Book Hooks: What’s So Funny?

No joke! One of the easiest ways to get a kid to read is to hand them something that will have them giggling, guffawing, or moaning about how “corny” something is. Humor is a great book hook.

I discovered the power of humor as a book hook by watching my own, self-proclaimed non-reader. As you might expect, I tend to leave books lying around the house … in obvious places, like the coffee table or her nightstand. At first, she used illustrations (think Big Nate or Wimpy Kid) to help her decide, but as she got more trusting, she’d read a chapter or two. Illustrated or just narrative text, if she found something funny … 

  1. we would hear her laughing; 
  2. she would come to find us to read from the book what was so funny; and/or
  3. ask me if I had more books like “this one.”

3 Tips So You Get the Last Laugh

  • Consider joke books. Jokes are a great option for partner reading. One person tells the joke, the other one reads the punch line. Joke books stand out because the material is self-contained and readers can pick and choose what they want to read.
  • Look for illustrated chapter books. The illustrations help move the plot forward, which keeps your reader turning the page. Even if they aren’t reading the words, they are figuring out the story from the illustrations and that’s reading, too.
  • Ask your local children’s librarian for ideas. Not only do librarians know what’s popular with young readers, if you have specific criteria (no bullies, no potty humor, et al.) they can make recommendations accordingly.

You don’t need us to tell you about Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dan Gutman’s Wierd School, or Big Nate, so we have selected some other books you may (or may not) have heard about that are sure to tickle your reader’s funny bone. Especially if you read them aloud, because you’ll LOL, too!

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Easy Readers | Illustrated Chapter Books

like big nateThe Adventures of Benny
written and illustrated by Steve Shreve

This is the perfect selection for emergent readers. The simple black/white illustrations offer visual humor; the pages usually have just a sentence or two, and the chapters are short. It is predictable elementary humor … but it keeps them turning the page.

like lunch ladyFunny Lunch (Max Spaniel series)
written and illustrated by David Catrow

Max Spaniel is not a dog … he’s a chef! Well, a short-order cook to be more exact. When people come to his diner to eat, he takes the order and makes the food. Or at least that’s the plan.

funny books for girlsIvy and Bean (12-book series)
by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Everyone can enjoy this story about two girls and the events that fill their days. Although the main characters are girls, boys will also enjoy this book. With Ivy and Bean, there are sure to be LOL moments about their adventures and perspectives on life.


illustrated funny kid bookThe Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost (Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hard-boiled Detective)
by Nate Evans and Paul Hindman, illustrated by Nate Evans and Vince Evans

Witty cliche, humor, and lots of action fill this mystery that brings King Arthur and Merlin to New York! The humor may be juvenile, but you can’t help but laugh out loud. The writing is very clever, complete with New Yolk scenery and accents!

fractured fairy taleWolf Pie
by Brenda Seabrooke, illustrated by Liz Callen

This modernized version turns The 3 Little Pigs upside down. The wolf starts out being the big bad wolf, but learns to be friends with the pigs, turns vegetarian, goes on vacation with them, and then actually saves them from a hungry pack of migrant wolves.

Middle Grade

funny middle gradeBernice Buttman, Model Citizen
by Niki Lenz

An enjoyable coming-of-age story is wrapped in this humor-filled novel. Readers will laugh and cheer along as Bernice tries to transform herself from a bully to a model citizen.

latinx middle gradeThe Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya

There is a lot to love about this slice-of-life story narrated by 13-year-old Arturo. He brings humor, cultural awareness, and plenty of preteen realism to the story. If you love happy endings and uplifting stories, this one’s for you!

just my luck Jeff andersonJust My Luck (Zack Delacruz, Book 2)
by Jeff Anderson

An engaging, diverse cast and plenty of middle school moments come together in a slice-of-life novel that readers will enjoy. The story is wholesome, fun, realistic, and imbued with cultural traditions that will make kids curious to learn more. 

middle school realisticUngifted
by Gordon Korman

Plenty of humor will have readers laughing out loud. There is a character for everyone in this story of a group of middle school students figuring out what “normal” is.

Young Adult

john green middle gradeAn Abundance of Katherines
by John Green

Looking for a light-hearted breakup story? One with engaging characters, a unique plot, and humor, too? You have found the right book.

dark humor good v evil MGlitGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

 A hilarious novel about stopping an 11-year-old Antichrist whose destiny is to bring about the apocalypse. Readers who like British humor with their Science Fiction will truly enjoy Good Omens. Although it is a Heaven and Hell story, readers with no religious preferences can enjoy it just as much. It is the characters who drive the plot.

feminist girl road tripUNpregnant
by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan

The book is very funny and the characters have a lot of personality! While this won’t be for every reader, young adults who like feminist road-trip stories will find this a laugh-out-loud adventure.

YAlit realistic comedyThis Will Be Funny Someday
by Katie Henry

Witty and hilarious. The plot is convoluted in the best possible way. perfect for high schoolers and young adults who enjoy contemporary. It’s a perfect gift for anyone pursuing comedy or anyone who remotely enjoys it. This is a humorous story, but read the note on potential triggering content in the full review before considering this book.