Posts Tagged ‘Humour’

 

I am so thrilled I had the opportunity to interview both Jenny Bornholdt and Sarah Wilkins for their new children’s picture book The longest breakfast (previously reviewed here). I want to thank them both so much for taking the time to talk and sharing their ideas. Writing a story and having it illustrated demands so much in terms of collaboration and sometimes it doesn’t quiet work out but I am very pleased to say that in this case, the collaboration is perfect.

I will start with Jenny.

As a poet, language and words are so important especially with the less is more kind of theory. The longest breakfast follows this well. Did you start off with a busy but brief plot in your mind or did it work out this way because of your love for poetry?

          When I began thinking about the book I didn’t really have a plot, more a collection of things that I felt went together somehow. There was the fact of our youngest son’s early speech, which was very difficult to understand – we did, but no one else could figure it out – a friend who liked pudding for breakfast, and a dog and child having the same name.

         When I began writing the story, it turned into a kind of slapstick with characters making unexpected entrances, people mis-hearing each other, and the father, Malcolm, trying to keep calm and hold things together. In this kind of story you don’t need a lot of words – their role is to cue the action, which is mostly told through the illustrations. The way the book is written is really driven by the kind of story it is. This hasn’t really answered your question about poetry, sorry. Where the two kinds of writing meet, for me, is in an attention to language and rhythm.

As a writer, how hard is it to hand over your story to an illustrator and their personal interpretation of your story?

         Sarah and I have worked closely together on the two books we’ve done together, so I’ve never had the sense of handing my story over to anyone. It’s very much a collaborative process. I feel that my writing is only half of the story and know that Sarah will make the other half. In The Longest Breakfast we talked a lot about what Malcolm might look like and what kind of kitchen the story would happen in. We also discussed how the story ‘felt’ and what that might look like in terms of illustrations.

There is a certain amount of chaos with the family in this story. How does a morning play out for you?

         Now that our children have grown up my mornings are nothing like in the book!

Did you enjoy writing as a child and what advice would you give to young writers?

        Yes, I’ve always loved writing. When I was younger I wrote stories. I didn’t start writing poems until I’d left school. The best advice I can give to people who want to write is to read. You can learn a huge amount from soaking up how other writers do things.

Lastly if you could meet any character from any book, who would it be and why?

        Little My from the Moomintroll books, because she’s so feisty.

 

And now let’s hear from Sarah.

As an illustrator, do you feel any pressure when trying to interpret the writer’s ideas and bring the story to life or do you completely take your own ideas and work around them?

       I’ve never felt any pressure collaborating with writers. It’s more that I feel a responsibility to interpret  a writer’s ideas and enrich the world in which they exist, whether it’s for an article in a magazine or a picture book. Almost all the picture books I’ve done have been with authors I know so there has been a lot of trust and dialogue along the way, and I suppose a certain amount of flexibility on both sides. I feed my own ideas into the work but the author’s words act as the inspiration and framework for my visual storytelling.

I love how the more impatient the baby is to be heard, the more space the baby has until finally the baby takes up the whole page. Is this something you plan all along in your drawings or does it just sort or happen as you go along?

     It’s a bit of both. I try to create a visual rhythm that is in time with the rhythm of the text. I begin with initial simple pencil sketches and paste them along with the text into a mock-up book. This gives me an overall view of the flow and shows me how the individual images are working with the paginated story. I think the baby’s frustration at not being understood is the natural climax of the story so it needed to be treated differently to the surrounding images.

What is your favourite medium to use in your illustrations?

     It changes all the time. I’ve gone through phases of only using gouache, then I switch exclusively to acrylic, and currently I’ve added ink to my repertoire. For the Longest Breakfast I mainly used ink and watercolour and then added more solid areas of colour with gouache which is great for line work and adding fine opaque details. I love the spontaneity ink brings to an illustration. I scan all the completed illustrations into PhotoShop in order to clean up any mistakes and adjust colour and sometimes move anything that’s not quite in the right place.

Did you enjoy drawing and art as a child and what advice would you give to young artists?

     Yes, I did enjoy drawing, but no more than the next child. I actually enjoyed reading and writing more. I even remember feeling a little unsure of my drawing skills, especially compared to my big sister who was the queen of colouring books. So neat and always within the lines!

My advice to young artists is to persevere. Just keep doing it and you will get better. For most of us it takes years to find a genuine voice in this industry, and having the patience to keep going is essential.

 

Lastly if you could meet any character from any book, who would it be and why?

I’d like to meet Pippi Longstocking because she’s so unconventional and strong.

This is another wee gem that Jenny and Sarah have worked on together.

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Flying Furballs Book 1 Dogfight

By Donvan Bixley

ISBN 9781927262535

Upstart Press

furballs

I love a trailer that makes me want to run out and buy the book and this trailer makes me want to do that right now.  This has it all, adventure, humour, Paris and a cat pilot just for starters.

I know this is one book the children at school and I will be fighting over to get to read first when it comes out. As the book buyer for the library I like to think I will be the first but I can never resist their pleas when the children beg to be the first to read a new book. I think the queue for this one might be long judging by this very cool trailer.

While you wait for the book to be released  (any day now) do take time to check out Donovan’s website, especially his links to some cool free downloads.

‘Flying Furballs’, a hilarious action-packed adventure series, captures the romance and excitement of the era at the dawn of aviation — set in a world of cats verses dogs. Put simply, Flying Furballs is pussycats, planes and Paris. Our hero is Claude D’Bonair, a young pilot in the cat air corp, keen to prove his worth to the older pilots and live up to the memory of his father. Will cats and dogs ever live in harmony again? Will Claude survive with his nine lives intact?

In Book 1: Dogfight, Claude must fly a secret and dangerous mission deep into the heart of Dogz held territory to save the air corp’s most famous dogfighter, Major Tom, who is being held prisoner in the Dogz castle HQ. If he fails it could spell cat-astrophe for the whole of katdom.

Johnny Danger

Book 2 : Lie another day

By Peter Millet

ISBN 9780143309055

Puffinjohnny

 

While there are plenty of wonderful New Zealand books written by equally wonderful authors, there are not so many book trailers for their books. So it is brilliant to have the chance to show this new trailer for Lie another day book two in the Johnny Danger series.

I was watching this trailer (again) at school and one of my students (year 4) came over to see what I was doing so we watched it together. Not only did it get the thumbs up but he told me to buy it. I ordered it today and when it arrives Sam will be the first one to read it (unless I get in before him). The trailer is well made and has a bit of everything in it just like the books.  Action, humour, cartoon, parody.

It is great to have the author Peter Millet here on the blog answering some questions. Some very cool answers too.

What is the appeal of writing books for children?
Roald Dahl said it best ‘adults are too stuffy, boring and take themselves far too seriously’. Apparently that’s why he loved writing for children. I’m inclined to say that I agree with him. Additionally, when I tell a joke to a crowd of kids everyone looks at me when they laugh, often with adults they look at each other before they laugh to make sure it’s okay to laugh. Kids have way more fun.
Most of your books include humour. I imagine humour is quite difficult to write and be genuine at the same time so what is your trick?
My style of humour is quintessentially British. It’s dry and it’s subtle. I’m not a fan of slapstick, or lazy-bodily function jokes. When I read my stories aloud I always keep a straight face. That’s pretty much how I write my comedy stories as well. That allows me to develop characters and plotlines satisfactorily while infusing the humour as the undercurrent to the story. One thing which is very difficult being a comedy writer is the book editing process. Often an editor will ask me to alter a scene or change an ending. When I do this I also have to make sure that the new content is as funny as the content it is being inserted around. Sometimes this can be problematic.
Which authors inspire you to write?
Roald Dahl, Andy Stanton, Roddy Doyle. There are many more. Here’s my soapbox moment – Roald Dahl never won a book award in his lifetime. Comedy movies never win Oscars. Writing comedy is an extremely complex process. People who aren’t funny can’t write comedy, and people who say comedy is too frivolous to be award-winning don’t understand complicated writing. Hopefully in my lifetime children’s comedy writers will be treated equally along with dramatic children’s writers and we will see an end to this silly era of elitism. Shakespeare was a master at both and duly celebrated.
As a child – were you the kind of boy who played at being a spy or were you more of the indoor type?
As many of my readers know some of the gadgets in my stories originate from childhood ideas and pranks. I once carved out the middle portion of a hardback book and used it as a secret storage compartment to hide ‘used lines’ the teacher had issued to children as punishment. I then used these lines to help children get out of future punishments. So in a way, I was an undercover operative battling evil villains in my junior years at school.
If you could meet any character out of any book, who would it be and why?
Probably the Twits. It would be interesting to see if I could win an argument with them, or potentially win a battle of pranks. I’d also like to witness a grown man consuming food stored in his beard.
Johnny Danger gets himself in to lots of trouble. What was your biggest adventure or the most dangerous thing you have ever done?
In 1990 I took a jungle trek in the rain forests of Borneo. We reached an orangutan sanctuary and a tour guide said ‘no sudden movements, and don’t provoke them – they’re strong enough to rip your arms off.’ I don’t recall reading that information before I embarked on the journey. Everything went fine, and the worst that happened was some cameras were stolen by the orangutans who proceeded to store them in their treetop hide out and then urinate on the victim’s heads. Walking back to our pickup point, I was also advised to avoid puddles containing leeches, and to look out for the odd scorpion here and there as I was wearing shorts, not the recommended long trousers with wraparound socks. I made it out unscathed. In my book Lie Another Day the jungle scene is inspired by that experience.
Many thanks Peter for sharing your thoughts with us.

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans

By Gary Northfield

ISBN 9781406354928

Walker Books Australia

This trailer is brilliant. I so want to run out and get this book right now. I know so many boys and girls who will just love this. As a package the cover is bright and full of character and humour. There are lots of black and white line illustrations such as that shown on the cover. This is sure to be a hit chapter book for children aged seven up. It combines humour and facts to add a little more to their reading fun. Too much text in a chapter book can put children off reading especially when they are young so this will be ideal to get them giggling and reading and wanting more. This is a must-have to add to the school library.

“From a smelly watering hole deep in the heart of the Serengeti to the ferocious clamour of the Colosseum, join Julius Zebra and his motley menagerie of friends as they gear up to be… GLADIATORS! Only if they win the love of the Roman crowds will they win back their freedom. But do Julius and his pals have what it takes to succeed in a world where only the meanest and toughest survive?”

Johnny Danger
By Peter Millet

ISBN 9781743485873
Ebook

It is great to see a New Zealand children’s book trailer as they tend to be few and far between. And it is pretty good too, I must say.
Unfortunately Johnny Danger isn’t out until February next year but I am always keen to promote New Zealand books and writers, and as we have a number of the authors books in my school library then I am sure this will be worth waiting for.
My favourite is The ANZAC puppy.

” Danger’s not his middle name – it’s his surname.

Meet the world’s greatest prankster who has
fooled everyone with his fake spy website.

Given a multimillion dollar budget, he’s
free to design any gadget he likes.

But the world’s not enough when it comes
to playing practical jokes and Johnny’s
appetite for destruction could soon see him
unable to lie another day.

Johnny Danger – he’s double the ‘O’
and triple the ‘NO’.”

A couple of YA book trailers from the USA. If you enjoy a good frolic between good and evil with witches and covens the The red bishop might be for you.

The red bishop
By Greg Boose

E-Book
Released November

“Lake Price isn’t your average teenage girl.

Sure, she and her friends are doing what many other high school kids do on Cape Cod: heading to Chatham Manor—nicknamed “Hell”—for a good scare. But for Lake, it’s more than just a thrill-seeking game. It’s what keeps her alive.

Ever since her brother, Kimball, disappeared four years ago, Lake has needed the danger and the fear to feel anything but numb.

But on this night, “Hell” has more in store for Lake than she ever anticipated: A handsome stranger from the 17th century, a modern love triangle, a coven of witches, a hint that Kimball may still be alive… and the start to something that only she can finish.”

Or if you like a good fight between right and wrong then this series of surviving at all costs might be for you.
And another trailer for a series that has been out for awhile but still going strong.
Greyson Gray series
By B. C. Tweedt

“When the world grows more dangerous, so must its heroes”

Greyson Gray: Camp Legend Book one
Camp Legend “is an exciting adventure threaded with witty, sarcastic humor and gritty suspense. You will not only enjoy being in Greyson’s shoes as he battles evil in thrilling chases, but also as he deals with his awkward first crush, menacing bullies, and the loss of his father. Prepare to laugh out loud and fall in love with the characters as the Greyson Gray series begins with a bang.”
Follow this up with:
Fair game Book two
Deadfall Book three

Skulduggery Pleasant : The dying of the light
By Derek Landy
ISBN : 9780007489282

Well this is it! The final book in a wonderfully funny, yet scary series all about a detective who just happens to be over 400 years old and dead.
I was so fortunate to meet the author Derek Landy recently at an event here in Christchurch, New Zealand. He had the audience captivated from the get-go. His wonderful Irish accent and his contagious sense of humour had us laughing the whole hour he spoke. And then he signed books for another two hours. Everyone was made to feel special and he took time to actually chat with each fan. Readers of all ages lined up and waited so patiently. It was a brilliant night. Grab hold of the last book although if you are a fan you will have done that already. If you haven’t then now is the time to start.
While primary school students will enjoy the first few books it might get a bit darker towards the end but a fan is a fan no matter what age.
The final battle begins – but who will make it out alive?
The Skulduggery Pleasant website is a must to visit.

Landy & me
Author Derek Landy clowning around, and me.

The Timmy Failure books are wonderfully funny stories aimed at those children who love a good laugh and a good story. Easy to read and easy to enjoy, these books are ideal for young readers and students who struggle with reading or perhaps are reluctant and just need a sense of achievement by reading something which is not too daunting.
Timmy Failure runs a detective agency – sort of. His side-kick is a large polar bear called Total.There are a number of unique characters who either help or hinder Timmy in his adventures.
Heaps of illustrations add to the mix to provide a better understanding of Timmy and his companions. For children who enjoy the Diary of a Wimpy kid series, this is another winner. The first book has been a real success with readers at my school so I know the second book, due out in February, will also be a hit.

“Timmy is a detective who can take any mystery and make it more mysterious.” – Stephan Pastis

Timmy Failure : Now look what you’ve done
Book 2

Timmy Failure : Mistakes were made
Book 1

Fortunately the milk
By Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has an extraordinary ability to write about anything and everything and writes it well.
One of my all time favourite books is his Graveyard book shown here in a previous post. A ghost story which is also a “feel good” story. Love it.
His sophisticated picture book Wolves in the wall is a little on the creepy but cool side and is always out of the library.
Stated on his website;
“This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Milk. Also it has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs and wumpires in it (but not the handsome, misunderstood kind), also a never-adequately-explained-bowl-of-piranhas, not to mention a Volcano God.”

I am really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this book. The trailer is gorgeously funny.
There are two publications of this book (UK and USA) and I have to admit I am going for the one illustrated by Chris Riddell as I just adore his illustrations.

Goth girl and the ghost of a mouse
By Chris Riddell

This is absolutely gorgeous. It is a beautifully produced hardback aimed at those girls who first fell in love with Chris Riddell’s Ottoline books.
The edges are a shiny purple to match the cover. The end pages are shiny black with silver leaves and skulls. There is a black ribbon bookmark. There is also a delightfully small colour booklet in a pocket attached to the inside back cover. I have always loved books with pockets and envelopes and this is just the best gift for a young girl. I had just bought the book for school and it was on my desk for processing and the girls were all begging to reserve it. I told them they had to wait until I finished it but in the end I went out and bought my own personal copy simply because it is such a beautiful book to own.
goth2
“Ada Goth is the only child of Lord Goth. The two live together in the enormous Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Lord Goth believes that children should be heard and not seen, so Ada has to wear large clumpy boots so that he can always hear her coming.” Her only friend is the ghost mouse Ishmael.
One day William and Emily Cabbage come to stay and a wonderful friendship begins. Together they discover a plot by the mysterious indoor gamekeeper, to create chaos. They must work together to foil the plan before it’s too late
Ada has had a number of nannies to look after her, including Hebe Poppins, who ran off with a chimney sweep and Jane Ear who was sent away after she tried to burn down the west wing. Great chance for those who love old classic literature to laugh over the characters.

This really is a delightful story full of weird and wonderful characters. A step up in terms of reading from the Ottoline series this is aimed at girls aged eight up through even 12 year old’s who will cackle over the humour. I really loved this book. It is quite simply, gorgeous.

This is not a good idea
By Mo Willems

We all love Mo Willems’s work. At school Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus is a book that has to be replaced often because it is so loved. His Elephant and piggie books are laugh out loud funny. My favourite is There is a bird on your head. I laugh every time I read it. Willems captures facial expressions so well that you just can’t help falling in love with his characters.
Well, his latest book is out and I bought it for school this week. It offers so much more than a read aloud to young children. Teachers can use it for examples of predictive text, inferencing, trickery and the list goes on.
The illustrations play out like an old Charlie Chaplin movie. The characters are; Hungry fox, Plump goose and baby geese.
A hungry fox and a plump innocent goose is not a good combination. In fact it is not a good idea to go aimlessly off with a hungry fox. Say no more! Great from preschoolers through to 5 and six year olds.
Such a cute trailer!

Flora and Ulysses
By Kate DiCamillo

“It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences”.
I was lucky to see an advanced reading copy of Flora and Ulysses and began reading immediately. The illustrations are full of humour and character. However, someone else grabbed the book before I got very far but that is okay. I will buy it when it hits the shelves as everyone should have their own Kate DiCamillo collection.
Flora Belle Buckman (what a brilliant name – I love the way it rolls around your tongue) is the only one with the knowledge to save a squirrel from certain death after he is sucked up a vacuum cleaner. His name is Ulysses and together they learn so much about life and friendship.
This differs a little in style to Kate’s other works. This is a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations artist K. G. Campbell.

Kate DiCamillo is a stunning writer. Her stories move along effortlessly and we find ourselves taken on a journey with her characters.
I loved The tale of Despereaux, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Both books won awards and deservedly so. They are also great read-alouds for a classroom setting of children aged seven up.

Working in a school library you do get to know your students. You know which kids like animal stories, or horror or graphic novels. You get to know the kids who love to read but also the ones who don’t want to read. It is not necessarily because they have trouble reading but because they would rather be outside. Or more, that they just haven’t found the book that is right for them. I find for these group of children, and yes they are mostly boys, that humour works well at hooking them in.
Here are just a few of the popular ones at the moment. I have had to buy multiple copies of these books as I can not keep them on the library shelves. They are always out. Great for children aged 8 up.

May contain nuts
World of Norm series
by Jonathan Meres

Great, easy to read, humourous novels about a boy called Norm who is always having one of those days! Cartoon illustrations help break up the text to make reading less daunting. Very popular. Several books out in the series now. Do look for them.

From the top
Big Nate series
By Lincoln Peirce

This trailer is fan made but pretty good. I have also included a clip where the author Lincoln Pierce discusses how to draw the character Big Nate. Again this is a funny series in a very easy to read format to keep the reader hooked.


Diary of a wimpy kid
Series By Jeff Kinney

Of course you can’t go past Jeff Kinney’s series Diary of a wimpy kids. Laugh out loud humour, easy to read text and stick figure illustrations. Because the text is on actual lines these books are great for helping with eye-tracking for those that need a little help.
The third wheel

An earlier post on the Dinosaur rescue series by Kyle Mewburn can be found here.
Great chapter books about dinosaurs and cave men. The boys love the toilet humour.

Dinosaur Rescue

The Magnificent 12

By Michael Grant

The call  (Book 1 2010)

“When the Pale Queen rises,
one hero won’t be enough to
stop her. It will take twelve.
But not just any twelve:

The magnificent 12.”
 Mack MacAvoy is the first of the 12 and he must find the rest if he is to defeat evil. He must  fight deadly elves, an evil princess and so much more. An adventure topped up with heaps of humour.

Great for ages 9 and up. Check out the Magnificent 12 site for more fun.
Not that new but worth taking a look and checking out the book from you library

More humour

Posted: November 13, 2011 in Intermediate, Primary School
Tags:

Gangsta Granny
By David Walliams

If you are still in the mood for some old fasioned humour then try David Walliams books.
Gangsta Granny is his latest.
The blurb describes Ben’s granny as being quite ordinary; with white hair, false teeth and even the old tissues tucked up her sleeve. She is a little different though – she is an international jewel thief. Once again Walliams delivers geat humour and a great story.

The boy in the dress is also a great read about a young boy with a fondness for dresses. In fact the magazines under his bed are not what you would normally expect.