April Fool! Books about Jokes and Tricksters


Poisson d'Avril by Sarah

Poisson d’Avril by Sarah

In honor of April Fool’s Day, for this week’s Family Storytime, we read books about jokes and tricks.  This was a fun theme, and all the books were snatched up and checked out at the end.  Here’s what we read:


Knock, Knock, Who’s There? by Tad Hills (Amazon.com link)

A great introduction to knock knock jokes for toddlers and preschoolers, with comical animal illustrations.  I love to read this book at storytimes because it’s so interactive.  Even the parents enjoy saying “Who’s There?”


Watch Out! Big Bro’s Coming by Jez Alborough (Amazon.com link)

I first heard this book read by a children’s librarian named Mary Ann Schlitz when I was just starting out doing storytimes, and I was struck by how well she did the voices for each character.  It’s been one of my favorite read-alouds ever since.  When a little mouse warns a frog that “Big Bro is Coming!” it starts a panic that spreads throughout the jungle.  Each animal makes Big Bro out to be rougher and bigger, until they are all cowering in terror.  When Big Bro finally appears, he turns out to be…a mouse!   The big, colorful illustrations and dramatic story make this book perfect for just about any age.   I usually have the kids stretch their arms out every time a character says “THIS BIG!”


I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)

Yet another terrific Gerald and Piggie book, and one that worked perfectly for this theme.  When Gerald and Piggie see two squirrels playing a game where they try to scare each other, they decide to try it on each other.  This book always gets big laughs, especially on the page where Gerald and Piggie jump out at the same time and scream in terror.


Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play With Your Food by Bob Shea (Amazon.com link)

Bob Shea is another favorite picture book author of mine.  I learned about this new title of his from my friend Kerri’s blog, MLReads.com.  Buddy the monster really wants to eat the adorable little white bunnies, but somehow the bunnies always manage to divert him onto something else: making cupcakes, going swimming, or going to the fair.  Hilarious read-aloud that always gets groans and laughs at the punchline.


There were a number of wandering toddlers at storytime this week, so I ended up doing songs after each book to keep them engaged:

Shake My Sillies Out: My standard opening song.  I always pretend to fall asleep in the “Yawn my sleepies out” verse, and the kids yell, “Wake up!” Here’s a video of the original version by Raffi.

Aiken Drum: I had the kids suggest different foods to make the parts of Aiken Drum’s face.  Here are the lyrics with the uke chords in parentheses (If this key is too high, you can also play it in C with C, F, and G7).  Click on the triangle below to hear the tune:

(D) There was a man lived (G) in the moon
(D) In the moon, (A) in the moon.
There (D) was a man lived (G) in the moon,
And his (D) name was (A) Aiken (D) Drum.


And he played upon a ladle, a ladle, a ladle,
He played upon a ladle, and his name was Aiken Drum.

His eyes were made of meatballs, meatballs, meatballs,
His eyes were made of meatballs, and his name was Aiken Drum

His nose was made of cheese….
His hair was made of spaghetti…  etc.

There’s a Spider on the Floor:  I have a big spider puppet that I brought out for this one, and I carried it around to put lightly on each kid’s leg, neck, head, etc.  I’ve changed the verses a little from the Raffi version.  Instead of “There’s a spider on your stomach,” I do “There’s a spider on your tummy, on your tummy…Oh, you look so very funny, with that spider on your tummy.”  And instead of “I wish that I were dead, I’ve got a spider on my head,” I sing, “Oh, it fills my heart with dread to see that spider on your head…”  But otherwise I keep it the same.

Little Bunny FooFoo: Great song for getting the kids on their feet and jumping around.  Here’s an animated video by Hannah Heller with the lyrics.

INSTRUMENT PLAY-ALONG WITH A CD: Just Kidding by Jon Galimor from Folk Playground (Amazon.com link)

CRAFT: Poisson d’Avril

photo (90)

Poisson d’Avril by Shelby

An incredibly simple craft based on the French tradition of sticking paper fish on people’s backs on April First as a joke (Poisson d’Avril).  You can read more about the history on FranceTravelGuide.com.  For the fish, I printed out a basic template from AllKidsNetwork.com, and gave the kids markers and crayons to decorate it, and tape to make it sticky.  They had the best time trying to stick the fish on each other and on all the grown-ups.


Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock by Eric Kimmel; illustrated by Janet Stevens (Amazon.com link)

One of the best examples of a trickster tale, featuring Anansi the Spider, the mischievous West African god.  When Anansi discovers that a certain rock in the jungle knocks people unconscious when they say, “Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock?”, he uses it to trick all the other animals and steal their food.  But all the time, Little Bush Deer is hiding and watching, and planning a trick of her own.  This is a terrific read-aloud.  Kids love joining in on the “KPOM!’s” whenever an animal falls for the trick.  Plus Janet Stevens has cleverly hidden Little Bush Deer on almost every page for kids to find.

Guess Again! by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Adam Rex (Amazon.com link)

A clever and hilarious parody of traditional riddle books.  Each page uses rhymes, clues, and silhouettes to lead readers to an obvious answer, only to surprise them with something completely random.  For example: Who’s furry, scurries, and has fleas?/Who climbs our counters and eats our cheese?/We’ve set up traps throughout the house/But still can’t catch that pesky…Viking!”

Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard; illustrated by James Marshall (Amazon.com link)

The classic classroom story about sweet Miss Nelson, who is mysteriously replaced by the evil Miss Viola Swamp.  The best thing about this book is the way it leaves it up to the reader to solve the mystery.  I also love that James Marshall based his depiction of Miss Viola Swamp on his own horrible second grade teacher who laughed at his drawings (you can read about it in this Horn Book interview).  I have also read that Marshall gave up drawing for years afterwards.  Thank goodness he regained his confidence as an adult!  He certainly had the last laugh.

What are your favorite picture books about jokes and tricks?


2 thoughts on “April Fool! Books about Jokes and Tricksters

    • Thanks! And yes, Guess Again is a lot of fun, especially if you read it to slightly older kids who are absolutely SURE they know the answers.

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