Parody or satire books for an 11 year old
February 20, 2020 10:46 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend good parodies or satirical novels for an 11 year old?

My son is doing a reading challenge at school where he needs to read books of different genres, then write a small report about each. He's covered all the categories that he's naturally interested in -- fantasy, mystery, graphic novel, adventure -- and now has to do the harder work of picking a book outside his comfort zone.

Of the categories that remain, two that caught my eye as being good candidates for him are satire and parody. I told him there are bound to be good novels in those categories that would not only work for the project but also leave him in stitches. But to be honest... I'm not sure what would qualify / be appropriate for someone his age.

Within his preferred genres, he's a voracious reader. A few things he's enjoyed recently are all the Rick Riordan novels he can get his hands on, the Spy School series, Harry Potter, the Brotherband Chronicles.

Any suggestions?
posted by rouftop to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Parody is tough. My first thought was Bored of the Rings, but it may have aged poorly by now. And avoid Barry Trotter if you want something family friendly. I feel like most stuff in this genre will be sub-Mad Magazine level kitschy dreck, especially if aimed at kids.

In terms of satire, you can't go wrong with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or possibly Pratchett's Discworld series (with Colour of Magic being a good starting point). And while it's not strictly satire, tween me really enjoyed the way Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series played with common fantasy tropes by wryly reimagining them through a modern action/adventure/sci-tech lens. Plus there's a movie version out soon he might enjoy afterwards.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:26 PM on February 20, 2020 [9 favorites]

Alice in Wonderland and Gulliver's Travels are both satirical I think. Would either of those work? He may need some guidance to give context to the satire in each, though.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 11:40 PM on February 20, 2020

If you're willing to widen the search a bit from satirical fiction to satire generally, take a look at Science Made Stupid and the followup, Culture Made Stupid. There is a whole genre of "made easy" dumb-everything-down books that these two skewer just perfectly.
posted by flabdablet at 12:55 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Some of the Horrible Histories series.
posted by plep at 1:05 AM on February 21, 2020

O happy day! They're both online.
posted by flabdablet at 1:09 AM on February 21, 2020

The Tough Guide To Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones is a funny deconstruction of common fantasy tropes (though partly in response to that type of criticism fantasy has done a lot more trope subversion in the decades since its publication, so I'm not sure how dated it will feel).

Pratchett would definitely qualify, though the earlier books are more the parody fantasy pastiche, anything after the first few Rincewind books is probably more just fantasy, as he built out Discworld.

A couple years ago someone who runs one of those satire YA twitter accounts made a book out of it called Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me I haven't read it but it would probably fit the bill, the twitter was pretty silly.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:11 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Animal Farm.
posted by meronym at 1:20 AM on February 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
posted by Polychrome at 2:59 AM on February 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

The Amazing Maurice and his educated rodents (Pratchett) riffs off the pied piper story, maybe this counts? Very suitable for 11.
posted by freethefeet at 3:48 AM on February 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

11 is tough- what other books has he read to meet the other categories?
posted by freethefeet at 3:58 AM on February 21, 2020

He may not have the history background for it, but 1066 And All That?
posted by LizardBreath at 4:13 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Douglas Adams was my thought too. I started with those in fifth grade and remember at least one other kid having read them then too.
posted by teremala at 4:13 AM on February 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

I read my first Pratchett Discworld novel at about 11 (and enjoyed it enough to read most of the rest as I grew up). Wyrd Sisters might be a good start since it's fairly short and a direct parody of MacBeth.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:30 AM on February 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

I read the Devil's Dictionary around that age and thought it was hilarious. It's not a novel, but is plenty meaty for a report.
posted by veery at 4:49 AM on February 21, 2020

Definitely not Bored of the Rings!!! Good old Uncle Dildo...

What about The Princess Bride?
posted by ChuraChura at 4:57 AM on February 21, 2020

Cold Comfort Farm! I read it when I was about that age, and I got a huge kick out of going around saying "I saw something naaaasty in the woodshed!" (The movie is also simply delightful.)

The Princess Bride is a parody of swashbuckling adventure yarns. If he enjoys fantasy and adventure, he'd probably like that. I don't recall anything particularly age-inappropriate in the book, although the movie is admittedly superior.

Stephen Leacock's Nonsense Novels are really funny short parodies of melodramas and mysteries (The Great Detective is an idiot Sherlock Holmes) but if he's not familiar with genre tropes of the early 20th century he might miss the joke on things like "Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen." It's in the public domain.

Has he read Mark Twain?
posted by basalganglia at 4:59 AM on February 21, 2020

The Lemony Snicket books might be a little too young for him, but that's what I thought of.

It's sort of a different kind of parody, but Randall Munro's How To is...kind of a how-to book, but for things you shouldn't do, or at least shouldn't do that way.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:14 AM on February 21, 2020

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

Chronicles the life of kid & teen Jesus. It's very funny and irreverent, but also generous and kind. There's a good amount of sex stuff in there though, not explicit if I remember, but young Biff is obsessed with the ladies. (A relatable character motivation for many young men.) But there's my parental caution for ya.
posted by phunniemee at 5:21 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I literally just reread HITCHHIKER'S yesterday and I think it'd be perfect. I was twelve when I read it first and it grabbed me hard.

A lot of the best examples of satire may not work - not because they're too "old" for him, but because there's a chance he may find the language dull; a lot of the best satires were written in the 17th and 18th centuries and may come across as old-fashioned to him. But there are a couple of exceptions that may work for one reason or another:

* Animal Farm. It's more "modern", and lures you in with the cute-fluffy-animal aspect.

* Swift's A Modest Proposal. It's got the old-fashioned thing, but it's short (which may appeal) and is about eating freakin' babies, which is darkly comic. It is still regarded as the best satire of all time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Terry Pratchett's Discworld is perfect to start around 11.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:19 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I enjoyed The Mouse that Roared, although I was older than eleven.
posted by JD Sockinger at 6:27 AM on February 21, 2020

I think MT Anderson's Pals in Peril series would be perfect.

Here's the description of the first one:

"Lily Gefelty is just an average twelve-year-old girl. But her dad–a normal-enough seeming guy–just so happens to work for an evil genius who plans to unleash an army of extremely cranky, stilt-walking, laser-beam-eyed whales upon the world. Lucky for Lily, her two best friends are anything but average. Both of them are famous for their adventures. Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, invents gadgets; Katie Mulligan spends her spare time fighting off zombies and were-goats. Surely they'll know what to do. And if they don't? then it will be up to Lily–average, everyday Lily–to come up with a plan.

With this crazy comic ride of a novel, M. T. Anderson launches a riotous and wonderfully weird new series for listeners who like their thrilling tales with tongue firmly in cheek."
posted by missrachael at 7:13 AM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Nthng 1066 and All That, Hitchhiker's Guide series and the Discworld books. Maybe something by Daniel Pinkwater? Jonathan Goldstein's Ladies and Gentlemen The Bible! could work as well.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:11 AM on February 21, 2020

+1 Discworld.

Bored of the Rings, perhaps?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:42 AM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

The True Meaning of Smekday is hilarious (the movie Home was based on it) and I'm pretty sure it would qualify as satire.

1066 and All That is a parody of an English history book and should be kid-friendly but I barely got the references when I was young, so your son might not . There's also Dave Barry Slept Here, which is a funny parody of a US History book, but I can't remember if it's 100% family friendly.

My brain is telling me that The Onion's newspaper parody Our Dumb Century is okay for kids (other than the occasional fantastic bad language), but I haven't looked through it in a while so take it with a grain of salt.
posted by Mchelly at 8:47 AM on February 21, 2020

I would recommend "Guards!, Guards!" as an intro to Discworld by Pratchett.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:48 AM on February 21, 2020

Response by poster: I guess I should have expected Douglas Adams and Discworld suggestions... The former I've been holding off on bc he's still in elementary school and the sexytimes in book four are a bit much (13 seems like around the right age to me), the latter I just wonder if he'd appreciate the subtlety considering his reading level (all the action and humor in the books he reads are really in-your-face.) Was hoping specifically for youth/YA titles. Smekday IS great but he's already read it.
posted by rouftop at 9:16 AM on February 21, 2020

I remember Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers as being pretty accessable. I vaguely recall it's got a gay romance twist at the end but I don't remember whether it's presented in an offensive way.
posted by inkyz at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2020

You could make a case for Dealing With Dragons satirizing traditional fairy tales - Ella Enchanted, which retells/fractures Cinderalla might be another good option!
posted by ChuraChura at 9:28 AM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would second the Diana Wynne Jones suggestion above, though I'd push for The Dark Lord of Derkholm instead. Fantasy coming of age story with wizards and not one but two brooding teenage protagonists (one is a griffon), but set in a magic world that is under the thumb of a businessman who forces everyone to play up terrible fantasy tropes while he transports loads of tourists from our world to go on "quests." It's a layered book, but could definitely hook an 11 year old who likes slash em ups.
posted by theweasel at 9:49 AM on February 21, 2020

Eleven years old might be the late end of the sweet spot for Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes (link to a YouTube recital of one of my favorites in the story collection. Although it may seem like a standard fairy tale at the beginning, it isn't) and Roald Dahl, whether it is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Witches, virtually always has an element of satire and subversiveness and they are all great reads.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2020

Lots of Terry Pratchets Disc world books parody tropes in fantasy novels and are a fun read, I started reading them about that age. Also full of puns, there are also a lot of them, start with the earlier ones as they are thinner & less intimidating for a new ready. Sorcery is fun & plays on the Wizard tropes found in many fantasy novels. Wyrd Sisters does the same thing with witches, Macbeth & Shakespere in general.
posted by wwax at 9:53 AM on February 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

You might want to look do retellings of fairy tales for the parody. They're theoretically adult (there's some off camera sexy times in The Raven and The Reindeer), but Ursula Vernon's (under the name T Kingfisher) The Raven and The Reindeer (The Snow Queen), Byrony and Roses (Beauty and the Beast), and The Seventh Bride (Bluebeard- might want to give this one a pass) are fantastic retellings of fairy tales.

I remember reading PC Fairy Tales around his age, but I suspect they have aged even more poorly than I remember. That one is a do not recommend.

I ran a search and found this, the chapter books might be a little below his level, but it's worth a look.
posted by Hactar at 10:06 AM on February 21, 2020

Dogman and Captain Underpants are below his reading level but are sendups of the true crime/superhero genres that he will totally understand as such.

Ella Enchanted is probably pretty close to where he’s at and parodies fairy tales.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:21 AM on February 21, 2020

Ooh how about Bunnicula as a parody of horror? That FPP suggests it holds up.
posted by veery at 10:23 AM on February 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Pratchett is definitely good but mostly I'm just here to maintain constant vigilance that no one recommends Piers Anthony.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:38 AM on February 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

I am not sure if it is straight satire, but The Pushcart War came to mind.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:01 AM on February 21, 2020

Maybe Artemis Fowl? A fantasy spin on the superspy genre, where the main character is a 12-year-old super-villain.
posted by amarynth at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Motel of the Mysteries is a hilarious, kid-appropriate parody of archaeology/anthropology.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:04 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

One of my kids read The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis at that age and found it very entertaining.
posted by childofTethys at 6:46 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Bandy Papers are really funny, with humor both broad and deep, and have a big helping of adventure as well as accurate technical detail about World War I flying and a lot of history. I don't remember any untoward sex, but it's been a long time
posted by jamjam at 11:28 PM on February 21, 2020

Anthony Horowitz's Diamond Brothers series, beginning with The Falcon's Malteser is a fun parody of detective noir. I'd also recommend Louis Sachar's Holes as a satire.
posted by featherboa at 12:58 PM on February 22, 2020

I agree that it is really hard to find age-appropriate satire and parody for an 11 year old-- in many cases because it is most effective if the reader has an appreciation and familiarity with the conventions or issues that are being satirized or parodied.

Maybe "Mrs Frisby and the rats of NIMH" for a satire that explores the ethics of animal experimentation.

"Eaters of the dead" is a Michael Crichton novel for adults that retells the Beowulf legend in a realistic way as if it could have actually happened. The monsters turn out to be an isolated pocket of Neanderthals that managed to survive into the modern age.

For books written younger, "the Butter Battle Book" or "the Sneetches" from Dr. Seuss could work.

From Mark Twain, there is "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court".
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 2:00 PM on February 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also, Uncle Shelby's book of ABZ's. It is prominently marketed as "for adults only", but I don't remember it being R-rated, more like PG or so. It is in the style of a children's alphabet book, but thoroughly subversive.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 2:13 PM on February 22, 2020

Just looked through my copy of the Onion's Headlines book, and I retract it as a suggestion for an 11 year old

I would add Daniel Pinkwater's Once Upon a Blue Moose trilogy as either satire or parody.

I'd also call Ellen Raskin's The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues as a parody of mystery stories, though it's not a direct parody
posted by Mchelly at 4:27 PM on February 22, 2020

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