Humor in nonfiction books for kids

Some people think nonfiction is dry and boring. How can facts be fun, right? WRONG! Humor in nonfiction not only gets and keeps readers engaged, it can also help them retain the information longer. My fellow writers of nonfiction for kids (on the NFforKids Yahoo group and on Twitter) and I have put together a list of our favorite FUNNY nonfiction titles for kids. Here’s what we came up with, in no particular order:

This is just a sampling of our favorites. Do you have any to add? Please let us know in the comments!

I found it interesting that often the humor is primarily in the illustrations, with the text playing it fairly straight. In fact, in many cases it’s only the juxtaposition of the two that tickles your funny bone. In others, the humor is mild (a smile rather than a belly laugh) or is just hinted at rather than being an explicit joke. Sometimes, the topic itself is pretty funny, but the text is fairly serious. Given how much kids love to read humor, I wonder if that’s all just coincidence, or if humor just isn’t as tolerated in nonfiction texts, or maybe nonfiction writers just don’t have a sense of humor (I’m sure not buying that last one!). Thoughts? 

 

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2 Responses to Humor in nonfiction books for kids

  1. Bridget Heos says:

    Thank you for including my series on this great list! I love when nonfiction incorporates humor. A couple more titles that come to mind are: Groundhog Gets a Say and Diary of a Wombat (and the sequel Diary of a Baby Wombat.)

    My thought on why nonfiction isn’t always off the chain funny is that to write a joke you have to take a leap from observation to funny. In the case of nonfiction, you then have to fact check that leap to make sure it’s factual, and if it’s not, you have to rewrite the joke and fact check the new joke. In the end, your allegiance is to accuracy. The humor is secondary. Illustrations, on the other hand, are often the voice of imagination sparked by fact. So they can be more whimsical and funny. That’s my super-serious opinion, anyway. (I do sometimes have a sense of humor, I swear!)

    • Thanks, Bridget! I’ve actually been thinking all of the “Diary of a…” books (except for Wimpy Kid) probably belong on the list, too.

      Yes, I think you’re right on about illustrations having a bit more room for humor in nonfiction than the text. I also think if we writers try to get funny with the facts, readers start to wonder if we got too funny with the facts, you know? ::winks::

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