Oh, the holidays. Like many, I have a complicated relationship with them. On one hand, I love seeing far-flung members of my family, and I have a deep love of sweet potatoes and holiday films. On the other hand, I want to run through the streets ringing a giant bell while screaming, “The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! Bring out your coping mechanisms!”
Whatever your relationships to the holidays or your family, loved ones, or sweet potatoes, it never hurts to have something bright and shiny in your back pocket to fall back on. Ah, books—my favorite coping mechanism.
So, bring on the coping whimsy!
The Tick by Ben Edlund
I’ve only ever belonged to one fan club. While I get passionate about fandoms, I’ve never felt the urge to really join up, officially. Nothing against it, just not into it. However, when I was a young teen, my brother gifted me with membership to the Tick fan club, and up until Hurricane Katrina decimated most of my things, I still had the little booklet and official spoon. My love for the Tick runs deep. I grew up in a fairly rural area and my access to comics was pretty much limited to whatever my oldest brother brought home for me. While I liked X-Men and Wolverine and all that, my attention focused more on the weirder fare (Shocking, I know.) Usagi Yojimbo, Tank Girl, and The Tick. I can actually still recite the opening page of the first comic, that’s how many times I read the damn thing.
There’s a lot I loved about the Tick—the outright silliness, the lack of traditional powers, and the skewering of the current comic book climate. In fact, those are things that I love about every new incarnation of The Tick—it changes to focus on whatever tropes the comic industry is currently spitting out. If you’re new to the Tick in comic book form, you can order the omnibuses pretty easily and you should start with the ones by Ben Edlund. What you need to know going in—The Tick is big, blue, and you’ll never learn who he is or whether or not he’s functioning on the same mental plane as the rest of us. Vigilante justice isn’t just for chainsaw-wielding maniacs—it’s also for cows. If you hold up two branches and stand still, everyone will think you’re a hedge. Just trust me on this.
Generation V by M.L. Brennan
Generation V is another book that I discovered from a Tor.com post and I’m so glad I did. The cover is fairly generic urban fantasy and in no way conveys how funny and different this book is. Fortitude Scott is not a badass alpha male fighting his way through anything. He’s a broke film major working crappy jobs and doing his best to avoid becoming a vampire. His bodyguard is a kitsune who spends more time messing with him than actually protecting him.
The whole Generation V series is full of fun and interesting mythology, snarky dialogue, and characters you can’t help but love. And Fort, man, you just can’t help feel bad for the guy doing his best to avoid his genetic fate.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
So, while not technically fantasy, there’s an evil villain in an underground volcano lair, so I’m going to count it. Beauty Queens, at first glance, is a retelling of Lord of the Flies but with contestants from a teen beauty pageant. Except, it’s also more than that. It’s not about the girls turning on each other, but about cooperation. There’s no symbolic pig, but there is self-discovery. It’s also about an evil corporation and the pressure society puts on teens, especially girls, to be perfect. This book is smart, and it’s ridiculous in the best possible way, and it is oh-so-funny.
I love all of Libba Bray’s books, but most of them break my heart (in a good way)—this one fills me with hope.
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
There is so much that I love about this book. I mean you had me at magical chickens, let’s be honest, here. That right there is the epitome of whimsy. The main character, Sophie, is acclimating to her new life on a farm after moving from L.A. She’s not sure about farm life, but when she discovers her great uncle’s magical chickens, she uses all of her resources to take care of them and keep them safe. Instead of a traditional narrative, most of the story is told through letters to her abuela and her great-uncle, a chicken-care correspondence course, quizzes, and more. Katie Kath’s illustrations are a perfect fit and really add a layer of humor to the story. Bonus? You can actually learn how to care for real chickens by reading the book!
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
I have been a nerd for Kate Beaton’s stuff for a long time—I have Hark! A Vagrant bookmarked on my laptop, for example. And several of her T-shirts. And her Ziggy Stardust mug…I clearly have a problem. So I was super excited for her first picture book The Princess and the Pony to come out, and it did not disappoint. Since then I’ve actually lost track of how many copies of this book I’ve bought as gifts.
Princess Pinecone has a birthday coming up and she asks her parents for a horse—a big, strong, horse fit for a proper warrior. They only get it partially right. Still, Princess Pinecone does her best with the pony she’s given. The illustrations are fun, the pony is hilarious, and I absolutely loved the pictures of the big, bad warriors in cozy sweaters.
Got any whimsy you’d like to recommend? Sound off in the comments! Let’s face it—we’re all looking for new books to love.
Originally published November 2017 as part of our Necessary Whimsy column.
Lish McBride currently resides in Seattle, spending most of her time at her day job at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. The rest of her time is divided between writing, reading, and Twitter, where she either discusses her desire for a nap or her love for kittens. (Occasionally ponies.) Her debut novel, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and was a finalist for the YALSA William C. Morris Award. Her other works include Necromancing the Stone, Firebug, and Pyromantic.