good (lovely Alex), the Bad (Cain Hinchcliffe, who is horrible and yet...) and the Cuddly (Charlie, who worships Tallulah's nobbly knees and just wants to be friends. Apart from the kissing.) Be sure that along the way there will be a bit of pretending to be a dancing broom, attempts at corker growing, and owls.

Favourite bit: The line 'just a pig' made me snort. Like a pig. And also anything that Tallulah writes in her journal, which is for creative thoughts.

2. PENNY DREADFUL by Joanna Nadin

Joanna Nadin

The third in Joanna Nadin's comically genius series,  PENNY DREADFUL CAUSES A KERFUFFLE, is out today so many hoorays, because the first two have had me chuckling away like a loon.

Penny is not actually called Penny Dreadful, she's called Penelope Jones. Penny Dreadful is her dad's idea of a joke and it makes him laugh like a honking goose. Actually her dad is one of my favourite characters because he says stuff like 'I could have been a ballet dancer if I hadn't married your mother'. My other favourite is Penny's best friend, Cosmo Moon Webster and his mum Sundance (who is actually called Barbara).

Penny is continually having great ideas, but unfortunately, as she is a magnet for disaster, her great ideas seem to turn into catastrophes. I listened to a radio programme with Joanna Nadin this week in which she said that Penny's antics are in part inspired by her own daughter and her friends doing things like deciding to give everyone on the street flowers and then proceeding to dig up the flowers from people's gardens and shove them through their letterboxes. And this is the sort of thing Penny does - she wants to do helpful and interesting things, like setting up a hairdresser's, so you can't really blame her for the consequences, like her cousin Georgia May ending up bald.

The books are full of throwaway lines and details that will have you, like Penny's dad, laughing like a honking goose, even though Penny herself is blissfully unaware of how hilarious she is. Like when she says she still owes her mum '£7.50 for the time I accidentally phoned India'. Jess Mikhail's illustrations are a brilliant combination of absurd comic characters and tiny, perfectly placed details and often provide the punchline - such as the picture of Cosmo being interrupted mid-T-rex impression by the teacher telling him they can't have one as a class pet because dinosaurs are extinct and dead.

Favourite bit: When Penny's suggestion for the school rat is Ichabod, which is what her dad wanted to call her, but her mum said 'it was too weird and also I am not a boy'.


Ros Asquith

These books are like Hitchhiker's Guide books for children, with added hilarity in Ros Asquith's cartoons and also in main character Flowkwee's disdain for Earthlings and their rather measly lives.

After saving Earth from the fearsome Threggs and their fearsome leader, Keith, Flowkwee and his family have been sent back to Earth in order to complete their mission of 'improving' earthlings (giving them extra limbs and heads and intelligence) and taking them back to their home planet Faa to be slaves. Flowkwee has been given his own mission of collecting some of Earth's best animals. This means disguising themselves as humans again (with their four useless limbs and only two eyeballs) and Flowkwee must become a normal schoolboy called Hoover Bogey Nigel Custard Toilet Hercules Namby Pamby Harmonica Hedgehog Coldplay Bugspray Cro-Magnon Colander Junior (Nigel Colander for short). He writes home to his best friend, Rok.

I was constantly surprise-laughing (which is when you are shocked into a laugh noise before you are ready for it and so the noise pretty much always comes out weird) when reading this book because, like with Penny Dreadful, I could never predict what the end of a sentence would be. An alien's take on normal human life makes it clear how ridiculous most of what we do and say is. The cartoons, full of detail, arrows and notes, are self-contained jokes on their own and made me nostalgic for a teenhood classic - DIARY OF A TEENAGE WORRIER, one of the funniest (and secretly reassuring) books I read when I was growing up.  

Favourite bit: When Flowk's sister Farteeta (Farty for short) rescues a goldfish from the cold water that earthlings stupidly keep fish in and then wraps it carefully in a glove. Oh and when Flowkwee's Papa offers the postman a bit of his wife's bum.  

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