If you want to write a picture book with humor, you must understand the development of humor in kids. Thanks, Tammi, for asking for something on this topic. If you have requests for a certain topic about picture books, send me an email, or put something in the comments.
Writing Funny Picture Books
Here are typical stages of children’s growth in understanding humor.
- 0-6 months: Laughter without Humor
Few, if any picture books for this group include humor.
- 6-15 months: Laughter at Attachment Figure
You’d need personalized picture books to evoke humor here, because you need the specific person. This is when the adult reading the book can add humor, though, by playing with the story and reading it with expression and by changing the text, tone of voice, etc.
- 2-4 years: Misnaming Objects or Actions
Blue hat green hat Kids deliberately misname an object or action to see what the adult says. For a great example of this, look at Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton. In this delightful book, the turkey consistently is wrong in how he puts on the item of clothing.
- 3-5 years: Playing with Word Sounds.
Ever wonder why so many editors emphasize word play for kids? Here’s why. Kids think it’s funny. The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill is funny, partly because of the great language. “Kits and Kajammer ‘em.”
- 5-7 years: Pre-riddle Stage
Kids understand the form of a riddle, but don’t understand vocabulary enough to understand what is funny and what isn’t. This is the age of almost incoherent knock-knock jokes:
Knock-knock. Who’s there? Nobody’s home!
- 6-8 years: Riddles For this stage, all the joke books apply. Kids love to read, hear, and tell jokes of all kinds. They read Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish. True humor has started to emerge.
If you want to write a humorous picture book, make sure you are targeting a specific age group and understand what is funny to them.
Read a selection of picture books, looking for humor. Do you think your sense of humor matches a child’s sense of humor? Try to find something humorous in each of the categories listed above.
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