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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Franzilla on January 03, 2011, 11:02 AM

Title: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Franzilla on January 03, 2011, 11:02 AM
I read It's a Book by Lane Smith to my daughter for the first time today. Totally. Did. Not. Get. It.

I, of course, thought it was witty and clever and bought it. For myself!

Is it intended for adults? I know that there's the old, "adults buy the books so we have to market to them" thing, but this book seems to have been written FOR adults. Does anyone know of any kids who've enjoyed it?

Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: AmyD on January 03, 2011, 08:40 PM
I haven't read that one to my kids, but I did try to read THE BOSS BABY by Marla Frazee to them and they didn't get it. I loved it, thought it was hysterical and brilliant and plan to buy it for the next gazillion baby showers I am invited to. But I do think the primary audience is the parents. I think that may be the case with IT'S A BOOK too.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: eecoburn on January 04, 2011, 04:54 PM
Just read It's a Book.  I agree that it is totally for adults.  I think there are lots of books that are really for adults, but I've rarely seen one more undisguised.  Funny, but way over my kids' heads.  I will probably be disagreed with about this, but I always thought Robert Munsch's Love You Forever fell into this category.  Adults give this book to other adults at baby showers, etc., but I don't think kids like it very much (I am biased -- neither do I.  It totally creeps me out.) Apologies in advance to those who love it!
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: DawnP on January 04, 2011, 05:48 PM
I totally agree about Love You Forever!!!  It is not a book kids ask for. And it creeps me out as well. 
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Aud on January 04, 2011, 06:05 PM
Love You Forever is so creepy I can't even think about it. And I agree about the humor in BOSS BABY and NOT A BOOK being way too adult (something I am told to watch out for in my own writing). I've seen that said about NOT A BOOK in a few places, though I'm not sure the reviews of Boss Baby were too concerned about it. I felt that way about that Lemony Snicket/Maira Kalman book. Oddly, I really, really LIKE these books. I just don't know too many children who would.

There are some children's book written for adults. Like ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD. And a book I adore, THE VERY PERSISTENT GAPPERS OF FRIP, written by George Saunders (and illustrated by Lane Smith) is not a picture book per se, but is billed as a children's book for adults.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: wolfie712 on January 04, 2011, 06:46 PM
I LOVE It's A Book, but I agree it's not really written for kids.  The owner of my local children's bookstore describes it as "a picture book for adults."  I think it's more of a social commentary than a children's book.  I've shared it with several adult friends who loved it as well, but I have not yet read it to my kids.  When I do, I'll let you know what they think.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: JennaWren on January 04, 2011, 06:56 PM
I loved Boss Baby, but agree that's more for the parents -- I spent a lot of time explainig the subtlty to my kids, thought my older kids got it pretty quickly...

Here's a great example of a terrific balance:  RESCUE BUNNIES by Dorren Cronin (who I love, love, love!).  Kids listened to it at a recent library story time.  Very captivated.  The head librarian who was reading, and the rest of the parents in the room, got tremendous kicks out of the pop culture film references throughout the illustrations (not sure if this was Cronin or illustrator Scott Menchin, or editors, or whomever).   A good example, I think, of a book parents can buy for themselves AND the kid!

(Notice how I refrain from discussing LOVE YOU FOREVER.  Also, THE GIVING TREE.  Two books I refuse to read to my kids.  *shudder*)
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Franzilla on January 04, 2011, 07:33 PM
I'd love it if more picture books WERE published for adults... I love them. But I guess it's a very small market!

Reading the reviews of LOVE YOU FOREVER on Amazon is hilarious fun (although probably not for Mr. Munsch). There are more than 1000 reviews on there, it provokes strong reactions!

I love THE GIVING TREE but I'm pretty sure it would make my daughter cry. I remember my dad giving me WATERSHIP DOWN and TARKA THE OTTER to read when I was a kid, and I was like, Why? Why would you want me to cry my eyes out? But I'm beginning to see why he did. I was like a little stone, emotionally, and caring about something that happens to someone/something other than yourself, enough to cry, is a good emotion to teach a kid. My daughter, however, cries at Winnie the Pooh! So no worries there...
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Ellen on January 09, 2011, 06:25 PM
I thought I was the only one who didn't like Love You Forever. Glad I am not alone. I would much rather read, I Have To Go Pee.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: JennaWren on January 09, 2011, 06:47 PM
After a few years of reading PBs to my kids (back when I was constantly pregnat, etc., with the 4 kids in 5 years), I had to decide to NOT read books that made my weep throughout.  Still kind of have that rule.  CanNOT read the Giving Tree aloud.    Or anything with any emotional resonance for me....

It's much safer for me to read things like Skippyjon Jones.  Give me the laugh factor as a Mama!
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Abracabarbara on January 10, 2011, 12:05 PM
"It's much safer for me to read things like Skippyjon Jones." yes yes yes!!


I think that is my favorite PB. It is so much fun to read, look at and it still has a sweet touch (but not saturation). And her whole idea and how she developed it, art with words is wonderful. You can see how much she loved creating it.

Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: 217mom on January 10, 2011, 05:54 PM
My husband adored a book called THE MIAMI GIANT by Arthur Yorkins and Maurice Sendak. He gave copies to most of his friends... It's a picture book that really, in my opinion, is not for kids.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: jenniferfisher on January 10, 2011, 06:10 PM
So funny about IT'S A BOOK. My DH was offended that a pb would have the word 'jack ass' in it, and was really annoyed with the book. I tried to explain the back story of electronic formats, publishing, etc  from a writer / industry pov.  He didn't get it. So I told him, "It's written for adults! That's why it's on the NY Times bestseller." He still doesn't get it  :whiteflag:
I think Peter Reynolds' books are geared for adults....
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Franzilla on January 10, 2011, 08:31 PM
I was also surprised by that word in the book! Another sign of its being intended for adults I guess.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Marissa Doyle on January 10, 2011, 08:36 PM
Can I add a title?  A Kingdom Far and Clear by Mark Helprin, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.  Totally a picture book for adults.  Heartbreakingly beautiful.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: EricJ on January 10, 2011, 08:58 PM
Reading the reviews of LOVE YOU FOREVER on Amazon is hilarious fun (although probably not for Mr. Munsch). There are more than 1000 reviews on there, it provokes strong reactions!
I love THE GIVING TREE but I'm pretty sure it would make my daughter cry.

I remember on the SCBWI board, there would be almsot ANNUAL discussions about how LYF and Giving Tree were the two incarnations of Evil in the children's book world.  It was practically a tradition to bring the discussion back every year, at the very mention of either.
(At which point, I would always traditionally repeat the joke I'd inherited from my otherwise children's-book-disinterested dad, about the original "lost ending" of The Giving Tree, but I'll have to save that joke for request, if it hasn't been printed here for posterity yet.)

As for It's, it's Lane Smith...Pretty much just a one-joke whine about Kindle, which made editors fall in love with it, and love can blind you to the needs of others.
Now, as for "Did they even have kids in MIND?", I'm still wondering just who the heck Nancy Willard's Newbery/Caldecott "A Visit to William Blake's Inn" was even intended for, as the young reader learns nothing about Blake, nor was any of his poetry excerpted....Esoteric doesn't get read at bedtime.

My husband adored a book called THE MIAMI GIANT by Arthur Yorkins and Maurice Sendak. He gave copies to most of his friends... It's a picture book that really, in my opinion, is not for kids.

(I've often been of the opinion that when Sendak is not among Wild Things, he is, in fact, a snooty and thematically self-indulgent looney-bird.
But that opinion has been more a product of his opera/ballet settings, than his books.)
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Abracabarbara on January 11, 2011, 12:06 AM
"Esoteric doesn't get read at bedtime."
 :dr :dr :dr

Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: MaryWitzl on January 11, 2011, 04:33 AM
I actually liked Love You Forever. I thought the part about the elderly Mom climbing into her grown-up son's window to kiss him goodnight was purely metaphorical, but I agree that it is NOT a book for kids. 

Martin Waddell and Penny Dale's Once There Were Giants is another picture book for adults. It's less grab-your-throat emotionally charged than Love You Forever, but incredibly poignant.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Abracabarbara on January 11, 2011, 04:39 AM
"A Kingdom Far and Clear by Mark Helprin, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.  Totally a picture book for adults.  Heartbreakingly beautiful."

I am not familiar with this one. But I know that many of his books are used by teachers in the upper elementary classroom.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: 217mom on January 11, 2011, 09:51 AM
but I'll have to save that joke for request, if it hasn't been printed here for posterity yet

I need a joke this morning. Even a bad one.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: EricJ on January 11, 2011, 12:41 PM
I remember on the SCBWI board, there would be almsot ANNUAL discussions about how LYF and Giving Tree were the two incarnations of Evil in the children's book world.  It was practically a tradition to bring the discussion back every year, at the very mention of either.
(At which point, I would always traditionally repeat the joke I'd inherited from my otherwise children's-book-disinterested dad, about the original "lost ending" of The Giving Tree, but I'll have to save that joke for request, if it hasn't been printed here for posterity yet.)

I need a joke this morning. Even a bad one.

The original deleted ending:
"And so the old man sat on the stump, and was very happy.
Unfortunately, earlier that day, a farmer had come to the tree.  "I need land to plow my crops," said the farmer. "Can you give me land?"
"I'm sorry," said the tree, "I can't give you any land.  But if you put dynamite under my stump, and blow it up, you can have all the land you need to plow your crops."

 :dr

(Now you have to understand:  Here was a man who told the corniest dad-jokes in the world, and had no interest in children's books...How could he have come up with a BETTER children's-book joke than I ever could?)
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: JennaWren on January 11, 2011, 01:19 PM
 :dr :dr :dr
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Franzilla on January 11, 2011, 01:28 PM
Ooh, more alternative endings please! That one's hilarious!
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Cynthia Kremsner on January 13, 2011, 03:34 PM
No alternate ending on this one . . . but if you look at Richard Nixon in the illos there are a lot of connotations that can be garnered from it . . . The Picture Book? The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln A lot of the humor only an adult could understand and only an adult past a certain age for some of it.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Meglin on January 13, 2011, 09:35 PM
You're Only Old Once By the one and only Dr.Suess.  Thought about giving it to my future father in law.  :-)
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: MysteryRobin on January 13, 2011, 10:48 PM
Ok, Love You Forever makes me WEEP. I cannot handle it. Probably because I have a 3 year old son that's growing up way too fast. I'm more at peace with my daughter's growing up, because I feel like they'll stay closer. ;)  So, I don't often offer to read it because I do cry every time, and I'm not a cryer. I will say, though, that my kids request it. They think it's funny when the kid's being all messy and they love the little song, and think it's so funny when the mom sneaks into his house. My kids may be strange, though. I mean, I know they are, but this might just be one manifestation of that. ;)

I refuse to own or read The Giving Tree. I also have one more book that makes me cry, that I can't get rid of, but can't read and I don't really know what to do with it except hide it which is what I'm doing now.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: MaryWitzl on January 14, 2011, 03:08 AM
 :hug Robin.  Me too!   I'm a first-class crier, but Love You Forever makes me take it to a new level entirely. My kids got a kick out of watching me try to read it out loud when we were living in Japan. A Japanese librarian friend needed somebody to record it for her in English and I couldn't get past the third page -- after TWENTY takes.  So we called in another native English speaker and she couldn't do it either.   I tend to take things literally, but I could never see the mother in LYF as a clingy lurker.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: eecoburn on January 14, 2011, 07:17 AM
I thought of another book -- Neil Gaiman's gorgeous Instructions -- it would make a awesome graduation gift, but is tough for a little kid to get because they might not know all the references yet.
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Dorothyhp on January 27, 2011, 03:21 PM
I thought it was hilarious, but I didn't read it to my children. Not a fan of reading the word jack-apple-sweet-sauce to them so young :) I read though that adult PB's are on the rise.  One reason why I wrote one of my own after reading that and BOSS BABY.  I'll have Lane Smith and Marla Frazee to thank if it gets me an agent!  :clap:
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: shari maser on February 03, 2011, 06:42 AM
My kids LOVED Love You Forever.  The friend who introduced it to them made up a beautiful, catchy tune for the song, and they were instantly hooked. I don't think they ever took the story literally enough to find it creepy.  They picked up more on the humor. 

There is one illustration that does not match the text, though, and that drove me crazy every time I read the book!   

On the other hand, my kids definitely did not get The Boss Baby or The Giving Tree.  I also remember disliking The Giving Tree as a child myself, but it was a favorite of my parents.




Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: DeirdreK on February 03, 2011, 07:28 AM
Not really high Quality...... but 10 little Zombies....A love story.

I LOVE that one.

I also have a collection of improbable picture books.  One of my favorites?  Kafka's "The Bridge" illustrated in the style of Magritte.  Definitely not for kids.  (Also have one by Sylvia Plath, and one by Gertrude Stein....)
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: mcg0625 on February 03, 2011, 09:03 AM
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, A. Wolf, and Lane Smith (Illustrator)
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Betsy on February 03, 2011, 09:52 AM
In recent years, there's been too much emphasis on making the vocabulary and humor as child-like as possible.  Nothing wrong with this for the majority of books. 

But picture books can work on two levels--one for the child and one for the adult reading it.  Moreover, there are all kinds of children in the world and some of them like sophisticated humor, even if they don't quite understand it.  Personally, I used to love reading the cartoons in the New Yorker.  It was a window into the world of adults, even though I didn't always "get" them.

CINDER EDNA has some pretty sophisticated one liners.  Hopefully there's also enough child-centered humor to make it work overall.  Seems to be--it's sold really well.  Adults DO buy pbs, and it's also true that children like books better if they see their parent having a good time reading it.



Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: jojocookie on February 20, 2011, 05:25 AM
Sorry so late to this discussion.  There are many books from my childhood I did not get.  I get them now.  They made an impression none the less.  Enouph of an impression to remember them as an adult.  Enouph of an impression to say now I get it.

  :typing
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: Abracabarbara on February 20, 2011, 06:23 AM
I'm with Betsy. I love pbs that have sophisticated humor and are fun to read. My kids connected to them too and loved to see me laugh. That in itself is a bonding experience. ;)
Title: Re: Picture books written for adults
Post by: JulieM on February 20, 2011, 01:22 PM

But picture books can work on two levels--one for the child and one for the adult reading it. 


Many PBs by Shaun Tan are like this. (Yay Shaun - good luck for the Oscar!)