Saturday, July 22, 2006

Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen

Funny books tend not to win the Newbery. Why? I think it's just that difficult to write a fantastic funny book. But M.T. Anderson may have done it. It's a short book, hilarious, and surprisingly multi-faceted and even deep. Read it. I'm adding to the list...and am adding the others you've posted. Between a funky connection, a two-week virus, and just being a slow reader, I'm having trouble keeping up with you all...but that's why I started this blog--to get you to do my work for me.

(Funny Newbery's? Holes and Westing Game...but they were also great mysteries. Some funny recent honor books: Al Capone, Surviving the Applewhites, Everything on a Waffle, Joey Pigza...but these also had family/relationship storylines going for them. Lederhosen is really JUST about being funny, and I'm interested to see if it will stand up against others.)


Blogger Nina Lindsay said...

You didn't laugh at HOLES? Really?

Maybe that's why "funny" has such a hard time with the Newbery--it's subjective, and people have a hard time seeing someone else's point-of-view with funny. Surely a group of 15 could agree on "excellent and distinguished" funny writing? Do funny movies ever win best Oscar?

Anyway, "Lederhosen" has a surprisingly interesting ending that adds a little oomph, and propels it beyond being "just a funny book" ... leading me to think that maybe I could sell some folks on its "distinguished" characteristics.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Monica Edinger said...

Humour seems to be terribly personal and something you just have an instant reaction to. That is, while I've been convinced to take second looks at some books and then changed my mind to more favorable stances, that has never happened with a funny book. A perfect example is Whales on Stilts! which I just did not find as funny as many friends with whom I usually agree. Happily I did find Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen funnier and more intriguing overall for the reasons you articulate.

Years ago I tried to make some sense of kid reactions to humour in Horn Book article for Horn Book, "Pets and Other Fishy Books" (, but since writing it some of my conclusions have been disproven. I had decided that Arlene Sardine was too sophisticated for kids, but since then I've had several classes find it roll-on-the-floor-hilarious. Jon Scieszka also considered this in his Zena Suntherland lecture "What's so funny, Mr. Scieszka?", adapted for the November 200 Horn Book.

One reason I suspect it is hard to reach any sort of consensus is that humour plays so much off stereotypes. What can be funny for one person is offensive to another. (Lederhosen, for instance, are part of my background living in Germany as a child --- kids wore them and it was no big deal. I'm used to these sorts of German references so while it isn't funny to me, I'm not offended, just bemused by what is fair game for such humor and what is not.) I suppose any Newbery Committee would have to grapple with all of this. Serious stuff, that.


7:09 AM  
Blogger Nina Lindsay said...

...and the funny thing about the Lederhosen being funny is that it doesn't poke fun at Lederhosen in general so much as at the specific Lederhosen of the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music.


3:36 PM  
Blogger Monica Edinger said...

...which will be known more by adult readers than child readers. I think it is incredibly tricky balancing this sort of referential humor. That is, the kind that depends on the reader knowing what is being parodied/played off of/referenced in some way that makes it hilarious. One thing I love so much about the Lemony Snicket books (in addition to the brilliant Lewis Carroll-like language play) is that there are so many different references, some of which go over the child readers' heads, but somehow there are enough crazy things and references and more that they do get to keep them avidly reading and rereading.

Now again I did like this book very much, but I'm not sure it is Newbery-caliber for me. For that, I'd need to be convinced that these references either could be bypassed by child readers without a problem, that they were getting them, or something else of that sort. That is, is this humorous for a child who has never seen "The Sound of Music" and is simply finding the weird word, Lederhosen, a stitch? I mean, that may well be!


4:51 AM  
Blogger Monica Edinger said...

Of the recent Newbery-honored books you cite, I am a particular fan of Joey Pigza. I think perhaps I like it for the same reason I like Lederhosen better than Whales. Joey Pigza and Lederhosen both have something deeper going on along with all the over-the-edge (literally in Lederhosen:)craziness. And that something is complicated too.


5:54 AM  

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