Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Review - Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever.

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever.
edited by Betsy Bird
Date: 2017
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Reading level: MG
Book type: short stories, essays & comics
Pages: 220
Format: e-book
Source: library

Funny Girl is a collection of uproarious stories, rollicking comics, rib-tickling wit, and more, from 25 of today’s funniest female writers for kids.

What could be funnier than family? Read stories about Ursula Brown's grandmother driving her on a road trip to disaster, Lisa Brown's little brother getting a Tic-Tac stuck up his nose, and Carmen Agra Deedy's mom setting the bathtub on fire.

What could be funnier than friends? Pretty much nothing, as Rita Williams-Garcia shows two besties hatching a bird-brained scheme to get on to a TV talk show, and Deborah Underwood introduces a dynamic dog-and-cat duo teaming up on a pet advice column.

What could be funnier than YOU? Tell your future with Mad Libs, discover your Chinese Zodiac sign with Lenore Look, and learn the best tricks of the comedy trade from professional humorists like Adrianne Chalepah and Delaney Yeager.

With clever contributions from award-winning and bestselling authors including Cece Bell, Sophie Blackall, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Lisa Graff, and Raina Telgemeier, this anthology of funny girls will make you laugh until you cry. Or cry until you laugh. Or maybe you won't cry at all. Either way, you'll definitely laugh.

Funny Girl isn’t just an anthology: it’s a cause, a mission, a movement. Girls are funny. Now it’s time for the world to know it.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a bit different. Here's an anthology that incorporates short stories with essays, comics, and more.

Here are my thoughts on the individual pieces:

"How to Tell a Joke" by Delaney Yeager & Mackenzie Yeager

This is sort of a how-to on joke telling. Unfortunately, it isn't funny. In fact, it's kind of offensive. Apparently, Mackenzie was really struck by an amputee former drug addict who came to talk to her school. Many of the jokes in this piece revolve around that. Are those really her jokes to tell? (It seems more like she's making fun of people with disabilities for her own benefit.) And the implication that any joke is funny if you tell it with confidence sounds like a great way for budding comedians to really get themselves into trouble. Not a great way to start off the book.

"In Which Young Raina Learns a Lesson" by Raina Telgemeier

This is a short comic that tells a story about the artist being stung by a bee. I don't know if I'm supposed to feel sorry for her, especially since she stomps on the bee for no apparent reason. I couldn't help feeling a little bit of Schadenfreude when she learned her lesson. Karma's a bitch.

"Dear Grandpa: Give Me Money" by Alison DeCamp

I'm still cringing. In trying way too hard to be funny, the author just made the child come off as a spoiled little monster. She insults her grandfather throughout, all the while whining for money and even stooping so low as to threaten his cat. The grandfather takes it all in stride, but I had to wonder if he was regretting having the child who produced this insufferable annoyance. Not funny. Not sorry.

"Grandma in Oil Country: A True Story" by Ursula Vernon

This story is actually pretty funny. It's one of those road trips where everything that can go wrong does, and it ends with mud and lightning and a terrifying clown in the backseat. I'm not sure what the pictures are all about (I haven't read any of the author's other stuff), but they're kind of cute.

"One Hot Mess" by Carmen Agra Deedy

Great flaming bathtubs! This story is pretty amusing. It probably wasn't at the time, but it's likely something the family (as well as all the kids who witnessed the incident) have been laughing about ever since.

"Fleamail" by Deborah Underwood

This advice column shtick is actually kind of cute. Rover (a dog... obviously) gives Bella (a cat) some advice on how to get adopted from a shelter. The advice ends up having unexpected consequences for both of them.

"A Most Serious Recitation of the Poem 'Trees'" by Cece Bell

Aside from the goofiness of seeing the altered photos, this one is actually fairly stupid. The pig is annoying, and I'm not really sure what the point is. Kids might find it funny, though.

"Things Could Be Verse" by Kelly DiPucchio

This is actually three poems. The first one, "Bad Hair Day", made me laugh out loud. It's probably worth picking up this book just for that poem alone. "My Secret" is sort of observational humour about bra shopping; it's fairly entertaining. "Breakaway" isn't all that funny; unless you're still in school, you probably won't feel much about it.

"Swimming Is for Other Kids" by Akilah Hughes

Yikes! Poor Akilah. This little memoir details a harrowingly embarrassing incident involving a backyard pool, a cannonball, and a purple bikini. It's mortifying more than funny, but it's well written.

"Dear Bella and Rover" by Deborah Underwood

The cat and dog from "Fleamail" are back, this time offering up advice to a parrot who's sick of crackers. Bella's advice is perhaps more helpful than Rover's; all the dog wants to do is eat the unwanted crackers.

"The Thumb Incident" by Meghan McCarthy

This is a short comic anecdote about the time the author was using a stapler and accidentally stapled her thumb. Either there's some exaggeration involved, or the school was grossly negligent in letting a child use a high-powered stapler that was able to send the staple right into the bone. In any case, it's a somewhat amusing story, but not exactly laugh-out-loud funny.

"Desdemona and Sparks Go All In" by Rita Williams-Garcia & Michelle Garcia

I don't like stories that try to be funny. This is one of those. The plot is ridiculous, and the middle schoolers aren't realistic (I get that it's a school for the gifted, but if 12-year-olds were really doing stuff like the kids in this story, we'd be living in some sort of utopia by now). Also, I couldn't get over the names. I know there are really idiotic parents who give their kids names like Sparkle, but pairing her with a Desdemona is a little much.

"7 Things I Thought Were (Think Are) Funny but Were Really Kind of Sad, and That All Happened to My Little Brother" by Lisa Brown

This woman is easily amused if she thinks an acorn falling on her brother's head is funny. (Personally, I don't think her knocking out his tooth with a mini-golf club and him crashing their dad's car into a brick wall are particularly funny, either.) The first and last panels are funny because of the parallelism, but I wish the other five in the middle had actually been amusing.

"Babysitting Nightmare" by Shannon Hale

I don't even know what this story is doing in this book. It's not funny. If it was supposed to be, it was trying way too hard... and it failed, anyway. (It almost seems like it wanted to be a horror story, but it wasn't particularly scary, either.) The writing wasn't terrible, but the story was stupid.

"Dear Bella and Rover (Again)" by Deborah Underwood

The cat and dog duo are at it again, this time offering advice to a snail who can't keep up with her friends. Rover's comments are probably the most amusing here. There's not much else to say; this one is really short.

"Can We Talk About Whiskers?" by Jennifer L. Holm, art by Matthew Holm

This one's fine for fans of Babymouse, I guess, but I can't count myself in that group. (Also, she's supposed to be in middle school, but she's going out to movies unchaperoned and bugging for whisker extensions. Seems more like high school to me, but that's kind of par for the course for this book.)

"Brown Girl Pop Quiz: All of the Above" by Mitali Perkins

This is sort of cute. I learned a few things, too. While it's not laugh-out-loud funny, it's certainly amusing in a few spots.

"Over and Out" by Lisa Graff

This story is just disgusting and sets a bad example. Basically, a kid accidentally poops on her sister's bra, and then has to get rid of the evidence. This leads to a number of incidents that are probably supposed to be funny, but aren't. At one point, she feeds chocolate to the neighbour's dog. Then, at the end, she flushes the bra down the toilet. I hope it floods and she has to pay for the plumber and any damage to the bathroom. (What the hell was wrong with the garbage chute?)

"Doodle" by Amy Ignatow

This is just an interesting little tidbit (in the form of a comic) about the importance of doodling. It was misspelled as "dooding" once, which I'm assuming was just a typo (if not, it was an attempt to be funny that didn't work).

"Fleamail Pawed-cast" by Deborah Underwood

Our favourite advice columnists are back, this time teaching a lesson to a couple of fighting fish. Just like all the other stories involving this duo, this one is short but sweet.

"How to Play Imaginary Games" by Leila Sales

This one is utterly repulsive. It's not funny at all, and makes fun of people in some of the worst situations imaginable. Being poisoned is funny? Starving is funny? Dying of consumption is funny? Why not call that last game "Auschwitz" and be done with it? (Wow. Who the hell thought this one was a good idea?)

"Great Expectations" by Christine Mari Inzer

Boring and kind of stupid, this is just a short comic about a middle-school kid being visited by her future self. All she cares about is the fact that she doesn't yet have a boyfriend. It's not funny so much as exasperating.

"A Public Service Announcement About Your Period from Sarah T. Wrigley, age 12¾" by Libba Bray

Aside from the mental image of a tampon Acropolis swelling up with apple juice, this one didn't offer much in the way of laughs. It's another fictional story, which I'm starting to dread (they're just not very strong in this book).

"The Smart Girl's Guide to the Chinese Zodiac" by Lenore Look

This one was kind of annoying. There were so many puns and jokes, and I'm not sure how many of them middle-grade kids would actually pick up on. It's probably not all that accurate a look at the Chinese zodiac, anyway.

"Bad Luck Dress" by Charise Mericle Harper

This is the second comic in this book that has a typo. Aside from that, this is a silly story about superstition. I mean, I get it; I once had a pair of shoes that were some sort of supernatural dog-poop magnet. Eventually, after hosing off the soles yet again, I accidentally forgot about them and they got left out in the rain. Serves them right for walking me straight into piles of dog poop, I guess. (I got rid of them after that, convinced they had some sort of evil poop-sensing powers.)

"The World's Most Awkward Mermaid" by Sophie Blackall

This is a fairly funny story about tween girls and bad fashion choices in (probably) the 1980s. (Who else remembers batwing sleeves?) I kind of wish this one was longer, or that the author had written another story for the book.

"Tell Your Future with Mad Libs®"

Do kids today understand how to do Mad Libs? In any case, this one could be fairly amusing if you were to play around with it with your friends (there were no instructions given, though, so readers might not get the most out of this one).

"My Life Being Funny (and How You Can Do It, Too)" by Adrianne Chalepah

This piece is a few more amusing anecdotes taken from real-life experiences. It was just okay for me, well written but not laugh-out-loud funny like I hoped.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the real-life stories. Some of the comics were okay. Most of the fictional short stories, however, just fell flat. They seemed like they were trying too hard to be funny. Some of them weren't funny at all; for me, "disgusting" or "scary" doesn't equal "funny".

Unfortunately, the book starts with a couple of the least funny pieces. It's too bad, because there are probably going to be some readers who get turned off and abandon the book before they get to the good stuff.

Overall: 2.45 out of 5

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