by Laura Murray 

Kids love to laugh (don’t we all!) And what’s better than a LOL (laugh-out-loud), giggle-inducing picture book?

So where do you get those snicker and snort-worthy ideas for your own picture books?

  1. Be an eavesdropper:  I absolutely love to listen to my own children or my kindergarten students as they imagine and pretend. Listen when they are in the back seat of the car joking with their friends and they somehow forget you are driving. Listen as you sit on a park bench at the playground or when you help out in the classroom.  These places are loaded with funny kid conversations and picture book ideas.
  2. “Baby Bloopers”: On the last page of Parents magazine, there is a section called “Baby Bloopers” where parents write in about the super funny things kids of all ages do or say.  When I received this magazine, I would tear out these pages and keep them in a file. (*Parenting magazine also had a back page called “How Embarrassing” that I collected too.)
  3. Google “Funny things that kids say”: You will not only provide yourself with many laugh-out-loud moments reading the hits that come up, but you will also fill your PiBoIdMo idea notebook!

The idea for The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School  started as a funny line that came straight from my three-year old’s  mouth one day as she dubbed herself “one smart cookie.”  It reminded me of a school Gingerbread Man hunt we did in Kindergarten and …voila… several questions later, I had the makings of a Gingerbread Man story with a new twist.

What questions am I talking about?

The very same ones that Karma Wilson and Tammi Sauer mentioned in their earlier posts—

  • What if? What if a class baked a Gingerbread Man, but he got loose in the school when they went to recess? What if he was really searching for them, instead of running away?
  • What could go wrong?  Oooh—maybe he could land in a lunch sack, or get stuck on a rolling volleyball…

But there was one more question that I pondered for this particular story—

  • How can I raise the funny factor? (What mischief would kids identify with in this school setting?)

Hmm… sliding down handrails, spinning in the principal’s chair, cookie-related word play, (and absolutely not “being eaten” in the end)!

So, as you look for your own ideas, remember to—

  • Listen to kids (or read about their escapades.)
  • Write down what they say and do, especially if it tickles your funny bone.
  • Take the idea you love the most and start asking questions – What if? What can go wrong?
  • And if your idea lends itself to humor—then ask, “How can I amp up the kid-LOL factor?”

There is nothing quite like hearing a child’s chuckle as you read your story, so…


Laura Murray is a children’s author,  former teacher, and mom of three mischief makers. Her debut rhyming picture book, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (GP Putnam’s Sons, July 2011), was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection, received a starred ALA Booklist review, and has inspired a forthcoming sequel  entitled—The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck! She loves writing picture books with funny, mischievous characters, and middle grade adventure/mysteries. Please visit her online at

Laura got the opportunity to meet Mike Lowery, the book’s awesome illustrator, and have him sign a few copies of The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School after its release. Please leave a comment to win a first edition (includes a poster) signed by both the author and the illustrator. A random winner will be drawn one week from today.