Firefly Funny February: Author Huw Davies shares his thoughts on funny books

Firefly Funny February: Author Huw Davies shares his thoughts on funny books

Here are my thoughts on funny writing for children:

It’s always struck me as odd that funny things can be perceived as less serious than things that aren’t. In fact, I think that to be really funny, a funny book needs to be dealing with something serious. Although not technically a children’s book, the first book I can remember falling in love with was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I loved the names, the bizarre situations and ridiculous ideas, but behind it was the idea of a simple man trying to live an ordinary life whilst he has all kinds of absurdity thrust upon him. It is a novel length treatment of Lennon’s ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’. It’s deep, but you don’t see that as you read it. (In fact, it completely put me off science fiction – as I read other SF books I’d think ‘I can see the space-ships and the robots, but where are the jokes?’)

And when dealing with children (I’m an English teacher), it’s much easier to sell something to a class if it’s got funny things in it. It would be one thing to introduce a book by saying it’s a text about friendship, fate and race. A lot the class would be half asleep. But if you introduce it as a book featuring characters called Armpit, Squid and a murderous outlaw called Kissin’ Kate Barlow, they’re onside (Louis Sachar’s immense Holes if you haven’t read it). When I wrote Scrambled (Welsh language version – Sgramblo) I was trying to write what I called ‘a daft book for daft boys’. Again, if I said to the aforementioned daft boys ‘hey this is a book about grief, education and the crisis in modern masculinity’ they would have tuned out straight away. However if I say it features someone who can pick up a coin with their own phlegm, someone eating a Ralgex sandwich and someone driving a motorbike into a glass-house, they’re back with me. 

It’s often said that humour is a serious business, but I think when it’s done right it’s the most serious business of all.

Firefly signs sequel to WWII middle-grade Flight by Vanessa Harbour

Firefly signs sequel to WWII middle-grade Flight by Vanessa Harbour

Firefly publisher, Penny Thomas, has acquired world rights in Safe from author Vanessa Harbour, a sequel to Branford Boase Award longlisted Flight, and slated for publication in autumn 2022.

In the chaotic last days of World War II, Jacob and Kizzy are tricked into a journey that goes very wrong. They escape, but must hide in an extraordinary empty mansion which shelters not only forty abandoned horses but a small band of lost children, displaced by the war. Kizzy and Jacob face a terrifying task – can they get them all home?

Flight was selected for Empathy Lab’s Read for Empathy Collection 2020, shortlisted for the Sheffield Children’s Book Awards 2019, and longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2019. It has just been published in hardback in the US by Feiwel & Friends Books.

‘Vanessa has created a brilliant, huge-hearted adventure, set in the anarchy at the end of a war. It’s frightening and yet so hopeful, driven by the preciousness of every life. Most of all, it is the story of a friendship. This time Kizzy and Jacob don’t have Heinz to guide them – they have to rely completely on each other.’

Janet Thomas, Editor

‘I have loved taking Kizzy and Jakob on an adventure again. The strength of their two characters ensures they can face all the difficult and dangerous challenges as one.’

Vanessa Harbour, Author