“What do skeletons wear for Halloween? A cos-tomb!” This is just one of the kid-pleasing entries in Rob Elliott’s Laugh-Out-Loud Spooky Jokes for Kids, the first of four upcoming titles in the author’s bestselling, paperback Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids series that HarperCollins Children’s Books will publish in 2016 and 2017. Executive editor Sara Sargent acquired worldwide rights to the new joke collections from Byrd Leavell of the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.
Michigan resident Elliott has a solid track record for tickling the funny bones of both children and adults. Published by Baker Publishing Group’s Revell division, the earlier eight books in his series, which launched in 2010 with Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids, have a total of 2.5 million copies in print.
The joke-spinning life of this pseudonymous author (who, as Rob Teigen, has been a publishing professional for more than two decades and is currently national sales rep for Baker Publishing Group) had decidedly organic roots. “It all really began as a fun thing my family started doing around the dinner table,” he recalled. “For the longest time, we’d make up jokes as a family, and I started compiling them. A lot of the jokes involved puns and plays on words, and seeing the reaction of my five kids [now ranging in age from five to 22] was, I now realize, a great and crazy test market for these books.”
Elliott also shared an anecdote about landing a contract for his first joke book from Revell. After he approached an editor with the book idea, the author reported, “One of the Baker sales reps said, ‘Really? Rob’s just not that funny!’ ”
Elliott obviously proved that assessment wrong, and his knack for making kids laugh caught the attention of Sargent, who approached the author’s agent, Leavell, about expanding Elliott’s humor repertory with four new joke collections from HarperCollins. “I’m a huge fan of joke books in general, and I was familiar with Rob’s brand,” Sargent said. “His humor is pitch-perfect, punny, and family-friendly, and works on multiple levels. The jokes can be appreciated by those with a more adult sense of humor as well as those with a childlike sense of humor, and we are especially excited to be expanding Rob’s brand with new collections featuring holiday and seasonal themes.”
Keeping Generations Chuckling – Together
Hitting the mark with parents as well as children plays a key role in Elliott’s joke writing. He noted that adults comprise the broadest customer base for his series for multiple reasons. “My books have resonated with parents and grandparents, because they realize the value of sharing humor as a family,” he said. “No matter where kids are on the personality spectrum – from outgoing to introverted – jokes give them a tool, within their own comfort level, to step into the spotlight and become a bit of a superstar when they tell jokes to their friends and family.”
Parents have also told Elliott that his books have hooked kids who are struggling readers, providing them with an accessible and rewarding reading experience. “I’ve heard from parents that my joke books have not only gotten them laughing together with their kids, but they’ve also gotten their kids reading,” he observed. “Though a lot of the jokes are corny – which is part of the fun – they really engage kids in reading, and teach them variations on words and their meanings. It’s great how such a simple thing can have so many positive results!”
Elliott praises Revell for bringing his books to such a wide audience, and for creating a winning look for the series. “I am thrilled with what Baker has done with my first set of books,” he said. “Moving as many books as they have is an enormous feat, and they did a great job of creating a package that is both classic and fun, and appeals to adults as well as kids. I’m excited by HarperCollins’s vision for enhancing the brand and taking it to the next level.”
Spooky Jokes is due out with a 100,000-copy first printing on July 26 – in plenty of time for Halloween –followed by Laugh-Out-Loud Christmas Jokes for Kids in September; and Laugh-Out-Loud Awesome Jokes for Kids and Laugh-Out-Loud Road Trip Jokes for Kids in February and June 2017, respectively.
HarperCollins’s plans to promote Spooky Jokes and its sequels includes targeted outreach to educators and parents on Facebook and daily joke tweets on Twitter during October. Sargent is eager to welcome Elliott to her author roster, explaining, “One of the reasons I was drawn to Rob’s books is his creative process, batting around joke ideas with his wife and children. It’s a family team effort, and I am charmed by that. After talking with Rob on the phone, and discovering how lighthearted and funny and gracious he is, I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of that process as his editor.”
The family’s tradition of joke-sharing continues, though now that his children are older, “they may be a bit less interested” in the endeavor, reported Elliott, who, in addition to carrying around a notebook and keeping his ears open, watches Nickelodeon and Disney TV shows in hopes of augmenting his cache of puns. Yet, he added, his kids “still have their joke radars on, and will text or tell me ideas. And my wife constantly throws out joke ideas – I’ve definitely created a monster in her!”
Laugh-Out-Loud Spooky Jokes for Kids by Rob Elliott. HarperCollins, paper $4.99 July ISBN 978-0-06-249788-8