Laugh Your Head Off Again, Various authors, Andrea Innocent (illus.), Pan Macmillan, 2016

Synopsis: 9 authors, 9 stories to make you laugh your head off again. A busting moment + a pet show + a ten metre high concrete tomato + a dog with a knack for trouble + the perfect footy pie + a mischievous monkey + a king on a break from his kingdom + a legendary lunchtime bandit + a llama farm camp = one hilarious book.

Laugh Your Head Off Again is the companion title to the 2015 Pan Macmillan book Laugh Your Head Off. Like its predecessor, this fun offering features a collection (nine to be exact) of humorous short stories by some of Australia’s most well-regarded authors. The book features work by Andy Griffiths, Sally Rippin, Morris Gleitzman, Jacklyn Moriarty, Frances Watts, Tony Wilson, Alan Brough, Meg McKinlay and Katrina Nannestad.

As you’d expect from the authors who have written this anthology, all of the stories include something to illicit chuckles from youngsters. There is toilet humour from Australia’s king of children’s comedy writing, Andy Griffiths, as well as plenty of talking animals, curious creatures, fart jokes, Home Alone-esque pranks and more.

Many of the stories deal with the types of situations that children often find themselves in, such as busting for the toilet, hanging out with grandparents, competing over who brings the best “Show and Tell” item to school, dogs eating homework, and participating in extracurricular activities. However, while the situations might be common, the stories typically have unexpected twists and turns that will keep kids guessing all the way to the end.

Although the book is marketed to both boys and girls, and is no doubt going to be of interest to both sexes, there is a shortage of stories in the collection that have a female protagonist. As such, it would be great to see any future books addressing this imbalance.

A few things make this collection stand out from many other short-story anthologies. For starters, most of the work in the book was written especially for this collection, so many of the stories are being seen for the first time. Another great element of this book is that, at the end, readers can check out the biography of each author, plus the illustrator, and then learn about what tickles their funny bones. This is no doubt going to appeal to readers who want to know more about their favourite authors and where they get their inspiration.

The book is a 2-colour hardback and features striking black and neon-orange illustrations by Andrea Innocent. These pictures, spread throughout the book, break up the text for independent readers, and have a quirky, almost comic-strip feel to them. They certainly add an extra dose of fun to each story for kids to enjoy. Other graphical elements (such as charts and lists, story breaks, page numbers and the like) have also been printed in the same bright orange, which will help to engage middle to upper primary-school children.

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