Thursday, March 14, 2019

ReFoReMo Day 10: Ryan T. Higgins Loves to Laugh

By Ryan T. Higgins


I love to laugh. I enjoy watching funny movies or tv shows and relish in reading funny books.  Some comics make it look easy—but creating something funny is really, REALLY hard. So much of humor has to do with timing and spacing. When you’re given as few pages as picture books allow, humor is all the more difficult to do. Here is a list of current (almost exclusively) picture books that exemplify the comedic form or give me inspiration as I write:

Exploring Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson 

I realize that this is NOT a picture book, but picture books and comic strips have a lot in common. My biggest influences are comic strips and Calvin and Hobbes is, by far, the top of my list. This book gives a lot of insight from Watterson on his craft...and also happens to be the only thing published by him in the last five years. Therefore, it’s technically current.



Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora
Bob, not Bob! by Audrey Vernick, Liz Garton Scanlon, and Matthew Cordell
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat
Although this is an early reader, the illustrations and text work together as picture books do, and humor is featured throughout.

Ryan is giving away one of his books to one lucky winner! To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 4, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.



Ryan T. Higgins is an author and illustrator who likes the outdoors and cheese sandwiches. He is NOT a grumpy old black bear, but he DOES like making books about one—starting with the New York Times best-selling Mother Bruce, which received the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor. Ryan lives in Maine with his wife and kids . . . and too many pets.

169 comments:

  1. Ryan, what a gift to peek into what makes you laugh. I love your Mother Bruce books. I'll never forget where I was when I read the first one. Learning that Calvin and Hobbes is an influence, explains a lot. Can't wait to see what you write next! Thanks.

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  2. I just read The Cookie Fiasco yesterday. It's brilliant! Like you, I love humorous books. Can't wait to dive into these!

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  3. I look forward to reading Mother Bruce. I absolutely love, We Don’t Eat Our Classmates.Thanks for sharing some of our favorite humorous books.

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  4. Be Quiet! is one of our family's favorite books. Thanks for the great list of humorous books that inspire you.

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  5. I enjoy the Mother Bruce books. Thanks for mentioning the comic strip influence. I never thought about that connection before, but it makes sense.

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  6. I have always loved Calvin and Hobbes - so much wonderful material for teaching, and now for writing inspiration.

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  7. I love this list of funny books. Be Quiet and Mother Bruce are two of my all time favorite books. Thanks for all of these!

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  8. Thanks for sharing what makes you laugh! Great post!

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  9. Great examples! My kids and I loved Don’t Eat Your Classmates.

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  10. I love Mother Bruce, and also Calvin and Hobbes. It’s cool to hear Calvin and Hobbes is one of your influences.

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  11. I am excited to ready today. I love books that make me laugh. It will be great to spend some time on finding out why and how they do that. Thanks

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  12. I read comics every day. I never thought about how they can influence the structure of picture books. Thanks for the suggestions and for all the great books you give the world.

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  13. Thank, Ryan! Your Mother Bruce series has a spot in my book shelf as well as all the Calvin and Hobbes books.

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  14. Thanks for the post!

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  15. Funny can be so personal, but it also seems to have some universal themes. It seems that taking something familiar and turning it upside down or inside out is a good connection to universal funny.

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  16. Thank you for the post and great mentor texts! And of course, for Bruce. We are huge Calvin and Hobbes fans at my house so great to see that referenced.

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  17. Ryan, I am a huge fan of Ame Dyckman and your books. I need to read that Calvin and Hobbes book. Keep us laughing, Ryan. TY.

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  18. I loved Mother Bruce, but We Don't Eat Our Classmates is my favorite. It is brilliant! Thanks for the post.

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  19. Fun collection of funny books. I agree, humor is not an easy thing to pull off, although you've certainly got the knack!

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  20. Thanks for these great mentor texts, Ryan.

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  21. I love writing humorous picture books, and you’re right, it is not easy but it is fun! Great examples (now excuse me while I reread all of my Calvin and Hobbes!).

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  22. Thanks for a discussion of humor and sharing what makes you laugh.

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  23. Thanks for the post. I love Bob, not Bob! I just got over a cold, so I understand exactly little Louie's predicament. I also love Mother Bruce-it is one of my go-to read alouds for my first graders.

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  24. Wonderful to start the day with a smile on my face & humor in my heart as I read your list of laughter-inducing picture books.

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  25. You’re so right—writing humor in PB form is hard! And you make it look easy!

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  26. Great titles! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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  27. I'm a believer in bringing joy and big smiles!

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  28. Thanks for sharing, Ryan. I loved Mother Goose, too!

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  29. I SO see the Calvin & Hobbes influence in Mother Bruce. They definitely hike in the same woods. Makes me wonder if you have ever imagined a meeting between Calvin, Hobbes and Mother Bruce

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  30. Thanks for this list Ryan. I love funny books too. Can't wait to pick these up from the library!

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  31. Thanks for sharing these hilarious mentor texts.

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  32. I love humor, too. I will definitely explore Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. Thanks for all the resources to find humor in PB's.

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  33. Thanks for making me chuckle as I read these books this morning...and every time I read Mother Bruce books.

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  34. My library didn't have Exploring Calvin and Hobbs, but I will have to find it. It was my all time favorite cartoon. Thanks for the great post and congrats on your success.

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  35. I love your sense of humor, Ryan! Thanks for sharing this giggle worthy list.

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  36. Kids love to laugh and these are great reading recommendations. Thanks, Ryan!

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  37. Great post, Ryan! Thank you for sharing this list of terrific mentor texts. I cut my teeth on Pogo, but love Calvin and Hobbes. I totally agree… writing humorous picture books is hard!

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  38. Great mentor texts! I have the sniffles, so I especially enjoyed reading Bob, Not Bob!

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  39. Calvin and Hobbes! A long time favorite. And some painless and silly math in in The Cookie Fiasco- brilliant.

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  40. Thanks for sharing these wonderful, funny books.

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  41. I love to laugh! Some of my favorite picture books are humorous. They give us something to enjoy, and often, reflections of ourselves doing ridiculous things! Thanks!

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  42. Happy Day! These books are all favorites around here. Thanks for a wonderful post!

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  43. Ryan, when my son was in grade school, he loved to read and collect the Calvin and Hobbes books. I plan on telling him about this post so he may checkout these humorous books to read to his sons.
    These are great books to reads aloud. So much fun! Great gifts too. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your wonderful success writing delightful picture books.

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  44. Thanks for the humorous recommendations! I agree--humor is hard to pull off in a picture book. But you do so wonderfully! When WE DON'T EAT OUR CLASSMATES came out, I could NOT stop talking about it. To EVERYONE!

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  45. I can't wait to read The Cookie Fiasco (and maybe re-read some of the others). I should check out Calvin and Hobbes too...never really read them much. Thanks for a great post and a great prize!

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  46. I love Calvin and Hobbes. I do believe the humour and imagination on these comic strips can be an inspiration for all of us. I just realized Calvin and Hobbes has been on big influence on my voice: a mixture of Calvin and Pooh! 😁 Thanks. I will be reading them all over again.

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  47. Humorous picture books are my favorite and these are some great examples!

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  48. Thanks for sharing. I, too love humor. A couple of new ones here that I hadn't read. Again, thanks for some laughter to brighten this day.

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  49. Hard as it is to write humor, you have it down, Ryan! I bought all your books for my grandkids just because we enjoy laughing together over them.

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  50. Ryan, I am a HUGE fan of yours. MOTHER BRUCE was what inspired me to start writing funny, and I am very proud of two comedic manuscripts I have written by using your work as mentor texts. I also coincidentally use UNICORN as a comp title to one of them. These texts are incredibly genius. I also want to mention the FOX + CHICK series books. They are very much comic-like little chapter books that will make you chuckle.

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  51. Thanks for your post, Ryan! Love Mother Bruce. 👍😃

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  52. Thanks for sharing these humorous books!

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  53. Funny books. Thank you for sharing.

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  54. I don't see myself as funny but I do try to write funny stories!! Thanks for sharing these books!!

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  55. Can't wait to read Mother Bruce. And interesting to read these recommendations with an eye toward how timing and spacing affects the humor. Thanks!

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  56. I agree we need more funny movies, books, things to lighten the mood and thank you for writing the books you have written in the Mother Bruce series. Laughter is a great stress reliever.

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  57. I love humorous picture books, and you're right. They are hard to write! Thanks for sharing the books that make you laugh.

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  58. I love to laugh too and am trying to get more humor into my stories. I'll definitely check these books out along with our Mother Bruce books. Thank you!

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  59. I'm trying to write some funny stuff and it is hard! It's inspiring to me to read books which are so successful at being funny on all sorts of levels. Thanks.

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  60. Ryan, you excel in humor when it comes to the Mother Bruce series. Thanks for your post!

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  61. Ryan, thank you for taking the time to share some of what makes you laugh! It's a real honor to get your insight on humor, as your books are my go-to for research on the topic.

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  62. Thanks, Ryan, for these great examples! I agree -- humor isn't easy to write, and timing is key.

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  63. Some great reads here. Thank you.

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  64. I agree that pretty much anything Ame Dyckman writes is hilarous, and Wolfie is one of my faves! Love Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great too. And, of course, love all YOUR books. We Don't Eat Our Classmates almost killed me. Thank you for this great post!

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  65. Love Calvin and Hobbes! I also love that you chose mentor texts outside of kidlit for inspiration. Thanks for broadening our horizons.

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  66. Such great book choices, Ryan! WE DON'T EAT OUR CLASSMATES was the book I featured at our school's Barnes & Noble book fair last month and the book our Headmaster read aloud to all of our students. They were literally rolling on the floor laughing, and when I had previewed the book with students, all I had to do was show the kids the front and back cover art and share the title to have them laughing and wanting to come to the book fair to hear the whole story. THAT'S some powerful humor! :)

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  67. MOTHER BRUCE and CALVIN AND HOBBES! Thank you for bringing the fun and smiles to my day. Love 'em all :)

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  68. Laughter is the best! Thanks for sharing these gut-busters. I am also noticing the surprise twist at the end of most of them--a pay off for finishing the book!

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  69. Thanks for the fantastic examples of humor PB's...and I can always take an excuse to read Calvin and Hobbes--amazing what he did every week!

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  70. I love to laugh! Great book choices, Ryan! Two thumbs up for WE DON'T EAT OUR CLASSMATES!

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  71. yay! humor. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  72. My kids would hand me a Calvin and Hobbes comic to read to them before bed because they knew I never stopped reading--and laughing. Funny PBs are the best! Thanks for the suggestions to find more.

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  73. Thanks, Ryan. And your books are fabulous mentor texts for humor!

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  74. I love humor! Thanks for the mentor texts.

    Darcee Freier

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  75. Love the Bruce books! Thanks for your recommendations for humor.

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  76. Calvin and Hobbs are true writing mentors... what a fun bunch of books to look at for laughs. I love Mother Bruce.

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  77. I love these recommendations! I love Bob, NOT Bob! with the language sounded like a sick kid. And Wolfie the Bunny was a cute story - that Dot is a fun character.

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  78. Laughter is definitely the best medicine. thanks!

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  79. Love humorous books and you make it look easy! We Don't Eat Our Classmates is funny and clever. Thanks for your post and recommendations.

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  80. Thanks for the great post. I love all of these titles and can't wait to read MOTHER BRUCE!

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  81. I like Calvin and Hobbs. I also liked Mother Bruce, and Don't eat your classmates gave m e an idea for a sketch I made with my chestnut characters and a squirrel disguised as one of the nuts in their reading circle in school. Fun, fun, fun!

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  82. Love Calvin and Hobbes...
    Some things don't go out of style!

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  83. My son grew up on a steady diet of Calvin and Hobbes, the first time I ever read them. Yes, so very funny. It's clear that Watterson was an influence.

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  84. How neat to use Calvin & Hobbes as a mentor text for humor! My students loved your book We Don't Eat our Classmates. A couple thought it was a little scary, but they enjoyed it.

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  85. Great post! I love Mother Bruce and can’t wait to see his next adventure. Thanks for sharing.

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  86. C&H are venerated in our family, so it was amazing to read this book & share some of the behind-the-scenes tale w/ my kiddo. And OMG, "Cookie Fiasco" is brilliant!!

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  87. Thank you, these are great titles! Can't wait to share them with my daughters and LAUGH!

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  88. I LOVE funny picture books and I've actually read all of the above mentioned books, except for Calvin and Hobbes.
    Thanks for the great post!!!

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  89. Humor is very hard, but so wonderful to read! And I agree, looking at comic strips helps with PB humor.

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  90. Thanks for the mentor texts. I seem to be able to talk funny but I've got to read, read, read your mentor texts and more to try and write funny...

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  91. Writing picture books with humor is hard and thank you for providing these examples. I'm waiting for Calvin and Hobbes from my library still and looking forward to reading that!

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  92. I appreciate the wonderful recommendations and look forward to reading all of them. I absolutely adore the Mother Bruce books. They are so well done! Wish I could write humor like that! You have a very unique talent.

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  93. Frank Wilson McCollMarch 14, 2019 at 8:43 PM

    Bob not Bob is hilarious! Such a great recommendation...

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  94. Bob Shea is one of my favorite authors. I think he knows humor. We Don't Eat Our Classmates made me laugh out loud. I need to check out some of the others suggested here.

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  95. Great examples of pacing especially "Bob, not Bob!"

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  96. BOB, NOT BOB! is super funny! It’s so difficult to nail humor. Just have to keep trying!

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  98. These are such great examples! And we love Bruce here too!

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  99. I love to laugh too and kids do too. Thanks for your selections!

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  100. What a wonderful birthday book post for me -- one of my favorite authors! Thanks so much for sharing wonderful books that are also some of my personal favorites.

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  101. I love laughing too. You do a pretty good job too, Ryan! I just re-read all of your suggestions and they're perfect. Thanks!

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  102. Ohhh!!! Calvin & Hobbs! Love those comics! (Love your books as well!) Thanks for the mentor text suggestions!

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  103. The only book I had to "find" was Exploring Calvin and Hobbes - the others are also some of my favorites, so I have them on my shelf! We Don't Eat Our Classmates is also on the shelf. My favorite humor book from last year. Your books are fantastic, Ryan!

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  104. Thank you for the insight. Cartoons are clever. I need help with humor.

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  105. good posting. At my house we read WOLFIE over and over and find something new every time!

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  106. This is a great post, seeing as most of us enjoy good humour.
    I hope there are many more Bruce books to come.

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  107. My son now grown also loved Calvin and Hobbs. I’ll have to get some of these titles for his daughters.

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  108. I just spent way too much time learning more about the reclusive Watterson. Would love to hear him speak about his creative challenges (daily deadlines, etc) and why he retired from the strip. Thanks for mentioning Calvin & Hobbes, Ryan, and the Cookie Fiasco.

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  109. Thanks for this post, Ryan! I REALLY love funny and try to incorporate it into ALL my picture books!

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  110. My brother never wanted to share his Calvin and Hobbes books with me.
    Thank you for this post!

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  111. Thank you for the reading list. We are long-time fans of Calvin and Hobbes, not only for its humor, but also for its portrayal of imagination. Can't wait to read the next Bruce book!

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  112. Thank you Ryan I too love humourous books they can share a message and in a fun way (which young children need). I put homour in all my picture books.

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  113. Yay, for keeping it Fun! Thanks for inspiring this "Bob" to amp it up! :)

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  114. I love reading humor and it does take practice to get it right.

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  115. Bob,not Bob! is the best. I laugh just thinking about it. Thanks for sharing these fun books.

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  116. Some of my favorite funny picture books to read to my elementary school students are George and Martha, Officer Buckle and Gloria, A Visitor for Bear, Leave Me Alone!, and The DInosaur on the Thirteenth Floor.

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  117. A new doc has been created entitled HUMOR: mentor texts. As always, please feel free to add to this list here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/reforemo/humor-mentor-texts/2363147660596241/

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  118. I couldn't get my hands on the Calvin and Hobbes but I loved the other selections. A big part of the humor seemed to be in the surprise twists at the ends.

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  119. I became a fan of Zachariah O’Hora after reading Kelly DiPucchio’s POE WON’T GO (a recent favorite of absurd humor), so I was excited to get another peek at his work with WOLFIE THE BUNNY. His vibrant, cutesy style is perfectly suited to Ame Dyckman’s story; there’s just the right amount of wolfish slyness to his art, but his aesthetic is as prim and clean-cut as a 1950s wardrobe that it almost makes one forget the grim circle-of-life truth at the heart of the story. I loved that it became a story of acceptance, not only of accepting others who might first appear strange or threatening but of accepting our own darker natures. (Dot uses the one thing she fears most—being eaten—as a threat when a greater danger presents itself, showing that even a cute little bunny can exhibit viciousness when the situation calls for it.) The fact that this wonderful message came delivered in Ame Dyckman’s trademark humor made this a particularly nibblesome carrot. Thanks for the great reads!

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  120. Love Calvin and Hobbes! Thanks for the wonderful mentor texts suggestions that show humor created brilliantly

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  121. When you lead off with Calvin and Hobbes, I knew I would love this post. They are a magical duo! Who wouldn't want that humor in their own work?

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  122. Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great. And he is, Bob and Ryan!

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  123. The Mother Bruce books are favorites at our house! Thanks for the suggestions!

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  124. Such a great post with great titles. Thank you, Ryan.

    Suzy Leopold

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  125. Funny is my favorite too. Check out Potato Pants. Oh and I just read two today:
    If You Ever Want to Bring A Piano to the Beach, Don't! (I know it's a series but I had never read this one) and Baabwaa & Wooliam.

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  126. I had never read Bob, Not Bob before. These are all excellent! I like to write a lot of humor in my books, so these are excellent mentor texts. Thank you!

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  127. Thanks for this! It gives me some things to work on. I'm looking forward to studying your list.

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  128. Love Calvin and Hobbes. Mother Bruce, too.

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  129. Humor in PB's is difficult, so I appreciate and admire when it's achieved, eps. when there's such a limited word count.

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  130. Humorous picture books get me every time! I need to look for Bob, Not Bob!

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  131. Our family Christmas gift one year was to buy all the Calvin and Hobbes collections. The Dear Mr. Watterson documentary is good, too. Depending on the day, it's either inspirational or terrifying to read great humor. :)

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  132. I remember laughing out loud when I read The Cookie Fiasco for the first time. I'd rather read these books than pay $$ to go see a comedian. Thanks!

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  133. WOLFIE and UNICORN are two of my favorites, and I loved WE DON'T EAT OUR CLASSMATES! Great list!

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  134. I love books that make me laugh out loud. I have several Ame Dykman books. Can't wait to read the others.

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  135. Thank you Ryan, for some excellent examples of humor. I love several of these titles already - have you heard Liz and Audrey read Bob! Not Bob! aloud?? Hysterical! I can't wait to dive into the Calvin and Hobbes book.

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  136. Thanks for this list of humorous inspiration. We Don't Eat Our Classmates is right on the mark!

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  137. Ryan-- Your books are some of my favorite books EVER! I LOVE your sense of humor! Thanks for these great recommendations.

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  138. Thank you for these diverse and terrific examples of humor done well!

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  139. Excellent list! I love all of these books!

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  140. Great list--these all offer great laughs!

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  141. Humor can be SO difficult, but when it's done well...kids gobble it up over and over. Thanks Ryan! I loved these mentor texts!

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  142. Great selection of diverse, humorous books. Thanks!

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  143. Astghik (Astrid) KamalyanMarch 23, 2019 at 1:39 AM

    Thank you for this great list, Ryan! Calvin and Hobbes is a favorite <3.

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  144. Thank you for including The Cookie Fiasco on your list of humorous books. It's broadening to see how humor can be used in very short books.

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  145. What a funny list! I also love Ryan's sense of humor! Writing humor is so hard!

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  146. Bob not Bob is such a funny, clever book. Would make for an interesting read aloud!

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  147. I love Ryan's books too, especially We Don't Eat Our Classmates! There's something to learn about comedic timing and pacing in all of these great examples. Thanks for giving us so many opportunities to laugh!

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  148. Bob! Not Bob! is like one we wish we'd written! And Wolfie the Bunny...so fun with a great story. Humor is very important to me in my writing, and these were great mentor texts. Thanks, Ryan!

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  149. These are so so funny. Just what I needed this afternoon! And Ryan- thank you for your books. We don't eat our classmates is a definite fave in the house.

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  150. Ooh, gotta get my hands on that Calvin and Hobbes book!

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  151. Laughter is the best medicine and these books tickle my funny bone! PS - love your books, Ryan!

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  152. I also love to laugh, Ryan! Thanks for these suggestions. My son would agree with you about Calvin and Hobbes - he loves that, and Garfield. Those are books he keeps coming back to over and over as he gets older. I guess because they're classics. I enjoyed Mother Bruce - clever concept.

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  153. After I read Mother Bruce to my class, one of my students asked if I liked Calvin and Hobbs. I see that you are a fan. Something must come through in your writing or art that made that student think that. Or perhaps they have heard you present. I love anything funny. Thanks,

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  154. Frank Wilson McCollMarch 28, 2019 at 7:42 PM

    This books are so hilarious!

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  155. Thanks for the great list of humorous titles. Wolfie the Bunny is a household favourite. Wait. I might be overstating the size of the household. But me and my dog love it.
    As an author-illustrator I am ever-inspired by YOUR humour as well - thanks for Penelope!

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  156. Haha. A good selection of humorous books. I think my favorite was Bob, Not Bob.

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  157. These are fabulous recommendations! Bob, Not Bob is one of our favorites - our house breaks into uncontrollable giggles every time we read it out loud. And Mother Bruce is simply brilliant!

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  158. Exactly the focus I've been waiting for! Thank you, these are great suggestions!

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  159. Love your recommendation of Exploring Calvin and Hobbes! So much of what makes humor work in picture books is the comedic timing and the way the text interacts with the pictures. Your examples were fabulous. Thank you for a great mentor text list!

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  160. Also, We Don't Eat Our Classmates was one of my favorite humorous picture book reads of 2018!

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