It is a late Friday afternoon in July. A critic named Jan (her real name) is sitting at a table in the café of a good suburban public library.
Jan has placed two books in front of her on the table. One is Lyle, Lyle Crocodile (Houghton Mifflin, 1962), a handsome, award-winning hardcover book that she has checked out of the library. The other is Awesome Good Clean Jokes for Kids (Harvest House, 1992), a cheap mass-market paperback that she has just picked up at CVS.
She is trying to decide which book to review and is leaning toward Lyle, because she didn’t get it off a rack that also had books about iffy herbal remedies and end-of-the-world prophecies.
An 11-year-old girl named Olivia (not her real name) starts to walk by. She does not know Jan but stops instantly when she sees Awesome Good Clean Jokes for Kids.
OLIVIA: I love that book! There’s a really good joke on page 103. It’s in the “knock, knock” section.
JAN: Would you show it to me? (She opens the book to page 103.)
OLIVIA: There it is at the bottom of the page.
JAN: “Knock, knock. / Who’s there? / Noah. / Noah who? / Noah good place we can go for dinner?”
OLIVIA: That’s my favorite. I like another one on that page, too. The one about the turnip.
JAN: “Knock, knock. / Who’s there? / Turnip. / Turnip who? / Turnip the heat, it’s cold in here!”
OLIVIA: I like that one because I really like turnips.
JAN: Do you think other 11-year-olds would like this book? Or do you think it would be better for another age?
OLIVIA: I think some 11-year-olds would like it. But I think it’s best for about 6-year-olds. My brother is six, and it’s his favorite book. We had a copy of it already, but my mother had to go to CVS and buy him his personal copy.
JAN: Why do you think your brother likes it so much?
OLIVIA: He like all those silly things like Captain Underpants.
Bob Phillips’s Awesome Good Clean Jokes for Kids (Harvest House, 207 pp., $4.99, paperback) also has riddles, daffy definitions, and many other kinds of jokes for ages 6 and up. It is available at drug- and other stores, including online and retail booksellers.