It has been observed by many wise men and women (the names elude me now) that laughter is the best medicine. It has even been recorded that laughter can prevent stretch marks, cure diarrhea and fix a very bad case of halitosis. I haven’t actually seen these records, but I only have to look at my kids to know it's true. Not a single stretch mark between all of them, and they do laugh all day.
I am convinced humor is a muscle. The more you work it, the funnier things are all around you. That’s why children laugh all the time. Their humor muscle is in the top shape. But how do we start losing the muscle tone? Yesterday when I was helping my 2-year old to put his socks on, I put one on my ear. “Voila,” I exclaimed triumphantly, “I finally discovered what sock are REALLY for!” My 2-year old laughed hysterically, while my 7-year old tried hard not to. I could see the corners of his mouth spreading in a smile as he stopped himself and said, “It’s not funny!”
So what is a parent to do? I think just always be willing to laugh is a huge step in the right direction. I try to make humor part of our daily interactions (Playful Parenting will give you a lot of ideas to get started). I try to make jokes and be receptive to silly situations (as when I started writing with the wrong side of a pen). I try to encourage my kids’ attempts at humor and laugh at spilled milk.
I also try to create a humor rich environment. We print funny cartoons and attach them to a bulletin board. We write down funny jokes (handwriting practice), so we can tell them to all our friends (sorry, friends). We look for books with nonsense words, silly rhymes, joke books, books with riddles, puns and other wordplay. And just in time for the season here is our pick of five Halloween books that make us laugh.
1. Space Case by Edward Marshall
This book rivals, in my head, for the most hilarious children’s book ever with Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox. It has everything a good comedy should have: funny plot, funny characters, and a lot of humor. A creature from space lands at the corner of Maple and Elm on Halloween night… It’s a strange looking thing, but nobody seems to take notice. Kids think it’s another trick-or-treater, mom and dad thinks it’s a toy, and a school teacher thinks its Buddy’s space project. What makes this book so funny? I know that I find it funny for reasons much different from why my kids find it funny. They like the idea that people they see dressed up on Halloween night might actually be aliens. They wouldn’t mind an alien to spend a night in their bedroom either. And they think Buddy’s mom and dad are … hmm.. not paying attention to details. In my opinion, it’s only on a surface it appears to be a funny story about an alien, while on a deeper level it’s an intelligent parody on the facts of life. Actually, without here entering into many details, I will go as far as to say, Space Case is a fine example of a high literary achievement and a case study for philosophy of life, science, psychology, and aesthetics.
2. Frankenstein by Ludworst Bemonster
Madeline’s lovers of any age will enjoy this monstrous parody. “In a creepy old caste all covered with spines, lived twelve ugly monsters in two crooked lines.” Mrs. Devel (the keeper) doesn’t have an easy time keeping an eye on her monsters. They yell, whine, wet their beds and even try to eat a reader’s dad. One day Miss Devel senses “something is not right” and discovers Little Frankenstein is missing his head. Dr. Bone is called in and the poor thing is taken to the hospital to get fixed. But oh no, now all the monsters wish to loose their heads. This rhyming book is humorous, entertaining for parents and kids and perfect for Halloween. Author’s own illustrations are imaginative and not too scary. I really enjoyed the irony and the clever parody on the original Madeline prose. We compared two books side by side for the first lesson in literary parody.
3. Halloweena by Miriam Glassman
This book is not only a funny Halloween story, it’s also a humorous parenting tale. When Witch Hepzibah finds herself in charge of a human baby things are bound to become hilarious. “Having a baby around the house meant a lot of changes for Hepzibah. She had to pull all the poison ivy from her garden… finding time to make potions was hard… To top it all off, good baby-sitters were hard to find, so Hepzibah gave up her wild nights out with the ghouls.” No wonder “she was going batty.”
Some of the funniest moments of the book come from charming illustrations. The page in the narration where the witch is trying to conjure up Lizard Tongue Teething Biscuits, while the baby is trying to get into her dragon’s eye brew is priceless. If you ever tried to cook a dinner, while watching a cranky little baby you will certainly relate.
This book is witty. Most of the subtle humor will be lost on little children, but they nevertheless find this book hilarious and enjoy the allusions to the fairy tales. My kids even named their latest Barbie Halloweena after the heroine in this story.
4. Over in the Hollow by Rebecca Dickinson
Over in the hollow where spiders spin, mummies lurch, werewolves howl and witches zoom things are never dull. Bright and colorful illustrations add a wonderful dimension to the story and kids always want to study every funny detail. The rhymes are funny and lighthearted and are based on old Appalachian poem. I think all kids enjoy words that imitate sounds and this book is full of them. There are also many words that create wonderful visual images. The funny rhymes progress from 1 to 13 and I can’t think of a better way to practice counting. My children and I fell in love with this book on a first try, which was last Halloween and the book hasn’t been out of a reach for long ever since. This book is a win all around.
5. Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex
The idea of turning every kid’s beloved classic Goodnight Moon into Halloween tale is brilliant. My kids know by heart the words of Goodnight Moon and it adds a certain level of excitement. “In the cold gray tomb / There was a gravestone / And a black lagoon / And a picture of… Martians taking over the moon / And there were three little mummies rubbing their tummies…. “ I don’t know about you but I’m impressed with all the neat and awesome rhyming. Nothing feels forced and out of tune. We like the detailed illustrations by the author himself.
My friend just mentioned that The Spooky Wheels on the Bus by Elizabeth Mills was a big hit in her house, so we are checking that one next.
And now because I want to finish the post on a positive note, I am leaving you with The Wittiest Halloween Jokes, Riddles and Puns from Psychology Today.
I would really appreciate any suggestions for funny Halloween books because I would like to keep this list growing. What are your favorite Halloween Books and Jokes?