Saturday 23 September 2023

Jest the Funny Bits

Jest the Funny Bits by Bill Condon (IP Kidz), RRP $25.00 Middle Grade ISBN 9-781922-830333

Reviewed by Susan Hancy

Jest the Funny Bits presents as an unassuming book with its clean white cover featuring a juggling jester, signalling that the reader will be in for some fun.  But – wow – this collection of poems, short stories and plays really packs a punch!


The book is divided into three sections. The first is a collection of short poems which are an assortment of unconventional ideas, such as a knight stuck in his armour being saved by a can opener. Beware the dad joke humour, such as paying a bargain price for a tree which is dead. (A Christmas tree – ha ha and so true!) My favourite poem was “Uncle Jack” which begins with a hint of C.J. Dennis’s A Bush Christmas with a visitor for Christmas, except that Uncle Jack creates a new calamity with every move he makes. Luckily the police turn up for a chat after his boomerang lodges in Grannie’s ear and before things get much worse.


The second section consists of short stories which immediately grip your attention and entertain the reader with their no holds barred plots (who would even think to buy an elephant’s foot?, could there be a librarian who eats children?), expressive similes (“lips curled like two strips of half-cooked bacon”) and the occasional tender moment. Even the most reluctant reader is guaranteed to chuckle and return for the next kooky story. For students and aspiring writers, reading these is like being treated to a master class in great short story writing.


The third section is made up of short plays that are fast-paced and packed with puns. Readers won’t be able to resist dressing up as Dracula or transforming into Captain Scurvy to put on their own performances. These plays would also be great material for class activities at school.


Witty names (used, for example, with the knights Sir Prised, Sir Rounded, Sir Loin and Sir Cumference, the jackass exploits of Bradley D. Mented where D stands for Dangerous and interviews by Professor Noah Lott) flow prolifically throughout the book. Traditional tales are twisted (find out how Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk fame actually made his fortune and what crime Kimberella committed at the Ball) and no plot unfolds as you would expect. Each poem, short story and play is independent, so reading the chapters out of order works perfectly well, especially if you want to get stuck straight into a short story or play. The variety of tales and techniques used by Bill Condon in creating Jest the Funny Bits had me thinking of him as a modern-day Henry Lawson. I highly recommend this book as a total surprise packet with its plethora of choice for short, wacky reads guaranteed to give a good laugh before bedtime.

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