Three Picture Books that are Lots of Funny

When your child recognizes humor in a book and laughs for the first time, it’s magical. As my 3-year-old daughter says, good books have “lots of funny.” Here are three classics in our personal library that bring us lots of funny. Oddly enough, a single person was the author and illustrator in each case.

WARNING: SPOILERS. I discuss plot lines. I’m about to utterly crush the 5 minutes of pleasure you’ll get the first time reading these books.

Cover of Good Night, Gorilla.

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann was the first story to elicit uproarious laughter from my daughter. The book is rated baby to preschool.

As a zookeeper is saying good night to his animals, a gorilla secretly grabs the zookeeper’s keyring from his back pocket. The gorilla then follows the zookeeper, unlocking the cages and a procession of animals follows the man home without his knowledge. In bed, the man’s wife says “Good night, dear” and in the darkness all of the animals say good night in unison. The surprised wife then leads the animals back to the zoo.

The secret of a good joke is its delivery. When the uninvited animals say “good night” in the darkness, the wife’s eyes open wide with recognition. At this moment I do an imitation of Scooby Doo’s surprise-from-disbelief sound, “Uuuugh?”  (Listen to the Scooby Doo theme song to hear the sound 10 seconds in.) I make the sound again on the next page when then wife turns on a bed lamp and sees a smiling gorilla in bed next to her. I’d never seen my daughter roll on the floor with laughter before.

Also see: Gorilla preschool lesson plan

Cover of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems is another simple story, with the barest of drawings. The book is rated baby to preschool.

On the first page, a bus driver speaks directly to your child, asking your child to not let the pigeon drive the bus while he leaves for a moment.

The book’s success depends entirely on your ability to play the part of a pigeon who really, really, really wants to drive a bus. You’ve achieved success if you get your child to yell “No!” each time the pigeon makes a plea.

“C’mon! Just once around the block!”
“I’ll be your best friend!”
“I bet your mom would let me.”

This premise has been parlayed into a series of books. They’re not a big vocabulary builder, but are a fun diversion.

The series:

Cover of Morris the Moose.

Morris the Moose by B. Wiseman was a surprise hit. Although simply written and cartoonishly illustrated, it has some sophisticated humor.

Morris sees a cow and says, “You are a funny-looking moose.” This spurs the cow to insist she is a cow, even though she has horns, four hooves and a tail. The cow eventually seeks corroboration from a deer, but the deer says, “She [the cow] has four legs and a tail and things on her head. She is a deer, like me.”

The three mixed up animals then meet a horse, but before they say anything, the horse greets them, “Hello you horses! What are those funny things on your heads?”

Each animal smiles when it talks and appears to think everyone else is
being amusingly absurd. So I add a bit of laughter after each animal speaks.

Finally, the animals see their own reflections in a stream and Morris realizes he has made a big “MOOSEstake.”

It was the “Moosestake” punchline that made my daughter just lose it. Moosestake is now a household word and whenever I find a situation to use it, there is guaranteed laughter.

The book is rated for ages 4 to 8. Holy cow! Maybe that’s the reading level, but a 2- to 3-year-old can understand some if not all of the humor. And if not, it’s still a great introduction to distinguishing the differences between animals.

The series:

What books does your toddler find laugh-out-loud funny?


8 Responses to “Three Picture Books that are Lots of Funny”

  1. judy says:

    The whole “Sheep In A Jeep” series. Never tired of reading those!

    June 18th, 2007 at 2:59 am

  2. Jackie says:

    I love the Morris books! There is a great one I remember reading when I was little. I think he gets sick and says something like “my nose is walking” instead of my nose is running because it was only a little runny. See if you can find that one as well; it was a great book!


    June 18th, 2007 at 4:09 am

  3. Randa Clay says:

    Good Night Gorilla cracks me up. My son is a little young to see the humor quite yet, but I’m looking forward to the day when it strikes him as funny. Thanks for the other recommendations.

    June 18th, 2007 at 6:20 am

  4. Cathy says:

    Have you seen Peggy Rathman’s 10 Minutes to Bedtime? We just got it and love that there’s a little bit of Goodnight Gorilla in the background.

    Also, we still regularly read the George Shrinks board book you recommended (and kindly helped me acquire!) a couple of years ago.

    June 18th, 2007 at 6:23 am

  5. Jennifer says:

    Robert Munsch books are the best!!! My favorites from him are Up, Up, Down, Mortimer, Smelly Socks, and Mmm! Cookies! These seem to be favorites of most children I read these to. You can almost guaruntee laughter from most of his books (Except Love you Forever as this is more of a great sleepy time lullaby book.)

    June 18th, 2007 at 11:39 am

  6. KC says:

    Goodnight Gorilla is pretty cool. I’ve seen a video of it as well.

    Silly Sally also is fantastic.

    Sheep in a Jeep is very fun to read too.

    June 21st, 2007 at 7:53 pm

  7. Kevin says:

    My 1 yr. old daughter gets a kick out of the same part in Goodnight Gorilla. She now squirms with anticipation when we get close to that part of the book.

    July 2nd, 2007 at 12:29 pm

  8. Edith says:

    My husband and I bought Morris the Moose for our friends’ daughters for the 2008 holidays. We were browsing the children’s section in the book store and when I read Morris to myself I literally laughed out loud. I handed it to my husband so he could read it and he laughed out loud too. We loved it, and family we gave it to loves it too! I still quote the horses line at home too, even though we don’t have kids:)

    Two of my other favorite children’s books are: Those Can Do Pigs by David McPhail and Fox In Socks by Dr. Seuss.

    February 20th, 2009 at 7:28 am