Did you hear the one about the…

I’ve received several emails this school year along the lines of… “My son is 12 and will only read funny books. He doesn’t want drama, deaths, or sad tales of homelessness… just pure laugh out loud funny. He’s not into graphic novels and is so over the wimpy kid series. What would you suggest?

I had to think about this one and look back on books that made me laugh. Not just a giggle in chapter one and a slightly bigger giggle fourteen chapters later, but consistent laughter throughout.

Yes, humor is tough to write. Funny stories in MG need to make readers laugh because they have been in the same situations before, or can see it happening to themselves. It has to be surprising and natural.

There are many books labeled ‘humorous’ that go right to bathroom humor. It’s easy and you’re sure to have many 8-year-olds rolling on the floor. But my recommendations are a little more sophisticated. Try these to get yourself laughing even on your worst days (just make sure to hand your copy over to that 10-13 year old kid it was supposed to be for in the first place):

NO COINS, PLEASE by Gordon Korman 5166JG5330L._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_There are many fun books from this stellar author, but this oldie but goodie remains my favorite. It has no problem crossing over generations. You’ll find it with various covers but I always liked this one.

It is about an ingenious, 11 year old, scam artist, Artie Geller, who signs up for a tour around the U.S. with tour guides Rob and Dennis (Juniortours) and five other 11 year old boys.

During the trip, from New York City to Los Angeles, Artie comes up with some hilarious money making schemes, and its not long before he has everyone else in the group involved. Highly improbable in this day and time but hugely funny.


CHARLIE JOE JACKSON’S GUIDE TO SUMMER VACATION by Tommy Greenwaldcharlie-joe-jacksons-guide-to-summer-vacation-512x768

There are six books in this series, but since I also got shipped off to a summer camp when I was 11, I’ll feature this one. Here’s the book jacket blurb:

Despite all attempts to avoid reading and extra work, Charlie Joe Jackson finds himself in a terrible dream he can’t wake up from: Camp Rituhbukkee (pronounced “read-a-bookie”)–a place filled with grammar workshops, Read-a-Ramas, and kids who actually like reading. But Charlie Joe is determined to convince the entire camp to hate reading and writing–one genius at a time.

There are some subtle lessons in the story, and fortunately there is time to pause between the laugh out loud moments to appreciate each.

MIDDLE SCHOOL SERIES 5144l6PFm0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts You’ll find these books everywhere you shop, and they seem to release a new one each year. I have to admit they’re hit or miss for me, but their popularity with the target audience is why I have to recommend. My favorite is HOW I SURVIVED BULLIES, BROCCOLI, AND SNAKE HILL Give any of the titles a shot and see if it hooks you on the series.

ORIGAMI YODA SERIES paperbackby Tom Angleberger There are six in the series and pictured is the original. The humor is offbeat and hilarious at times. Some find it a bit too offbeat, but I need a break once in a while from the usual serious turmoil going on in MG books. I’ve also enjoyed another of Tom’s books, FAKE MUSTACHE.


That’s all I have for now. My list is lacking female authors, although I’ll give Rebecca Stead a nod for the humor she injects into her stories.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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6 Responses to Did you hear the one about the…

  1. Haven’t read any of these books. Enjoyed your synopsis. I can understand why some kids just want to laugh — and laughing is good for you . Life is tough for kids today with so much pressure on them from a variety of areas. So, I can understand the need for humor.

    I enjoy watching I Love Lucy reruns, if I want to laugh!

  2. Thanks, Greg. I just added a couple of these to my ever-growing TBR list. I really like The Terrible Two. The second book isn’t quite as good as the first, but they are both pretty clever and fun.

  3. Brenda Marks says:

    Great choices. I’ll share them with my two boys

  4. Libby says:

    I remember really liking How to Eat Fried Worms, though I can’t remember how funny it is. 🙂

  5. msyingling says:

    There were so many paperback only Korman books in the 1980s, and I completely missed them! Such a shame, since everything he does is fantastic. I’ll have to see if I can find this one.

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