Monday, August 9, 2021

#IMWAYR/MMGM: Two Middle Grades to Make You Laugh

I was a fairly serious kid and an intense and brooding adolescent. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to laugh at myself and not take life so seriously. And interestingly enough, it wasn’t till I could laugh at myself that I was able to create humorous scenes in my own writing.

Maybe because I’ve had to work so hard to learn to write humor that I’m an awe of writers who seemingly do so naturally. Although maybe they have had to work as hard as me too—but hide it well.

Today I’m sharing two humorous and fun MG books. Both of these are sequels, and often sequels are not an improvement on the first book. But this is not true here.  I hope you enjoy these picks!

The first is Lord and Lady Bunny—Almost Royalty! by Polly Horvath

Synopsis from Amazon:

This hilarious sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire! is a bunny-rific "tail" that even includes a guest appearance by J. K. Rowling a.k.a. "Oldwhatshername".

Madeleine wants nothing more than to save money for college, but her impractical, ex-hippie parents are broke. When the family unexpectedly inherits a sweet shoppe in England that has the potential to earn serious profit, they see an answer to all their problems. . . . Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—formerly of the detecting persuasion—are looking for new professions, and Mrs. Bunny decides she would like to be Queen. Soon they, too, are headed across the pond. Brought to you by National Book Award-winning author Polly Horvath and Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator Sophie Blackall, the adventures of Madeleine and the Bunnys are zanier than ever.

My thoughts:

I reviewed the first of Horvath’s Mr. and Mrs. Bunny books two months ago. I liked this one even better, but then I have a soft spot for anything set across the pond. Not only does “Oldwhatshername” make an appearance and give the bunnies some interesting advice, but Horvath has a cameo as well. The puns and silliness are even better than the first book. Madeleine’s parents discover sugar—and her mom temporarily becomes Cruise Mildred, who likes to shop. The bunnies rub noses with snobby hedgehogs and a rabbit Shakespeare group. Horvath, as always, takes lots of pokes at modern life. I especially enjoyed the English royalty and suburban mom jokes!

And then there's The Willoughbys Return by Lois Lowry:

Synopsis from Amazon:

It's been 30 years and with rising temperatures melting icy mountain tops the previously frozen Willoughbys have thawed out and are about to return! From living legend and Newbery medalist Lois Lowry comes a hilarious sequel to New York Times bestseller The Willoughbys—soon to be an animated film starring Ricky Gervais, Maya Rudolph, Terry Crews, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, and Sean Cullen on Netflix!

Although they grew up as wretched orphans, the Willoughby siblings also became heirs to the the Melanoff candy company fortune. Everything has turned out just splendidly, except for one problem: Richie Willoughby, son of Timothy Willoughby, is an only child and is quite lonely.
Winifred and Winston Poore have long admired the toys of their neighbor Richie Willoughby and finally befriend the mysterious boy next door. But just as Richie finally begins to make friends, selling sweets is made illegal, and the family's fortune is put in jeopardy. To make matters worse, Richie's horrible Willoughby grandparents—frozen atop a Swiss mountain thirty years ago—have thawed, remain in perfect health, and are making their way home again.

What is the point of being the reclusive son of a billionaire when your father is no longer a billionaire? What is the future without candy in it? And is there any escaping the odiousness of the Willoughbys? These are the profound questions with which Newbery medalist and ignominious author Lois Lowry grapples in
The Willoughbys Return.

Lowry has an amazing range. The first book I read by her was A Summer to Die when I was in elementary school. Then there’s The Giver, a dystopian classic.

But Lois is not just a serious writer, she knows how to make fun of herself and classic children lit. The first Willoughby book roasted kidlit’s love affair with orphans and babies being left on doorsteps. In The Willoughbys Return, she has the running joke about how poverty is glorified in kid lit, like in Little Women. The Poore mother is always “Marming”—offering Marme-like advice, which no one takes seriously. The joke continues with plays on words in the character names: Richie is rich and the Poores are poor. The Willoughby parents are still persnickety despite being frozen for 30 years, and their lack of understanding of modern life (What’s Google?) made me chuckle throughout.  

What books have made you laugh lately?

 If you'd like to read more middle grade reviews or join in the MMGM fun, go to Greg Pattridge's Always in the Middle blog. 



  1. I'm pretty serious like you and struggle to write anything humorous. Thanks for your two book recommendations. I could use some that make me laugh.

  2. Jenni, I noted both books & laughter out loud when I read "What is the point of being the reclusive son of a billionaire when your father is no longer a billionaire?" Yes, funny. Thanks for sharing these!

  3. Humor is definitely welcome these days! Thanks for featuring these two! I know what to look for :)

  4. I'm always on the lookout for a good laugh and I haven't read either of these. Thanks for sharing. A recent book that made me laugh more than once was THE OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY.

  5. I suspect I'd be bad at writing humor as well—I could probably learn a thing or two about laughing at myself as well—but both of these authors seem to have executed their humor quite well! The Willoughbys books by Lois Lowry particularly intrigue me—I would not have expected such humorous books from Lowry, but like you say, she seems to have an impressive range! Thanks so much for the great reviews!

  6. Oh my goodness, I was quite the broody teenager, too! I don't think I could write humour well, but I do enjoy reading it when it's well done. :)

  7. I remember when that first Polly Horvath book was published. Readers at my school loved the humour in it (and so did I.)

  8. Being able to write humor is a real gift, and not one I have. I have read the Lord and Lady Bunny book. It was awfully cute. I had no idea Lowry wrote anything humorous. I will have to look for that one. Thanks for the reviews.

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