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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Daniel Pinkwater

Laughing Matters

This month, Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Phyllis Root, the usual hosts of this column, have invited Kari Pearson to share her recommendations for funny picture books.

Kari Pearson

Kari Pearson

Let’s play a game! It’s called Funny/Not Funny. It goes like this:

Funny: Eating greasy bloaters with cabbage-and-potato sog (see: How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen)

Not Funny: Shoveling gigantic snowdrifts out of my driveway into piles almost as tall as myself.

Laughing matters, as anyone who has survived a Minnesota winter will tell you.

Whether you’re snowbound or not, I hope you will enjoy the warmth and wit this quirky collection of picture books has to offer. Some of them are old (look for them at your library or online through Alibris), others are newer. Most importantly, all are guaranteed to be more hilarious than discovering you have to kick your own front door open from the inside because it has frozen shut overnight in a blizzard (file under: not funny). Not that that happened, because that would be ridiculous.

The Big Orange SplotThe Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater (Scholastic, 1977)

It all starts with The Big Orange Splot. More specifically, with a seagull who is carrying a bucket of orange paint (no one knows why), which he drops onto Mr. Plumbean’s house (no one knows why). Unfazed, Mr. Plumbean allows the splot to remain and goes about his business, much to the neighbors’ chagrin. On this neat street such things simply aren’t done. Eventually, Plumbean agrees that this has gone far enough. He buys some paint and gets to work correcting the problem.

Overnight, the big orange splot is joined by smaller orange splots, stripes, pictures of elephants and lions, steamshovels, and other images befitting a rainbow jungle explosion. “My house is me and I am it,” Plumbean tells his flabbergasted neighbors. “My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” But Plumbean doesn’t stop there. Palm trees, frangipani, alligators…nothing is too outlandish for his new dream house. “Plumbean has popped his cork, flipped his wig, blown his stack, and dropped his stopper” the neighbors exclaim in dismay. They go about hatching a plan to get things back to normal on their neat street. But as they soon discover, once a Big Orange Splot appears, there’s no going back. Plumbean’s unbridled imagination far outstrips even their most ardently held pedestrian sensibilities. Wigs have only begun to flip.

Nino Wrestles the WorldNiño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook, 2013)

“Señoras y Señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind…Niño!” So begins the most improbable lucha libre wrestling competition of all time. Our hero is Niño, a diminutive boy in a red mask with more than a few tricks up his (non-existent) sleeves. Armed with little more than a popsicle, a decoy doll, and assorted puzzle pieces, Niño prevails against a colorful array of foes. La Llorona (the weeping woman), Cabeza Olmeca (a sculpted basalt head from the Olmec civilization), and the terrifying Guanajuato Mummy are just a few of the characters in this winning tribute to the theatrical world of lucha libre. Certain illustrations might be a bit scary for the youngest readers, but they are presented in a silly way that make them less frightening and more fun. And lest you think that Niño has no serious competition, rest assured that all bets are off once his little sisters, las hermanitas, wake up from their nap…

Slow LorisSlow Loris by Alexis Deacon (Kane/Miller, 2002)

If you’ve ever been to the zoo, you probably noticed that some animals are just not that exciting. Or are they? This story delves into the daily life of Slow Loris, an impossibly boring animal who earns his name by spending ten minutes eating a satsuma, twenty minutes going from one end of his branch to the other, and a whole hour scratching his bottom. But Slow Loris has a secret. At night, he gets up and does everything fast! When the other zoo animals get over their surprise at how wild Slow Loris really is, they don’t hesitate to join his all-night party, which includes (among other things) a multitude of hats, colorful ties, dancing, and an epic drum solo (by Slow Loris, of course). As you would imagine, it’s a slow day at the zoo after that as the party animals sleep off the previous night’s shenanigans. Boring!

Stop That Pickle!Stop That Pickle! by Peter Armour, illustrated by Andrew Shachat (Houghton Mifflin, 1993)

As fast as Slow Loris may be by night, I’m guessing he still couldn’t catch the runaway pickle from Mr. Adolph’s deli. Rather than be eaten by one Ms. Elmira Deeds, this plucky pickle leaps out of the jar and makes a break for it. Stop That Pickle! is a delightfully wacky story of one pickle’s daring escape and ultimate triumph over a host of other foods trying to catch it. (And if you were wondering if there is any solidarity in the food world, this book answers that question with a resounding NO.) 

When Mr. Adolph is immediately overwhelmed by the pickle’s speed, a disgruntled peanut butter and jelly sandwich joins the chase. “Everyone knows that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not the fastest sandwich in the world, but it does have great endurance.” Page by page tension builds as more foods join the pack, all shouting: Stop That Pickle!. By the end of the book the pickle is being pursued by not only the sandwich (hello, endurance!), but also a braided pretzel, green pippin apple, seventeen toasted almonds, a crowd of raisins, a cake doughnut, a cool grape soda, and an elegant vanilla ice cream cone. How will our pickle prevail??? The story culminates in a back alley moment of truth which I won’t spoil for you, but rest assured that this pickle lives to run another day. With its satisfying (yet totally ineffectual) refrain, Stop That Pickle! is a great read aloud book and will definitely make you think twice about the moral advisability of skewering the last pickle in the jar.

Sophie's SquashSophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013)

When Sophie spots a butternut squash at the farmers’ market, it is love at first sight. Her squash is “just the right size to hold in her arms. Just the right size to bounce on her knee. Just the right size to love.” Finally, Sophie has found the perfect friend! Except…her parents seem to want to eat her friend. “Don’t listen, Bernice!” Sophie cries at the suggestion of cooking Bernice with marshmallows. And so Bernice becomes part of the family. She goes to story time at the library, rolls down hills, visits other squash. Everything is fine until one day Bernice is not quite herself. She starts looking spotty and her somersaults don’t have “their usual style.” What to do? This heartwarming story is has a simple, funny sweetness to it as Sophie learns about being a loyal friend and what it means to let go. Don’t miss the illustrated endpapers which feature Sophie in her unparalleled squashy exuberance! This book also offers a seasonally appropriate lesson: winter might seem like the end, but sometimes it is only the beginning.  

How Tom Beat Captain NajorkHow Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Atheneum, 1974)

No self-respecting list of funny picture books would be complete without How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen. This gem is from an era where picture books were a bit longer, but that just means there is more hilarity here to enjoy. Tom is a boy who knows fooling around. He fools around “with sticks and stones and crumpled paper, with mewses and passages and dustbins, with bent nails and broken glass and holes in fences.” You get the idea. He’s an expert.

This deeply troubles Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong, a formidable woman in an iron hat who believes boys should spend their time memorizing pages from the Nautical Almanac instead of doing things that suspiciously resemble playing. So she calls in Captain Najork and his hired sportsmen to teach Tom a lesson in fooling around. As you might imagine, Captain Najork has wildly underestimated Tom’s expertise in these matters and gets his comeuppance accordingly. Quentin Blake’s wonderfully zany line drawings are the perfect accompaniment to the hijinks of this weird and totally satisfying story. Greasy bloaters, anyone? There’s also some cabbage-and-potato sog left. Somehow.

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Books about Chickens

Whether a chicken makes you cluck, BAWK! or cheep-cheep-cheep, books about chickens make us laugh. We may not have been introduced to a chicken in real life but, trust me, some people keep them as egg-laying wonders and other people keep them as pets. These fowl have been around in many colors, types, and breeds in most countries in the world … and quite recently they have become the subject of many books. Go, chickens! We’ve suggested 19 books. What would you add as the 20th book on this list?

The Perfect Nest  

The Perfect Nest
written by Catherine Friend
illustrated by John Manders
Henry Holt, 2011

Farmer Jack, the cat, is building a nest to attract a chicken who will lay eggs for his mouth-watering omelet. Things don’t go quite as planned. Other birds find the nest to be perfect, too. The eggs hatch and Jack is suddenly tending to little chicks who think he’s their father. The book is laugh-out-loud funny and makes a great read-aloud. Each of the perfect nest’s occupants speaks with a different accent.

Hoboken Chicken Emergency

 

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
Daniel Pinkwater
illus by Jill Pinkwater
Simon & Schuster, 1977

A classic book that will keep your kids laughing with every page turn. Arthur Bobowicz is sent to get the Thanksgiving turkey but there are none to be had. On the way home, he sees a sign in Professor Mazzocchi’s window (you know him, the inventor of the Chicken System). Arthur ends up taking a chicken home but it’s a 266-pound live chicken named Henrietta. She gets loose … and causes disaster all over Hoboken, New Jersey. A good read-aloud but also the perfect book for 9- and 10-year-olds to read.

Beautiful Yetta  

Beautiful Yetta: the Yiddish Chicken
Daniel Pinkwater
illus by Jill Pinkwater
Feiwel & Friends, 2010

Yetta, the chicken, escapes from a poultry truck in Brooklyn and is soon lost, lonely, and hungry, shunned by the rats and pigeons she encounters. Heroically, she saves a little green bird, Eduardo, from a cat, winning the gratitude of his friends, the parrots. They teach Yetta how to find food and how to get along in an unfamiliar place. The book is filled with Yiddish, Spanish, and English phrases and Yetta’s speech appears in both Hebrew and English alphabets. Your kids will soon be exclaiming about the “farshtunken katz”!

The Little Red Hen  

The Little Red Hen
Paul Galdone
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011 (reissued)

When the Hen asks for help planting wheat, the cat, the dog, and the mouse all say “No!” They won’t help her water it, or harvest it, or grind it. They are quite lazy. When the Little Red Hen bakes a delicious cake, who will be invited to eat it? Ages 4 to 11.

Chicken Man  

Chicken Man
written and illustrated by Michelle Edwards
1991, republished in 2009 by NorthSouth Books

Rody lives on a kibbutz in Israel, where he is assigned to tend to the chickens. He comes to love them and they him. He sings loudly with joy. And thus other kibbutz workers think the chicken house must be the best place to work and Rody is re-assigned to another job.  The chickens stop laying eggs. And Rody misses his chickens.  How will Rody find his way back to his favorite job? A good look at life on a kibbutz.

Chickens to the Rescue  

Chickens to the Rescue
written and illustrated by John Himmelman
Henry Holt, 2006

On the Greenstalk farm, things are continually going wrong. Monday through Saturday, when things need to be done, it’s the chickens to the rescue! In hilarious attire, with laugh-out-loud results, the good-intentioned chickens help animals and humans alike. Except on Sunday. Then they rest. The illustrations in this book are delightful.

Interrupting Chickens  

Interrupting Chicken
written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
Candlewick Press, 2010

Papa is good about reading bedtime stories to Little Red Chicken, but she can’t help but interrupt his reading to warn the characters in the books about what’s to come. Which, of course, brings an abrupt end to the stories. Papa asks Little Red to write her own story but Papa interrupts … by snoring. It’s a charming book, sure to cause giggles … and it brings some classic tales to life. Caldecott Honor book.

First the Egg  

First the Egg
written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook Press, 2007

It’s a book of transformations, from caterpillar to butterfly, from tadpole to frog, from egg to chicken, and more. Illustrated with luscious color and simple die-cuts, this is an engaging concept book for the preschool crowd. Caldecott Honor book.

Chicken Cheeks  

Chicken Cheeks
Michael Ian Black
illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Simon & Schuster, 2009

Bear enlists all the other animals to make a tower so he can get at some elusive honey. The hilarity comes from the view of many animal bottoms, 16 ways to refer to those bottoms, and the unstable, improbable, teetering tower of giggle-worthy animals.

Chicks and Salsa  

Chicks and Salsa
Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Paulette Bogan
Bloomsbury, 2007

The animals on Nuthatcher Farm are bored with their food. The rooster looks around and hatches a plan. They will eat chips and salsa made from the ingredients on the farm! The salsa recipe changes to accommodate each animal’s preferences. It’s so exciting they decide to have a fiesta! But when the day comes, the humans have absconded with their ingredients to enter into the state fair. What will the animals do? Thanks to the quick-thinking rooster and a resourceful rat, the party goes on!

Chicken in the Kitchen  

Chicken in the Kitchen
Nnedi Okorafor
illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Lantana Publishing, 2015

Set in Nigeria, a young girl awakes to a noise in the middle of the night. When she investigates, she discovers a giant chicken in the kitchen. Hilarity ensues. Nothing is quite what it seems. Will Anyaugo be able to protect the traditional foods her aunties have prepared for the New Yam Festival? Gorgeous illustrations and a good look at the masquerade culture of West Africa. 

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?  

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
illustrated by Jon Agee, Tedd Arnold, Harry Bliss, David Catrow, Marla Frazee, Mary GrandPre, Lynn Munsinger, Jerry Pinkney, Vladimir Kandunsky, Chris Raschka, Judy Schachner, David Shannon, Gus Sheban, and Mo Willems
Dial Books, 2006

When 14 illustrators are asked “why did the chicken cross the road?” their answers are fresh and fun and varied. They’ll delight you with their original takes on this old chestnut.

Hattie and the Fox  

Hattie and the Fox
Mem Fox
illustrated by Patricia Mullins
Simon & Schuster, 1987

In a cumulative tale with plenty of opportunity for different voices and great energy while reading out loud, we learn that Hattie, the black hen, spies a fox in the bushes. She tries to warn the other animals but they don’t believe her. A wonderful pastiche of anticipation, repetition, and the illustrator’s vivid use of tissue paper collage and conte crayon make this an excellent choice for storytime and anytime.

Hen Hears Gossip  

Hen Hears Gossip
Megan McDonald
illustrated by Joung Un Kim
Greenwillow, 2008

“Psst. Psst. Psst.” Hen is addicted to gossip, especially about herself. When she overhears Pig whispering a secret to Cow, Hen spreads it around until it returns to her with a not-so-nice rendition. Reading this book provides a good opportunity to talk about the ways gossip hurts. 

Big Chickens  

Big Chickens
Leslie Helakoski
illustrated by Henry Cole
Dutton, 2006

When a wolf threatens the chicken coop, the chickens RUN! They’re terrified and they want to get away. The fun ensues as they get into one hilarious predicament after another. It’s the exact kind of silly kids love and Henry Cole’s illustrations reinforce the goofy chickens’ reactions to the chaos they create.

Chicken Followed Me Home!  

A Chicken Followed Me Home:
Questions and Answers about a Familiar Fowl
Robin Page
Beach Lane Books, 2015

What would you do if a chicken followed you home? You’d learn to tell what kind of chicken it is, what it would like to eat, and how to keep it safe and healthy. You’d observe how many eggs a chicken lays in a year and how a chicken is different than a rooster. With bold illustrations, this book will appeal to both younger and older children.

Kids Guide to Keeping Chickens  

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens:
Best Breeds, Creating a Home,
Care and Handling, Outdoor Fun, Crafts and Treats
Melissa Caughey
Storey Publishing, 2015

Filled with wonderful photos and practical advice for kids who would like to raise chickens … whether in the city or out in the country.  The book suggests ways to consider chickens as pets, offering crafts to connect with your barnyard beauties: build them a fort, learn to speak chicken, and create a veggie piñata for them. Egg-celent egg ecipes are available, too.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer  

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
Kelly Jones
illus by Katie Kath
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015

Moving from Los Angeles to a farm her family inherited, Sophie Brown and her mother and father are reluctant farmers. Sophie feels isolated, which she tackles by writing letters to her abuela and to Agnes of Redwood Farm Supply. You see, Sophie’s great-uncle kept chickens. One-by-one they come home to roost and Sophie discovers they are not ordinary chickens … they have powers. Are they magical? Supernatural? They’re certainly unusual and neighbors will do just about anything to claim them. A funny, middle-grade novel, Unusual Chickens will have reader wanting to become Exceptional Poultry Farmers.

Prairie Evers  

Prairie Evers
Ellen Airgood
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012

Prairie Evers moves from North Carolina to upstate New York, where her family claims an inherited farm. She’s going to attend a public school for the first time. Up until now, Prairie has been homeschooled and having classmates is a new experience. When Ivy Blake becomes her first-ever friend, Prairie realizes Ivy’s home life is not a happy one. The Evers invite Ivy to spend time with them … and Prairie finds that a new experience, too. This middle-grade novel  has great information about the chickens Prairie is raising … and a lot about friendship, optimism, and loyalty.

Cheater for the Chicken Man  

Cheating for the Chicken Man
Priscilla Cummings
Dutton, 2015

A serious YA novel set on a chicken farm, this is a companion to two earlier books in the Red Kayak series. Now Kate is dealing with her father’s death, her mother’s grief, and her brother J.T.’s return home from a juvenile detention camp where he served a sentence for second-degree murder. She wants to give her brother a chance at a fresh start but it’s a daunting task.

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me  

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me
Maya Angelou
photographs by Margaret Courtney Clarke
Crown, 2003

“Hello, Stranger-Friend” begins Maya Angelou’s story about Thandi, a South African Ndebele girl, her mischievous brother, her beloved chicken, and the astonishing mural art produced by the women of her tribe.  With never-before-seen photographs of the very private Ndebele women and their paintings, this unique book shows the passing of traditions from parent to child and introduces young readers to a new culture through a new friend. Thanks to Nancy Bo Flood for suggesting this title.

 

Our commenters have added:

  • The Plot Chickens by Mary Jane and Herb Auch
  • Wings: a Tale of Two Chickens by James Marshall
  • Chicken Squad: the First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin, illus by Kevin Cornell
  • Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

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