Laugh Out Loud

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Laugh Out Loud Book Poster Image
Tale of boy publisher aims high, falls short; best for fans.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Provides a glimpse of the work needed to start a business, including planning, building a market base, balancing income and expenses, networking, preparing a pitch, and securing financial backing. Offers some insight on good habits for good writing, such as keeping an ideas folder, writing what you know, asking "what if" to get a story going.

Positive Messages

It's easier to succeed with help from supporters. Achieving goals requires grit: learning from failure and trying new approaches. Listen to cheerleaders and don't give in to naysayers. Good fiction can help you find answers to problems you're facing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jimmy is creative and flexible, willing to experiment and try different approaches to make his dream a reality. His friends are cheerful supporters who help find ways to aid his success, and his parents go to great lengths to help him (eventually).

Violence & Scariness
Language

References to mouse poop and farts.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Laugh Out Loud is a self-referential story by James Patterson (I Funny, Middle School) and Chris Grabenstein (Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library) about a boy who starts his own publishing company -- like Patterson did. They aim to get readers fired up to follow their own dreams by showing how Jimmy persists despite money problems (including a failed bid to win the lottery), mocking adults, and unexpected setbacks. Very few adults encourage the young entrepreneur, but those who do come around end up going all in. His parents end up losing their jobs because of Jimmy's initial hiccups starting his business. Several brands are mentioned, along with references to kid-lit classics and Patterson's own books. The characters are drawn primarily from Patterson's dozens of books for children, and a who's who list identifies which book each appears in.

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What's the story?

Young Jimmy has a dream: to create LAUGH OUT LOUD, a company that would publish books by kids for kids. Jimmy loves reading and is convinced the best books for kids should be written by kids. His friends are wildly enthusiastic, but the adults he turns to for help make fun of his dream. Like a classic startup, Jimmy's business starts with him working in his garage, writing and printing his stories. He eventually sells his homemade books to raise money to scale up. To go really big, however, Jimmy's going to need to find angel investors who won't laugh out loud when he shares his dream.

Is it any good?

Frequent collaborators James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (Treasure Hunters series) set out to inspire young dreamers with their fictional origin story of a boy who dreams of being a publisher. Laugh Out Loud works hard to sell kids on the magic of reading, but this ends up being a bit like the bland "broccoli books" Jimmy and his friends scorn. The repetitive plot is jammed with trite sayings seemingly plucked from motivational posters: "A kid who reads is a kid who succeeds," for example, and "Once you can read, you are forever free!" Characters are barely sketched out and shoehorned in to maximize references to Patterson's many books. It's a lighthearted book, but the funniest bits are found in illustrator Jeff Ebbeler's charming line drawings.

Would-be entrepreneurs will appreciate the nods to Silicon Valley startups and superstars, and take a few notes from Jimmy's quest to secure venture capital. Perhaps after reading this book by adults for kids, some will fulfill the vision of creating books by kids for kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about motivational books like Laugh Out Loud. Do stories like this inspire you to pursue your own goals? What lessons did you learn from this book, or others like it?

  • The authors work in a lot of references to their own books. What do you think is the difference between appealing to fans and simply advertising?

  • Who and what in your own life inspire your stories and other creative projects? Who supports you when you struggle to fulfill a dream?

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