February 07, 2019


The World’s Best Jokes for Kids, Volumes 1 and 2. By Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. Andrews McMeel. $6.99 each.

     “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Ill. Ill who? Illustrated jokes are funnier!” And there you have the premise of The World’s Best Jokes for Kids, in which both volumes bear the subtitle, “Every Single One Illustrated.” That means these G-rated groaners, puns and corny retellings of mildly funny amusements are accompanied, one and all, by small cartoon illustrations that are supposed to make the books more fun to read than they would be if they contained only words.

     And you know what? It works! Oh, not all the time: the picture of a worried-looking man holding a long, sharp object does not add much to, “What do you call a nervous javelin thrower? Shakespeare.” On the other hand, that particular joke is one of the funnier ones here even without a picture. Other cartoons are better. One shows a puzzled-looking person staring at two round-headed birds flying above water: “Why do seagulls fly over the sea and not the bay? Because otherwise they’d be bagels.” That’s pretty good! And one shows an impossibly happy-looking character bouncing high above a bed: “What happens if you eat yeast and shoe polish? You’ll rise and shine every morning!”

     Most of the jokes are in traditional question-and-answer format in these books – but not all. One, complete with ellipsis, goes, “On the other hand…you have different fingers.” Another reads, “I really must get rid of my vacuum cleaner. It’s just gathering dust.” And a third, with a particularly cute illustration of the characters mentioned, goes, “Bacon and eggs walk into a café and order some sodas. The waiter says, ‘Sorry, we don’t serve breakfast.’”

     It is unlikely that kids (or, for that matter, adults) will enjoy everything in these books, but pretty much everyone should be able to find some amusing items. How about this one? “Where do you find a cow with no legs? Right where you left it.” Or: “What do you call a cat with 8 legs that likes to swim? An octopuss.” (And yes, the drawing is cute.) Or how about this variation on a joke that is very old indeed? “Why did the chicken cross the Mobius strip? To get to the same side.” That one will likely require some explanation, at least for younger children. Adults can perhaps use another of these jokes to explain it: “Why are riddles like pencils? They’re useless unless they’ve got a point.”

     There is no particular theme to these books, and no particular arrangement of the material – everything is just thrown together helter-skelter. That means the books need not be read sequentially and can be fun to look at a page or two at a time, going forward or backward, or just skipping around. On one page you will find: “Why is it so hard to fool a snake? Because you can’t pull its leg.” On another there is this: “What type of cheese is made backward? Edam.” (That may be another item requiring some adult explanation.) And then there is this: “What has four eyes but can’t see? Mississippi.” (The joke isn’t much, but the illustration of a four-eyed something-or-other is neat.) And speaking of eyes and letters: “What do you call a fish with no eye? Fsh.” Or, to switch to one of the puns that periodically make their appearance in these books: “I entered a joke-writing competition ten times and hoped I’d win. Sadly, no pun in ten did.” That one actually needs a bit of thought before the inevitable groan – and the illustration, simply showing a person standing with eyes closed, helps not at all. But whether the pictures add to, subtract from, or complement the words, kids will likely find The World’s Best Jokes for Kids enjoyable to read, at least in small doses, and to look at, at least now and then and here and there.

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