Every single list that appears on this blog is subjective. I mean, here I am declaring stuff to be great based entirely on a single solitary opinion: my own. That’s okay when you’re talking alphabet books or readalouds, but humor is a far trickier matter. There are a LOT of humorous picture books that come out in a single year and this list is just a miniscule smattering of the whole. That said, these are the books that really retained a strong grip on my brain after reading them. There were other funny books out in 2016. I’m just particularly partial to the following. I’m pleased with the number of funny women representing here too. After all, if there’s one thing I know something about, it’s funny girls.
2016 Funny Picture Books
Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis
Kind of like Du Iz Tak? but with a slight increase in English, this alien friendship story earns its humor stripes when it explains those little socially awkward moments like when you accidentally/on purpose bite off your best frint’s tail.
Dylan the Villain by K.G. Campbell
First off, I love that in this world, villainy is genetic but is capable of skipping generations. Second, I love that our anti-hero’s antagonist is a girl with a killer purple eyepatch. Having super villains as heroes isn’t a new idea in the movies, but in picture books it doesn’t happen all that often. I, for one, am hoping for more Dylan in the future.
The Happiest Book Ever! by Bob Shea
Every book should have a frog in it. There’s a lot of happy happy joy joy to this book mixed with a tincture of Monty Python. Could you ask for anything more?
A Hungry Lion by Lucy Ruth Cummins
The subtitle, which is distinctly Edward Gorey-esque, gives you an indication of what kind of funny book this is. You know what it reminds me of? The movie Alien. And, naturally, the turtle is Ripley. Oh, like you hadn’t considered it before.
I Don’t Want To Be Big by Dev Petty, ill. Mike Boldt
I didn’t bother to do this with any of the other books on this list, but for this one, I wanted to show you my favorite gag. The idea is that the frog is arguing that growing up is a bum rap. His dad tries to come up with reasons why it should still be done. So we get this:
The defense rests, your honor.
Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas
I mean, there’s a boot on that pig’s head. A boot! Just sayin’.
King Baby by Kate Beaton
We’re getting there. Beaton’s starting out slow with her picture books. This one’s funnier than her last, and at the rate she’s going she should be able to make a perfectly Beaton-esque one soon. Though, to be frank, this next book on my list felt like Kate Beaton but not by Kate Beaton:
Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol
Did you notice that it appeared on the NPR Book Concierge for 2016? Did you notice who blurbed it? Ah, thank you. Ah, thank you.
Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz
Proving yet again that I have the sense of humor of a 5-year-old. But let’s be frank. That potty joke? The best misdirection I’ve seen on a page in a long time.
Next to You: A Book of Adorableness by Lori Haskins Houran, ill. Sydney Hanson
I’m going to stand by this one as a humor book. It throws you off with its big-eyed animals and then you get the snarky text. Seriously funny.
Oh No, Astro! by Matt Roeser, ill. Brad Woodard
Proof positive that you can be a funny book and a visually stunning one all at the same time.
Penguin Problems by Jory John, ill. Lane Smith
Misanthropic penguins make for comedy gold. Every good author worth his or her salt knows that.
Poor Little Guy by Elanna Allen
Of all the books on my list today, I worry that this one is the most underrated. Did you ever get a chance to read it? I feel like it got buried under a lot of other publications, but for sheer visual storytelling and gags it’s an out-and-out winner. I. Just. Love. It. Love it, love it, love it.
President Squid by Aaron Reynolds, ill. Sara Varon
Okay. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch this video at the 18:30 mark. That’s when Aaron reads from his book and it’s the funniest reading ever you did see.
Pug Man’s 3 Wishes by Sebastian Meschenmoser
He’s the funniest German picture book author/illustrator of all time. Granted, the competition may not be particularly intense . . .
Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John, ill. Bob Shea
Both Jory and Bob are on this list twice. And I’d take off one of their books apiece, honest I would, if it weren’t for the fact that the monster in this book is named Floyd Patterson. I mean, I’m only human, after all.
Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long
2016 was a good year for picture books making fun of fantasy tropes. I honestly think this book would appeal to any kid, though, regardless of their interest in swords and sorcery. Plus there’s a Gollum reference on one of the pages, so kudos there.
This is My Book by Mark Pett (and no one else)
I almost swallowed my gum when I saw that the author of this book was Mark Pett. Pett? A subdued author/illustrator by and large, this book is a huge departure for him. A huge, hilarious departure. We could all use a mischievous panda in our lives.
A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan, ill. Sophie Blackall
Somehow the fact that it’s all based on a true story (the iron vest, the peeing off the boat, the landing in their underwear, etc.) makes it all the funnier. Plus the fact that Ms. Sophie Blackall is in Funny Girl in 2017 is just the icing on the cake.
Who What Where? by Olivier Tallec
It’s a sequel but I don’t rightly care. It’s a hilarious sequel and may even improve upon the original.
Interested in the other upcoming lists of this month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Adaptations
December 3 – Nursery Rhymes
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – Calde-Nots
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – International Imports
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Older Picture Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Graphic Novels
December 21 – Poetry
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Novel Reprints
December 30 – Novels
December 31 – Picture Books