10 illustrations that will make you laugh

Published on: 10 April 2018 Author: Nadia Shireen

Nadia Shireen cheerleads her favourite funny pictures from children's books (and tells us why they matter). Don't worry, she doesn't want to analyse the joke – she's just here to share the joy! 

Have you ever had to listen to someone explain why a joke is funny? It’s one of the dullest things in the entire world, right up there with choosing paint colours for hallways, or listening to the theme tune from The Archers on an endless loop until death.

I wanted to write a little something about my favourite funny illustrations, which are perhaps not celebrated quite as much as their wordy cousins. Maybe the difficulty lies in trying to explain why a drawing is funny. I have no idea why certain pictures make me laugh and others don’t. It’s an ephemeral, weird thing.

I do know that when I’m illustrating a book, I like to see if I can make myself laugh. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I know it’s a drawing worth keeping.

Anyway, I’ve decided to share with you some of my favourite illustrations that make me smile.

More about our Writer-Illustrator in Residence

Ten hilarious illustrations

Now, of course there will be loads of artists and pictures I haven’t managed to include here, so let me know what I’ve missed using the hashtag #BookTrustFunnyPics...

1. Down With Skool! by Ronald Searle (words by Geoffrey Williams)

Have you ever seen such a comically world-weary, resentful, bedraggled hound? I think about this picture almost every day. The Skool Dog is my spirit animal.

Skool Dog

2. Not Now, Bernard by David McKee

This book is darkly funny for kids, but horrifying and guilt-inducing for adults (particularly parents.) The page when Bernard’s mum airily says 'Not now, Bernard' to the monster instead of Bernard the boy is a pivotal moment in the story. But it’s the look of utter befuddlement on the monster’s face that really makes me laugh. Someone cleverer than me would probably call Not Now, Bernard a meta-textual masterpiece. I will just call it 'ace'.

Read our book review of Not Now, Bernard

3. The Far Side by Gary Larson

I love Gary Larson cartoons so much. I think he’s a genius. If you don’t like him, we can never be friends. There is nothing else to say about the matter.

4. Oi Cat! by Jim Field (words by Kes Gray)

Jim Field is one of the most successful picture book illustrators around at the moment. He is also really nice and talented and IT MAKES ME SICK. His drawings are full of life and wit and I am planning to push him down a well and make it look like an accident*.

Every endpaper in the ‘Oi!’ series is a masterpiece. Cat bums! Frogs on toilets! I hate him.

(*I am joking. I actually mean Ed Vere.)

Read our book review of Oi Cat!

5. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

This is one of the funniest picture books ever made. It conveys so much with well-chosen punctuation, careful use of colour and expertly-placed eyes. I particularly enjoy the picture where we see the otherwise relatively calm, deadpan bear looking wide-eyed in fury.

I Want My Hat Back

Read our book review of I Want My Hat Back

6. You Must Bring a Hat by Kate Hindley

Kate Hindley is another one of my absolute favourites. She packs so much detail and humour into her images. I also really like her as a person – but when I met her at the Sainsbury’s Book Awards a couple of years ago, I accidentally knocked over and cracked her winner’s trophy. This is not a joke. This is an actual terrible thing that happened. She was very nice about it.

7. The Twits by Quentin Blake (words by Roald Dahl)

I think we can all agree that Quentin Blake is an utter genius, the don, the main man. His drawings were etched onto my brain from a young age and have lost none of their potency. I remember where I was when I first saw this illustration:

I was sitting by the fire in my aunt’s living room, thrilled that I could actually watch the moment Mr Twit took a big, wriggly mouthful of worm spaghetti. Delicious.

Read our book review of The Twits

8. Ten Fat Sausages by Tor Freeman (words by Michelle Robinson)

Tor Freeman is brilliant, and her most recent collaboration with the equally clever Michelle Robinson is an absolute cracker. I was particularly taken with the plucky underwater sausage, cheery and oblivious to the terrible fate that awaits it as soon as that sink plug is pulled out…

Read our book review of Ten Fat Sausages

9. You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus by David Tazzyman (words by Patricia Cleveland-Peck)

David Tazzyman illustrates the extremely funny Mr Gum books, and his anarchic, energetic drawings are just as funny in this picture book.

In particular, I love this illustration of an annoying, braying train commuter. I can just hear him shouting into his phone. I really want the tiger to eat him.

Read our book review of You Can't Take an Elephant on the Bus

10. Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

Another one of my deadly rivals, Chris creates picture book marvels, and I think Oh No, George! is his funniest. It’s all down to George’s confused expression; he’s trying his best to be good, but the eyes suggest a deep and powerful internal struggle in the face of much temptation. Truly, we are all George.

Read our book review of Oh No, George!

Listen to our online storybook of Oh No, George!

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