Picture books for adults? Yes, these are the books grown-ups keep on the coffee table or bring out to show at dinner parties. One of my friends charmed all her dinner guests by reading Kevin Henke’s Chrysanthemum, a story about the conundrum of names. She has also been known to read I Can Hear the Sun by Patricia Polacco and Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh, about a dog who learns to speak by eating alphabet soup.
Picture books can be very clever. Yes, so clever that kids don’t get it, but adults think they are very funny. So You Want to be President? By Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small is such a book. You have to be old enough to know what a president is and recognize the names of past presidents to appreciate this book. It’s not a book for five year olds, although the pictures are funny and will evoke some laughs.
I’ve always thought that Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, illustrated by Ray Cruz was a book that mothers thought was funny and wonderful. I never found any children for whom it was a favorite, but maybe you know some. Most kids don’t judge their days like that. They forget by the next day or in the next hour that they acted in a miserable way.
I’ve given Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! to high school graduates, and
they love it, but it is clearly a picture book—which is one reason they love it. It’s their last hurrah with picture books.
During the last presidential campaign I bought Duck for President by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. I had it on my coffee table for adults to enjoy. I tried reading it to my six year old niece and found myself having to do history lessons on every page, explaining allusions which were only funny if you understood where it came from.
However, graphic books (picture books) for adults are an in thing now, so don’t be ashamed to buy them for yourself. Picture books for adults are an okay thing. Some of them, like David Small’s Stitches say things that only pictures can say.
Just don’t buy them for children and expect them to like them as much as you do.
It’s easy to get carried away in a bookstore when you see something that strikes you as original and humorous. But when you are buying for children we need to remember their age and understanding.
Grandparents, especially, may need to be reminded that children are in a class all by themselves—although they claim to already know that!
October 25, 2009