By Brydie Wright
G’day, fellow members of the Children’s Book Academy family. My name is Brydie and I know you were expecting Mira Reisberg PhD on the blog today. Mira is out of town this week and sends her regards, asking me, the newest member of the Blogfish team, to post in her stead. Big shoes to fill, huh?
I’ve been invited to blog monthly about humour in kids’ books and innovative Australian books. Hope Mira knows what she’s in for! These are two of my passions and I have an irreverent take on both...
Humour in children’s books is a hot topic with the rise and rise of bestseller middle-grade series, turned blockbuster movies, the likes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (by Jeff Kinney) and Captain Underpants (by Dav Pilkey). The underlying success of these narratives is satirical comedy, based on realistic (though often exaggerated) fictional scenarios. In other words, kids laugh at them because they can relate to them.
For this blog, let’s take a step back to why kids are drawn to reading in the first place. I’m talking way back when their parents read picture books to them. In a Children’s Book Academy (free) webinar with Mira Reisberg PhD and Julia Maguire, Editor, I learned that the function of children’s books is to:
3. Navigate the child’s relationship between the internal and external world.
A tall order but one worth striving for, if you want to write books that children will remember.
Think back to how you got into reading, as a child. Were you a reluctant, or a keen reader? How many of the books read to you, do you remember? What made them memorable?
If you’re anything like me, humour with shades of darkness, or the absurd, was the surest way to tickle my fancy. Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile and Dr Seuss's The Cat in The Hat were on high-rotation at my house and if I look at them now with a critical eye, they satisfied the above criteria. Funny books that have a relatable cheekiness and a moral compass, however subversive they might appear.
Fast forward a generation to when you became a parent-reader, or an aspiring writer for children, or both. What style of children’s book takes your fancy now?
You may have been taught about ‘modelling’ your writing on picture books you admire and have been successful, or critically acclaimed. It’s not copying or plagiarism; it’s recognising that there is a craft and business to writing for children. You can learn a lot from the style of other authors who have more experience and a publishing track record. In my case, the picture book that inspired me to pick up a pen was My Aussie Dad, a clever example of satirical humour, combined with realism. The paperback (for ages 5+) was published in Australia in 2010 and written by Aussie wordsmith Yvonne Morrison and author/illustrator Gus Gordon.
My Aussie Dad is a simple, rhyming fiction (with comic illustrations) that has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. The little boy protagonist observes his father’s stereotypically “Aussie” behaviour and “she’ll be right” attitude. He may not be perfect but he means the world to his son. The paternal bond is a universal truth for children, as is ‘taking the mickey’ for any Australian. As with Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants, humour is created through an ironic study of human behaviour, from a child’s perspective, kind of like this equation: -
Light-hearted humour in children's books
Irreverence + heart + real life = entertainment + education + navigating the world around you
In future blogs, I’m keen to explore different genres of humour but in the meantime, I’d love to hear which funny books got you hooked on reading. Please feel free to leave a comment.
Brydie Wright Bio
Graduate, Craft & Business of Children’s Picture Book Writing Course
Chief Editor, Sydney Mums Group and Reviewer, WeekendNotes
Self-published children's author of Daddy and the World's Longest Poo, IAN Awards 2017 Finalist
Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.