This book has a hilarious start and a brilliant story that follows an adventure through the Land of the Dead!
I feel very privileged that author Jim Beckett has written a fantastic piece for My Shelves Are Full as part of the blog tour! Read all the way down for a sneak peek at a full colour illustration from Olia Muza!
WHY FUNNY CHILDREN’S BOOKS MATTER
Laughter and silliness tend to be celebrated in the very young, then to be broadly discouraged from around the time we begin school. Success has a serious face. So, we purge ourselves, and our children, of frivolity and nonsense. We insist that our lives, our worries, our goals are SERIOUS. We want to be taken seriously! And there’s NOTHING FUNNY about an angry grown-up who WANTS TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!
Some adults get anxious about funny books for kids. Entertaining literature is typically presumed to be morally and intellectually inferior, especially if it looks remotely like a comic. There is a fear that light-hearted, highly illustrated texts full of fart jokes will act as a barrier to being able to appreciate Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky or whoever they think should be being appreciated. To be honest, I suspect the people who perpetuate such ideas don’t actually spend a lot of time with Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky or whoever they think is good for us. These nervous grown-ups have simply fallen prey to the cult of seriousness; the same exploitative fear that cons us into playing our babies Mozart instead of Baby Shark doo-doo-doo-doo etc.
There is the related fear that comedy is inherently cruel – perhaps based on the assumption that a joke must have a victim, and no one deserves to be the butt of a joke. To my mind, comedy that upsets or belittles has failed – the aim must always be to increase joy. Comedy succeeds when we’re laughing together at ourselves. Because we’re all silly, especially when we’re trying not to be. Getting a laugh isn’t risk-free. Nothing worthwhile is. But on balance, I believe the veneration of seriousness is a far more dangerous philosophy.
Laughter makes us happier. Small children know this instinctively. And funnily enough, we protect this instinct when we interact with small children; pulling a silly face to make a baby giggle is socially acceptable. Yet we suppress this healthy impulse during most of our adult interactions; playing Peepo with your mortgage adviser almost never gets you a better rate. We try so hard to behave seriously, to be taken seriously. Consequently, we spend a lot of time feeling stressed and miserable.
I could have written about how funny books for children are important because they’re a way of smuggling in serious issues – a way of getting kids reading – of making the presumed chore of relaxing with a book palatable… But I’m not falling for that! The old hide-the-vegetables-in-a-chocolate-cake argument. It might be a perfectly serviceable deception, but one day those kids are going to have to face a courgette eye to eye. And then some of them are going to realise that the entire chocolate cake was a massive pile of courgettes all along! Yes, the joke’s on all of us – hooray! – because the silliness, it turns out, was just as good for us as the hidden seriousness, after all!
It’s all courgettes; it’s all chocolate cake. There’s plenty to go round. Help yourself!