We Don’t Eat Our Classmates (but we do love humor!)

Synopsis: It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious!

Hello and welcome to Picture Book Builders.

If you ask me, We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins is wonderful in 429 different ways. One of the book’s strengths is its humor.

After reading this book, I STUDIED it. I challenged myself to uncover some of the techniques that made We Don’t Eat Our Classmates such an amusing read.

I hereby give you three of the ways in which Higgins incorporates some funny business in this book: the unexpected, specificity, and effective punctuation.



Penelope’s mom bought her a new backpack with ponies on it. Ponies were Penelope’s favorite. Because ponies are delicious.

I am in love with that delicious line! The shock of it gets a laugh.

How We Can Apply This in Our Writing: On occasion, after conveying some fairly basic information in a story, give the reader something a bit absurd that takes her by surprise.



Penelope’s dad packed her a lunch of three hundred tuna sandwiches and one apple juice.

Dad doesn’t just pack her lunch. We know what is being packed and how many of each thing is included. It’s hilarious to know that after devouring three hundred tuna sandwiches, Penelope will be washing all that down with one apple juice.

How We Can Apply This in Our Writing: Utilize great details.



She stopped eating her classmates… (Even when Cecelia Woodman spilled BBQ sauce all over herself.)

The ellipses gives the reader a moment to pause, and those parentheses offer an opportunity to share an aside.

How We Can Apply This in Our Writing: Use just the right punctuation to help maximize a line’s delivery.

***Bonus humor with that particular aside–Please note the specific details that were used. Higgins doesn’t just say ‘a girl’, he gives her the real deal name ‘Cecelia Woodman’. Also, he doesn’t just say she spilled ‘something’ all over herself, he says ‘BBQ sauce’.***

He’s a total picture book writing/illustrating genius, no?

Oh, and brace yourselves for more Penelope! We Will Rock Our Classmates debuts this July.


Me-YOW! Cathy Ballou Mealey is the winner of a signed copy of Emergency Kittens by Jody Jensen Shaffer.

Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit tammisauer.com and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. Love it! So funny and those cute covers bring all kinds of joy.

  2. Thanks for pointing out these great elements to use in writing humorous PBs!

  3. Thanks for sharing your analysis with us, Tammi. Much appreciated! I loved We Don’t Eat Our Classmates and am so glad there’s going to be a sequel!!!

  4. Deborah A Buschman

    I love humorous picture books and this is one of my favorites. Great insight Tammi. Thanks.

  5. Tammi, I, too, LOVED this book for the unexpected things! Thanks for the 3 great tips to help us pack a punch with our writing.

  6. Great post! Thanks, Tammi!

  7. I’ve read this a few times and studied it, too. It’s up for the Young Hoosier Book Award 2020-21.

  8. This is my absolute favorite picture book ever. I read it often and I have shared it with more people than any other book I have. I carried it around with me for the first six months I had it just so I could share it with people. Love, love, love it. Thanks for your post.

  9. Wonderful post–thank you for pointing out just what makes this book so special. We can’t wait to read Penelope’s new adventures!

  10. Love your examples of the humor and mastery that went into WE DON’T EAT OUR CLASSMATES.

  11. I love this book so much! Glad to know there will be another.

  12. I love this book as much as I love Andrea Zuill’s Sweety. Her use of humor is very similar. Highly instructive.

  13. Thanks for pointing out how the humor is highlighted. Great post.

  14. Oh wow! Can’t wait to see what he does in the sequel.

  15. Useful info. Thanks. This is such a great book.

  16. Thanks for breaking down the techniques Ryan used in his book. Yes, a definite writing/illustrating genius!

  17. Thank you. These tips are so specific and useful. I can’t wait for his next book.

  18. Thanks for the insightful deconstruction. I LOVE this book and I can’t wait for the sequel.

  19. This is a very funny book! Thanks for your tips to help us write humorous stories!

  20. I love this book!

  21. Love Penelope. I think those ellipses gave me time to worry that “except” was coming. It’s just brilliant. Glad to see another one is coming.

  22. This is my favorite book to share with kids and adults alike! I love the way you showed why the it is so ridiculously funny.

  23. Loved WE DON’T EAT OUR CLASSMATES and now I have a professional excuse to study it again. Thanks for sharing, Tammi.

  24. I have this in my office right now. I cracked up at the ponies line. And the BBQ sauce. And the biting goldfish. And lotsa other stuff. Thanks, Tammi! 🙂

  25. I had something similar started. Then I read this book and … *tossing my manuscript into the air*


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