I am delighted to welcome to the blog author Kate Scott, whose books Giant and Just Jack are two fabulous examples of funny books for children. Both stories explore important themes through humour and are hugely entertaining, but full of heart. Kate is sharing today why she thinks funny books are one of the best ways to engage children in stories.
The Heart of Humour
“At the start of Just Jack, we find out that Jack has moved five times over the last two years. The regular upheavals are mostly due to of his mother’s work but the additional unspoken reason (until the book’s conclusion) is that they are both coping with the fallout of a divorce. Jack’s mum, in wanting to be ‘free’, doesn’t realise that she’s trapped Jack in an emotional prison. Jack is forced to reinvent himself after each move to ensure he fits in at each new school. He’s also convinced himself that there is no point in trying to make real friends because he’ll only have to lose them, just as he’s lost his dad. And deep down, Jack feels responsible for the divorce and is perhaps punishing himself subconsciously for (as he sees it) failing to keep his family together.
I wanted the story to comfort any children who have ever felt responsible for the actions of adults – or who feel that being themselves is not enough. I wanted every child to finish the story feeling more self-confident and to know that having – and being – a true friend is one of the most satisfying gifts we can give and receive. But the book aims to be accessible to a wide variety of children whether or not they’ve experienced the issues involved and, above all, to engage and entertain.
In my attempt to achieve this, the approach I used was humour. I chose humour because it’s one of the best coping mechanisms open to us as we navigate our way through life. I chose humour because if you preach to a child you lose them at the first word, but if you make them laugh they’ll be with you to the final page. And finally, I chose humour because laughing is fun.
Children’s books need voices of all kinds to meet the myriad needs and wants of their readers. But when searching out the books to give a child who has gone through a painful event, the stories they see themselves reflected in don’t have to be (entirely) serious. They can provoke a variety of emotions and reactions, including that of laughter. Laughing can help us put problems into perspective and to bear them better. Through laughter, we can convey some of the most important lessons we will ever learn. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through writing Giant and Just Jack, writing heart with humour is a very serious business indeed . . .”