Lollies 2023: The Non-Fiction Shortlist Q&A

Hear from the creators of our hilarious titles in the Non-Fiction Shortlist for the Laugh Out Loud Awards 2023!


Lollies 2023: Finding the funniest books!

We sat down with Chae Strathie (CS) and Marisa Morea (MM), author and illustrator of So You Think You’ve Got It Bad: A Kid’s Life In The Aztec Age, Andy Jones (AJ) and Olaf Falafel (OF), author and illustrator of Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing, and Mike Barfield (MB) and Jess Bradley (JB), author and illustrator of A Day in the Life of a Caveman, a Queen and Everything In Between, to ask them all about their shortlisted works, and why funny books are so important.


Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Laugh Out Loud Awards 2023! How does it feel to have your work recognised by the judges?

CS: It’s such an amazing honour to be chosen to be on the shortlist. The judges are the bee’s knees, not to mention the cat’s pyjamas, and I’m just flabbergasted that they read the book and liked it enough to put it on the shortlist. They’re people I admire and respect for their wonderful work and it means a huge amount that they recognised A Kid’s Life In The Aztec Age.

MM: Thank you! Illustrators usually are isolated during the process of making a book, most of all when you’re alone at your studio working remotely. You can hardly imagine the impact a book will have while you’re focused on your everyday life. Therefore, this was a wonderful surprise and I feel honoured to be shortlisted for this prize.

AJ: So much work went into the book, by myself, by Olaf, by my daughters Ruby and Evie. But mostly by me. So to see it recognised by the Lollies makes is hugely rewarding.

OF: It is a huge honour – even huger (is that a word?) than my head gets after I get nominated for cool stuff.

MB: It is very exciting, especially as this is the first year in which there is a category for funny non-fiction. What I write is intended to be factual, but my primary goal is to be funny. The information sneaks in under the cover of daftness, to coin a phrase.

JB: Fantastic! As someone who draws humour comics for a living, you do hope you’re actually being funny at what you do! This is such a lovely award to be nominated for!


Why do you think funny books are important?

CS: What can be better than making someone laugh? We all love it when we crack a joke and see someone giggle their little socks off, and it’s no different when you’re writing a book. Humour makes life better – simple as that. It also acts as a stealth method for sneaking hard facts or challenging subjects into people’s noggins – very useful in the field of non-fiction, but equally so in fiction for all ages. Funny books are SO important and their power should never be underestimated or dismissed.

MM: Laughing is paramount for human beings. There’s nothing more healing, cohesive and appealing.

AJ: Mary Poppins said, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” And so it is with anything vaguely educational – a little bit of laughter helps the info go in. Plus, laughter makes us feel good, so why wouldn’t you create something funny?

OF: Because who doesn’t love to laugh? I’ll tell you who – Robots and Geography teachers (only joking, I’ve actually met some very lovely robots who do in fact like a good laugh)!

MB: Long answer: The world is a serious place, yet I think being able to make light of things during difficult moments shows humanity at its best. I know how much reading comics and funny books meant to me as a young reader. If our book makes a child laugh then hopefully they will build a relationship with reading that confirms it as a form of entertainment and will encourage that person to seek out more books. Short answer: Everybody needs a giggle now and then.

JB: Funny books were such a huge inspiration for me growing up and my artwork has always revolved around humour. I think if you can make people laugh with a book you’ve written or drawn, you’ve achieved something very important. You could also be inspiring more people to write and draw funny books too and that’s a great thing.


Can you tell us more about your shortlisted book?

CS: So You Think You’ve Got It Bad: A Kid’s Life In The Aztec Age shows modern children that they may be luckier than they think to live when they do. Do you HATE being forced to tidy up all those smelly socks and stinky pants from your bedroom floor? At least you don’t have to help your dad collect poo (people poo, not cow poo) to fertilise crops. School dinners make you queasy? How about tucking into slugs and monkey with a side order of maggots followed by fly egg scum cake for pudding? Still feel unlucky? Thought not.

MM: This is part of the hilarious book series So You Think You’ve Got It Bad?, published by Nosy Crow and curated by The British Museum about how a kid’s life has been throughout history. There has been a total of 6 books so far and the 7th (which I’ve been working on recently) will come out very soon A Kid’s Life as a Viking!

AJ: Unleash Your Creative Monster is a guide to creative writing for children aged (roughly) 8-12. Although, we have had many grown-ups tell us how helpful they found the book. I’ve been writing novels for about 10 years, and I’ve learned a lot. Mostly, I learned the hard way – by making mistakes, getting stuck, and banging my head on the desk. So I wanted to write a book full to help young writers avoid those same mistakes. And to prevent them from banging their young heads on their desks. The book is full of story prompts, ideas for finding inspiration, and interesting tips for making your stories and your writing sparkle.

OF: Andy is probably best for this as he actually wrote it – my job was to draw lots and lots of monsters doing stupid stuff throughout it.

MB: For me it was a very exciting adventure as I have a science-background not a history one. That said, I’ve always loved reading about the Greeks and Romans, and visiting old ruins. I certainly learned lots myself from writing this book. And Jess’s brilliant illustrations put a much-needed dose of hilarity into history.

JB: It’s a very funny look at various points throughout time from monumental discoveries to things that are just downright odd that you might not know about! I learned a ton of new things drawing this book too so it’s fun and educational!


Why should children vote for you?

CS: Because I’m magic and I have the power to make endless sweets appear for life for anyone who votes for me. I’m not saying I’ll definitely use that power, but I absolutely do have it, so just bear that in mind. Also, the book really is stuffed with so many amazing facts that it will make your brain grow to 17 times its current size and everyone will be totally in awe of you. Finally, I don’t think enough people know about the lives of the Aztecs, who really were an incredibly interesting and advanced civilisation, and this book hopefully helps shine a spotlight on the lives of Aztec children.

MM: Please vote for us as long as you truly feel this is your favourite one! Children usually relate learning to a serious and boring approach. This book definitely proves you can learn about history while having tremendous fun.

AJ: Because, as mentioned above, this book is the result of me banging my head against my desk for ten years. My desk is now all but destroyed. If we win this award, I hope that my wife will let me buy a new desk. And then I can continue writing fiction and non-fiction for young readers.

OF: Because if you don’t vote for us I will draw a really stupid monster doing something ridiculously idiotic in the next book and name it after you.

MB: Well, there is only one reason, really. They’re called the Laugh Out Loud Awards, so if our book makes them laugh out loud more than the other titles in our category, then please give us your vote. Also, winning the award would definitely make me laugh out loud too! You would probably be able to hear me from miles away!

JB: I hope children vote for us because they find our book funny and interesting and maybe because it’s a bit different from than anything else out there.


What would you say to anyone hoping to one day write or illustrate their own book?

CS: Just. Do. It. Seriously, there’s no other advice that beats that. Books won’t write or illustrate themselves, so start writing or illustrating and don’t stop, no matter what. Also, read, read, read and then read some more. You’ll get a natural feel for the rhythms of stories and feel of words – how books flow and what excites you and makes you laugh or feel emotion. Most of all enjoy it! Write about or illustrate things that you care about or want to tell people about, or simply for the fun of it. But in a nutshell, get on with it and keep getting on with it for ever. The end.

MM: Dream big, work hard and don’t judge your art. Show it on social media even if you feel it isn’t up to your standards.

AJ: I would say, practise a lot, study illustrators you admire, and develop your own style. Or get someone else, someone fabulously talented like Olaf Falafel, to do it for you.

OF: Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks – just do it!

MB: Start now! Make your own little books and find out how to write and draw funny. As someone once said, ‘Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten’, so the more practice you put in the better you’ll get. Also, if you want to be a funny writer or illustrator, read lots – and I mean LOTS – of funny books and comics and learn from them. You’ll also have a huge amount of fun!

JB: Always draw or write about the things YOU would like to read about. Creating is about having fun so don’t worry about what other people think, just go for it and enjoy what you make because chances are other people will enjoy it too.


Don’t forget to read the shortlisted books and vote for your favourites!

Cast your vote


British Museum: So You Think You've Got it Bad? A Kid's Life in the Aztec Age
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So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A Kid’s Life in the Aztec Age by Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea

Part of Nosy Crow’s list of publishing in collaboration with the British Museum and developed in consultation with one of the world’s leading experts on the Aztecs.

A kid’s life in the Aztec Age might sound like fun, what with all that brilliant sunny weather and exciting festivals, but actually life for kids could be pretty hard. In this hilarious book, written by award-winning author Chae Strathie, children will learn just how tough life really was, from being jabbed by cactus spikes to snacking on maggots… and even wearing jaguar skins!

Probably the first book about the Aztec Age that involves wedgies and skateboards, this is a must read for kids with a passion for horrible history! Brought to life with rich, humorous illustrations by super-talented Marisa Morea.

Corpse Talk: Dead Good Storytellers
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Corpse Talk: Dead Good Storytellers by Adam and Lisa Murphy

Meet the most spectacular storytellers of all time, and read comics adaptations of their greatest works! Adam and Lisa Murphy’s award-winning series of graphic novels continues, in this captivating celebration of authors and their finest fiction.

Both keen and reluctant readers will be enticed by the graphic novel adaptations, as each scintillating story is retold over just four pages. From Jane Eyre to The Count of Monte Cristo, War and Peace to the poetry of Rumi, the stories are retold through rich, atmospheric graphic art, sure to engross and excite young readers. Adam also interviews each author in tell-alls which are equal parts inspiring and funny, as the Corpse Talk chat show brings the dead famous to life.

Superb storytellers and their best works retold – all in the inimitable Corpse Talk style!

Day in the Life of a Caveman, a Queen and Everything In Between
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A Day in the Life of a Caveman, a Queen and Everything In Between by Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley

A colourful and comical tour through history from cartoonists Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley.

The hilarious minds behind A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You have teamed up once again – this time to give a taste of the daily lives of the people, animals and objects who made history.

Featuring a day in the life of early humans as they paint mammoths on the walls of a cave, a fierce gladiator battling in the Colosseum and the first woman in space. And not forgetting the animals of history – from an Egyptian cat (worshipped as a god, of course) to an albatross flying over Rapa Nui and a dog in the trenches of the First World War.

Readers can also discover the stories behind famous constructions, including the Great Wall of China and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and delve into the secret diaries of a Viking, Isaac Newton’s cat and the wooden panel that became the Mona Lisa.

With over 90 entries told in the friendly, informative style of Mike Barfield and brought to life by Jess Bradley’s brilliantly funny illustrations, this book will have children learning and laughing as they go.

Unleash Your Creative Monster:
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Unleash Your Creative Monster: A Children’s Guide to Writing by Andy Jones and Olaf Falafel

In the pages of Unleash Your Creative Monster, budding writers will sink their teeth into story basics, essential writing tools and the hidden secrets of the wordsmith. Including top tips on finding inspiration, how to keep a story moving and beating writer’s block, this essential guide has everything you need to unleash your creative monster.

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