Category Archives: Humour

Dream Team

Meet the Dream Team! They turn nightmares into incredible adventures in this fast-paced first book in the series written and illustrated by the award-winning Tom Percival.
Erika’s had a bad day and struggles with her emotions, especially her temper. But going to sleep upset means bad dreams. She finds herself stranded in the Dreamscape along with a mob of hungry Heebie Jeebies – and to make matters worse, she’s being hunted by a terrifying Angermare! Only the Dream Team can help save Erika now and help her overcome her worries and get home, or will she be trapped forever?Attack of the Heebie Jeebies is the launch title in this fun and engaging two-colour illustrated series, exploring anxiety in in children through action and adventure. With echoes of Dreamworks’s Inside Out and The Incredibles Dream Team is a great way to introduce children to managing their anger, especially if they have a bad case of the heebie-jeebies!

Attack of the Heebie Jeebies

The second book in the fun and adventure-packed Dream Team series, Erika returns to tackle some more nightmares in the dreamscape, in this case the jitters!
Erika’s friend Kris is HILARIOUS. She thinks he should perform in their
school’s talent show, but he’s far too nervous.
And when Erika gets a call from the Dream Team to help on a mission, she meets another girl who is struggling with confidence. Chanda’s dream is being attacked by the jitters and nothing seems to be going right.
Try as they might, the team can’t get control of her dream – until Erika realizes that there is a connection between Chanda and Kris. Can she help Chanda to find some confidence before the jitters take over completely?
The perfect book for children to learn how to overcome anxiety and nervousness in a digestible and entertaining way.

A Case of the Jitters

Tom Percival’s Big Bright Feelings picturebooks for Bloomsbury are brilliant introductions to emotions for younger children, and in his new series for Macmillan Children’s he tackles the big subject of anxiety and related emotions (starting the series with with bad tempers and self confidence) but in short, highly illustrated chapter books for a middle grade audience (age 5+). Some dark stuff happens in bad dreams (just wait until you meet the Bone Cobble in A Case of the Jitters!) but I just love the humour in these books that balances it out nicely. There is properly witty banter between the characters, pitched perfectly for the younger reader but also funny to an older child (and any grownups reading with them), and the characters are great fun. His dreamscapes are really inventive but I also like that Erika’s real-world relationships are developed. I think these books would be great to read with a child to see what conversations they spark around feelings and worries, but they are also just great fun reads…and make sure you read the acknowledgements, heehee!

TEACHERS/SCHOOL LIBRARIANS: They would be wonderful to read with a class, and here are some lesson plans (with links to audio of the first two chapters) to whet your appetite!

Thank you to Macmillan Kids for inviting me to be part of the tour, and sending review copies of these two wonderful titles! I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next in the series.

Comic Classics: Great Expectations

OLD books get NEW doodles – it’s the classics as you’ve never seen them before!A hilarious new series that brings the classics to life with illustrations by Jack Noel. Perfect for fans of Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid and Dav Pilkey. And Charles Dickens.

WHAT THE DICKENS?

Ten-year-old Pip gets the fright of his life when he meets an escaped convict in a spooky graveyard. And that’s just the beginning of an adventure that will lead him to a house full of secrets, a strange old lady and a journey to the big city to seek his fortune. But Pip is in for a BIG surprise . . .

Join Pip in a rip-roaring story of family secrets, scary grannies and a REALLY annoying big sister in COMIC CLASSICS: GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens and Jack Noel.

Egmont
Comic Classics: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens and Jack Noel

Do we need the classics? Normally I’d say “not really” and go back to reading an outstanding recently published novel that is actually written for children and not just foisted upon them by the education system <ahem>…but there are a few exceptions. I have never read a Dickens novel except for A Chrismas Carol (though I mostly remember it because of The Muppets) and would happily have never changed that state of affairs until this book crossed my path! Carefully abridged by Liz Bankes, this version is enlivened by loads of doodles by Jack Noel. I flew through it and really enjoyed the way these simple pictures highlighted the story and often explained what the text meant without patronising young readers.

I asked Jack Noel a few questions about it all (unfortunately Charles was unavailable for comment):

What inspired you to create this series?

I love books with pictures. We’re living in a golden age of illustrated young fiction (eg. Tom Gates, Claude, Mr Gum, Barry Loser, Reeves & McIntyre, Lyttle Lies etc). I would have loved them all when I was eight or ten or twenty or thirty and I love them now. I wanted to have a go myself. I was curious to see how the style would work when applied to something a little different. It turns out: quite well!

Did you read Great Expectations as a child?

We read Great Expectations at school. I thought we’d read the whole thing but I now know that my teacher just selected the best bits (the graveyard! the cake! the fire!). Also I think my mum made me watch the David Lean movie one wet Sunday afternoon. Though it might have been Kathy Come Home. It was some old black and white film, anyway. I thought it was quite boring.

There are two more coming soon, Treasure Island & The Hound of the Baskervilles, how many more are in the pipeline? How have you chosen the titles?

We just choose the most fun ones we can think of. Treasure Island is great because it’s got all the original pirate ideas like the maps and a parrot that says ‘pieces of eight’. I’m also hoping that the publisher will pay for me to sail to the Caribbean on a promotional tour. The Hound of the Baskervilles is the best Sherlock Holmes story and I’ve been into him ever since I saw The Great Mouse Detective in 1986, about a mouse version of Sherlock Holmes.

If you could add doodles to *any* book, what would you choose?

I feel like any book would be better with doodles. Hilary Mantel books are wonderful but a couple of doodle Thomas Cromwells wouldn’t go amiss. I can’t draw horses very well though, so no Black Beauty.

What kind of author events do you enjoy doing?

I like author events with lots of live drawing and collaboration. I aim for 65% fun, 30% inspiring, 5% educational. If the kids are shouting, that’s a good event. Even if it is because they’re angry.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I just started the latest Sam Wu book by  Katie and Kevin Tsang. It’s about a boy who isn’t afraid of Zombies. It’s packed with great pictures by Nathan Reed. 

What, other than Comic Classics, are you working on?

I’ve got a novel coming out in August called MY HEADTEACHER IS AN EVIL GENIUS. Not to spoil it or anything, but it’s about a headteacher who is an evil genius. It’s got loads of pictures and jokes and stuff, you’d like it.

Comic Classics: Great Expectations is out now. For a sneak peek, have a look here on the Egmont website. Thanks Egmont for sending me a review copy!

Passive Programming Idea: Jokes in a Mug

A passive programme that I have found to be very successful is setting out a mug containing jokes on the service desk.

It has been attracting library patrons of all ages and has a dedicated band of followers who now come in on a regular basis just to pick up a joke.

If you are interested in testing it out, all you need is a mug/cup and a discrete sign advertising hat is on offer. You can collect a range of jokes and reuse them as statistically people would grab a different joke each time.

For those of you who may not have the time to hunt down jokes suitable for all ages I have a selection available to download below.

Jokes

Space and science fiction jokes

One Liners

Follow the Funny

Those of you who attended the YLG national conference in Manchester last month will remember the panel discussion about funny books for children and writing comedy. In response to an audience question about judging the quality of comedy, one of the panellists, Dave Shelton, recommended some podcasts about the mechanics of writing comedy. Afterwards I asked if he’d be able to share them for the blog and, after a gentle prod, he has!

Barry Cryer is fond of saying that analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog: nobody laughs, and the frog dies. And Barry Cryer has been extremely funny for about three centuries now, so he knows a thing or two. But personally, possibly because I don’t have funny bones like Mr Cryer’s, and because I’m naturally a bit nerdy, I quite enjoy taking a scalpel to a joke and figuring out how it works. I wouldn’t want to do it all the while: I’d hate to lose the pure joy of laughing at a great gag, or a sketch, or a bit of slapstick, and not worrying about the craft that went into it. But some of the writing I do is meant to be funny, and I want to be good at my job, so I do like sometimes (to switch metaphors) to open the bonnet and take a look at the engine. And happily, in the Age of the Internet, there are some pretty good comedy Haynes manuals available for those of us who take an interest in the mechanics. So here, for anyone similarly interested in poking about in the inner workings of all things funny, are my favourite podcasts on the subject.

The Comedian’s Comedian podcast, with Stuart Goldsmith

Stand up comedian Stuart Goldsmith interviews (mostly) other stand up comedians and nerdily analyse their craft. Goldsmith (not a comedian I was aware of previously) is a knowledgable, enthusiastic and thoughtful host and (at time of writing) there are 265 shows to choose from, including an excellent two-parter with the aforementioned Mr Cryer. Well worth a dig through his archives. http://www.comedianscomedian.com/podcasts/ 

The Adam Buxton Podcast

Adam Buxton (of former Adam and Joe fame) casts his net a little
wider, occasionally interviewing film directors, actors and other creative
types, but the majority of his interviews (or “ramblechats”) are with comedy
types (comedians, writers, comedic actors) and Buxton’s personable interviewing
style often takes an idiosyncratic approach that gains insights that a more
straightforward approach would fail to reveal, especially when the interviewee
already knows him (as is sometimes the case). Less analytical and technical
than Stuart Goldsmith’s show, but more likely to be funny in itself. http://www.adam-buxton.co.uk/podcasts 

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP)

Another interview podcast (the guestlist of which overlaps
somewhat with that of Adam Buxton’s) in which Richard Herring (also formerly
half of a double act – Herring used to work with Stewart Lee in the ‘90s)
interviews mostly fellow comedians for about an hour in front of a live
audience at the Leicester Square Theatre (as you had perhaps already guessed
from the title). Gloriously wayward, sometimes gleefully childish, and
occasionally stomping over the boundaries of good taste, Herring won’t be to
everyone’s taste, but he knows his stuff and he’s an insightful interviewer,
especially when the chemistry really clicks with his interviewee. http://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/richard_herring_lst_podcast/ …

Sitcom Geeks

Hosts James Cary and Dave Cohen discuss the art of sitcom
writing for TV and Radio, either between themselves or with a guest. I
personally find this one a little more hit and miss than those above, but
there’s plenty of gold amongst their (so far) 90 episodes, not least the two
part interview with my particular current radio comedy writing hero, John
Finnemore. http://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/sitcom_geeks/ …

Rule of Three

I’ve saved the best till last: this one is the baby of these
choices, having only begun in April 2018, but it’s my particular favourite.
Hosts Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley (creators of those irritatingly successful
and hilarious spoof Ladybird books, and jobbing writers for all kinds of folk
across radio, TV and film) take a different, more focussed, approach to the
other four shows. To quote Joel’s introduction to the show: “We’re joined by
someone who makes comedy to talk about something funny that they love. By
taking it apart maybe we’ll learn something about how comedy works. Or we’ll
just quote bits from it and giggle till we’re finished. Both approaches are
valid.” Subjects chosen range from Armando Iannucci’s groundbreaking On the
Hour (the radio forerunner of The Day Today) to Father Ted, via a Monty Python
LP and cartoonist Leo Baxendale (creator of The Bash Street Kids). All great,
hugely entertaining, and deeply interesting. http://www.ruleofthreepod.com

Dave writes and illustrates books and comics, including the unsettling ‘Thirteen Chairs’, ‘Good Dog Bad Dog’, and contributing to The Phoenix. His latest offering, ‘The Book Case‘, is a gloriously madcap tale beginning the adventures of a trainee Assistant Assistant Librarian (there are more to come, hooray!). Honestly, one of my favourite books since ‘A Boy and a Bear in a Boat’.

 

 

Mondays are Murder

 They really are!  That is why crime takes pride of place here at Books… and stuff.  The inaugural crime review post is Plugged by the vastly talented Eoin Colfer.  Better known for his YA books including the brilliant Artemis Fowl series, Plugged is his first foray into the adult crime market.  While the age and location of the protagonist may have changed, Plugged is still full of the trademark wit and brilliant repartee that makes his books so brilliant!
Once I have hair I’ll be happy
At least that’s what Irish ex-army sergeant Daniel McEvoy tells himself
I really know how he feels…
Dan McEvoy has problems; his part-time girlfriend lies dead in the parking lot of the sleazy strip-club where he is the doorman, his best (and only) friend is missing, his crazy neighbour lady starts fixating on him and a chance encounter lands him a dangerous enemy in the form of a local Irish gangster. It starts looking as if his hair plugs are the least of his worries.
 I felt my scalp itch sympathetically with Dan’s throughout the novel, phantom itching is bad and I could also identify with his hair-related worries. Plugged is a crime novel laced with humour and humanity throughout. Dan is no emotionless hero blasting his way through faceless goons who exist only to be shot down in a hail of bullets, the bit players are real people even if they were generally unpleasant.
It would be cliché to say that the action never let up (it didn’t), the very human interactions between Dan and the other characters in this tale lifted it above many of the humourless wrong side of the tracks crime tales that pervade the crime shelves these days. Every death is keenly felt (if not mourned) by Dan and as events spiral out of his control, we learn as he does that not everything he knows is as he thought it to be. Through the novel we learn via flashbacks to his youth and military days who he is, where he comes from and why he is driven to do what he does.
Plugged is a thoroughly engrossing novel, there was not an ounce of wasted prose. The humour, violence and old fashioned whodunnit mystery mesh together seamlessly to provide a quick but completely engrossing read!
It is a testament to Eoin Colfer’s skill as a writer that I got drawn in so deeply that I only noticed that I was reading in a mental Irish accent a third of the way through the novel. I must admit that I have not an ounce of Irishness within me, I cannot even fake a convincing accent, but my mind threw up Dara O’Briain’s voice and I ended up seeing him as Dan on the movie screen in my head.

I think he would make a convincing Dan McEvoy… feel free to disagree!