COMEDY KNOWHOW with Justin Davies (part two)


Fancy having a pop at writing comedy for middle graders? In this four-part series, SCBWI’s Justin Davies, author of the face-bustingly funny Help! I Smell a Monster and Woah! I Spy a Werewolf, talks us through the steps to comic genius.


Part Two: The Generation Game

In part one of this mini series on writing comedy for middle grade readers we looked at some basic questions to get you started. Now let’s delve into the sort of things that make kids laugh.
The generation game

Children love to see the authority figures in their lives – parents, teachers and even older siblings – made fun of. In turn, you can have a ball creating eccentric, dramatic and loud characters to provide laughs and chaotic situations for your MC to navigate their way through.
If in doubt, throw in a granny!

Not all older characters need to be poked fun at. Kids love their MCs to have an older ally or co-conspirator, and grannies are the ideal candidates for this vital role. Don’t hold back – make your granny LARGER THAN LIFE ITSELF (even if she’s actually wrinkled and crinkled). A brilliant comedy granny appears in Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths by Maisie Chan. Danny’s Nai Nai arrives from China with no English, some very eccentric habits and a heavy reliance on a large bag of fruit! Hilarious and heart-warming in equal measure. 
Silliness is everything – seriously!

For some young readers, you need to turn up the silliness factor to eleventy-ten. This demanding bunch expect each page to provide a bigger laugh than the one before, so be prepared to twist the usual, suspend the normal and subvert the expected. And, if you like your comedy with a side of surrealness, here’s your chance to go the full Monty Python!
What’s in a name?

If there’s one thing young readers love more than a funny story, it’s funny stories packed with silly-sounding names and words. Annoying classmates, nosy neighbours, school cooks… they’re all ideal candidates to wheel out your Silly Names Generator for.
Why not have a go now? But remember, your readers want to be entertained, so make those names as memorably silly as possible!


Justin Davies lives in Fife with his husband Andrew and Sally The Greyhound. He spends his mornings working at his local primary school, and his afternoons writing “brilliantly funny”* and “spectacularly hilarious”* Middle Grade books. His debut title, Help! I Smell a Monster (Orchard Books) was named a Fantastic Book Award 2021 winner. Justin’s third children’s book – a darkly comic adventure – will publish in Spring 2023.

 (*Quotes: author’s own.)

You can find Justin on Twitter @flyingscribbler and Instagram @flyingscribbler

His website is



Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures’ KnowHow editor. 

Got an idea for KnowHow, or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let us know at

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