Student-sized joke books just the thing for the funny bones away on vacation

BOOKS FOR KIDS

August 05, 1994|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

In the spirit of squeezing the most out of the final month of summer vacation, here are some sources for jokes, puns and silly stories that can make children grin and grown-ups groan.

* "School Daze: Jokes Your Teacher Will Hate!" by Louis Phillips, illustrated by Susanna Natti (Viking, $11.99, ages 7-11, 58 pages) has plenty of punch lines worth memorizing between now and Labor Day.

There are three or four jokes to a page, so even though some are as stale as kindergarten graham crackers, there are bound to be several that haven't made the rounds -- at least not in a few years. Some personal favorites:

TEACHER: What's the tallest building in the world?

JOANNE: The Library of Congress.

TEACHER: Why the Library of Congress?

JOANNE: Because it has the most stories.

Did you hear about the cannibal who was expelled from school for buttering up the teacher?

BRIDGET: Here is my report card. I hope you realize that Joan of Arc and I have a lot in common.

MOTHER: What do you have in common?

BRIDGET: We both went down in history.

So it goes.

If you get the book now, there will be plenty of time to rehearse during that long car trip the family has planned for vacation.

* "Off the Wall: A Very Silly Story Book" by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Mik Brown; and "Crack-ups: A Very Silly Joke Book" by Mik Brown, are companion paperbacks published by Kingfisher ($2.95 each, ages 5-9, 64 pages).

Mr. Rosen, who wrote "We're Going on a Bear Hunt," has been collecting jokes and wacky stories for years. "Off the Wall" gives him a chance to share 28 of them.

Here's a sample:

There was a phone call for the principal, so she picked up the phone and said, "Yes?"

And a voice said, "I'm very sorry, but Darren Wilkins won't be at school today."

So the principal said, "Why not?"

And the voice said, " 'Cuz he's sick in bed."

So the principal said, "Oh dear, what a shame, and who's speaking, please?"

And the voice said, "My dad."

Mr. Brown's cartoons are a good match for such goofiness. In "Crack-ups," he gets to tell some of his favorite jokes, such as:

Why were the elephants thrown out of the swimming pool?

Because they couldn't keep their trunks up.

* The late Alvin Schwartz was a master anthologist. He compiled many books of folklore and poetry for kids, including "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" and "Busy Buzzing Bumblebees."

HarperCollins has published two of his funnier collections in paperback: "Witcracks: Jokes and Jests from American Folklore" and "Tomfoolery: Trickery and Foolery with Words" (HarperTrophy, $4.95 each, 126 pages, ages 9 and up).

In "Witcracks," the seven chapters are devoted to a different type of joke, from riddles -- What did one eye say to the other? There's something between us that smells. -- to "Little Moron" jokes, such as: Have have heard about the man who wore a winter coat to a baseball game because he heard thousands of fans would be there?

Chapter Five deals with hate jokes. At first I wasn't going to recommend the book because of this chapter -- enough hurtful ethnic "jokes" are out there already -- but Mr. Schwartz begins by explaining that they have been used as weapons to put down different minorities over the years. He also points out that these are the jokes we tell the most often. So it's probably better to share his fairly benign bunch of hate jokes than to ignore them entirely. The same goes for the sick jokes in Chapter Six.

In "Witcracks" and "Tomfoolery," Mr. Schwartz includes several fascinating notes and detailed sources at the end, as well as a bibliography. Unfortunately, the illustrations by Glen Rounds are not as funny as the cover art by Susan G. Truesdell.

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