These are four of the best parody, read and sing-along books, I’ve come across from Australian authors and illustrators, in recent times. They are sure to raise laughs and inspire pre-schoolers / kindergarteners to interact with the reading process, promoting early literacy.
Aussie Jingle Bells by Colin Buchanan (author) and Nick Bland (illus.)
It can be difficult for those from the Northern Hemisphere to fathom that Christmas is in summer in Australia. I love the idea of making fun of this difference by subverting traditional carols for an Aussie audience. Parody is a form of humour that reveals a truth behind a façade. There is nothing at all wrong with celebrating a white Christmas but for Australian children, we need stories and images they can relate to, from their own lives. A white Christmas may be the ideal, but the reality is that come Christmas afternoon, you’ll find Grandpa dozing in the sun and the kids and Uncle Bruce swimming in their clothes, to paraphrase Buchanan’s version of the Jingle Bells story. Another delightful book of this ilk, by the same author, is Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle (a la Deck the Halls).
There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Bunny by P. Crumble (author) and Louis Shea (illus.)
For fans of farmyard stories, this book turns the cumulative children’s song, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, on its head. Replicating the rhythm of this old song, with new phrases like ‘Crikey, that’s funny’, Crumble tells the tale of an ‘old bloke’ – a farmer - who progressively swallows larger animals, from a bunny to a cow. Its humour lies in OTT scenarios and madcap illustrations that fill every page. Its cumulative technique will hook little readers and compel them to join in with reciting, or singing, within one or two reads of the book. A clever re-telling of a classic.
The Croc and the Platypus by Jackie Hosking (author) and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (illus.)
This is a gorgeously illustrated tribute to the Australian outback, re-telling Edward Lear’s famous nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat. Instead of a bird and a feline going to sea in a pea-green boat, the croc and the platypus, an equally unlikely pair, trundle off to the bush in a rusty old Holden ute. Though not uproariously funny, it’s a fun book to read with children. Its humour comes through clever rhyme (a great tool for encouraging literacy) and an unexpected turn of events on every page, just as with the original. Fortunately, Hosking gets the rhyming and meter right and re-enlivens a beloved tale which had become dated by its archaic language. Anyone know what a runcible spoon is, for example? Having said thus, US readers may also challenge me after reading this book, asking for a translation on the Australian vernacular. I’ll start you off – ute means pick-up truck.
The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson (author) and Laura Wood (illus.)
I know I’ve veered off the path from nursery rhymes, so finally comes a magnificent parody of this genre. Every child reading The Cow Tripped Over the Moon will come with the preconceived idea that they know how Hey Diddle Diddle turns out, but do they know the true story? Tony Wilson and illustrator Laura Wood combine their efforts to create a piece of slapstick comedy to delight children with physical humour. On every page, we are taken through a new ‘Moon Attempt’ and the time it takes place, only to find that the path to jumping the moon did not come easily for the cow. By undermining the reader’s expectations and keeping them guessing until the narrative’s end, Wilson reinvents the nursery rhyme for a more sophisticated, sceptical and modern junior reader.
I'd love to carry on with more examples of books from this trending genre but no doubt it’s time for a holiday nap by the fire, or a swim at the beach, if you’re in Australia. I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion of parody in picture books and I look forward to more talk of humorous writing, next time I visit The Blogfish.
Brydie Wright Bio
Graduate, Craft & Business of Children’s Picture Book Writing Course
Chief Editor, Sydney Mums Group and Reviewer, WeekendNotes
Author of Daddy and the World's Longest Poo, IAN Awards 2017 Finalist, & Magic Beans from the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection
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