November is Picture Book Month! I have a serious love for all picture books and firmly believe they can be appreciated by every age group, but there is a special delight in finding a picture book specifically intended for grown ups. Adult picture books can range from humorous, not-quite-comics or satires of beloved childhood favorites to being nearly-graphic-novels. Some will make you laugh out loud while others will educate and inspire. I tried to keep this list to books that were not originally intended for the wee ones’ consumption. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of actual children’s picture books worth gracing your grown-ass bookshelves, and not simply for sentimental reasons. Don’t be scared of the kid’s department in your local bookstore; picture books are pure art!
1. Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortés
Lish McBride, author of Firebug, has a great anecdote about this one: Her youngest is a die-hard sleep-fighter and in a fit of parental irony she played him Samuel L Jackson’s narration of Go the Fuck to Sleep. It worked like a charm. Results may have been atypical. This is perfect for anyone who has ever begged their child to just. go. to. sleep.
2. All My Friends Are Still Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John
The follow up to All My Friends Are Dead, this is just a hysterical throwback to childhood storybooks in general. Its morbid sense of humor makes me laugh out loud every time I flip through it. A little existential dread is good for the soul. Trust me.
3. The Who, the What, and the When by Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman, and Matt Lamothe
Okay “picture book” may be a stretch here, but it is a book with pictures. 65 artists illustrate the stories of some of History’s lesser-known sidekicks. From Lewis & Clark’s John Ordway to Rodin’s Gwen John the movers and shakers of history would never have succeeded as well without their muses, mothers, coaches, partners by their sides. You can also check out The Where, the Why, and the How for 75 artists’ illustrations of Science’s most intriguing questions.
4. Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow
Using the original illustrations from those prolific staples of your childhood story-time, Little Golden Books, Muldrow offers no-nonsense advice for life. This book makes an excellent gift for so many situations and will bring on the warm nostalgia-induced fuzzies. For Disney fans, Muldrow also has Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Disney Little Golden Book.
5. Goodnight Mr. Darcy by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Alli Arnold
There’s a picture book for Austen fans, too. The brains behind BabyLit have brought us this genius parody of Goodnight Moon. Bennetts and Darcys and Bingleys, oh my!
6. Start Where You Are by Meera Lee Patel
Maybe journals aren’t traditionally considered picture books, but this creativity boosting one is beautifully illustrated and deserves a spot on this list. Patel’s stationary and prints have a huge following for good reason and her interactive journal is the perfect way to carve our some (gorgeous) time for yourself.
7. Do You Want to Play with My Balls? by The Cifaldi Brothers, illustrated by Santiago Elizalde
I just can’t with this one. You could absolutely read this to young children and they would think it is a story about rubber balls. However, you start reading this to anyone older than, say five (elementary school is not as innocent as you think), and their minds will be going straight to the gutter. Aren’t double entendres the best?
Ann Shen’s art paired with badass ladies throughout history – ancient to modern – is literally my idea of the perfect book. The profiles range from FLOTUS Abigail Adams to renowned spy Mata Hari and from danceuse Josephine Baker to author Judy Blume. 100 profiles of 100 women who refuse/d to be anything but themselves.
9. There Is No Right Way to Meditate: And Other Lessons by Yumi Sakugawa
Yumi Sakugawa has The. Best. Books. I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You spoke to a special place in my soul. Your Illustrated Guide To Becoming One With The Universe has really helped me through some dark times. This selection will majorly help you to stop stressing about how you de-stress. Whether you choose to meditate on one lesson or read your way from cover to cover, I promise you will walk away from this soothing, beautiful, and genuinely helpful book with a smile.
10. Cozy Classics: War & Peace by Jack & Holman Wang
I don’t know why I chose War & Peace. I could’ve chosen any of the Cozy Classics series: Great Expectations, Moby Dick, Les Miserables, Emma, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to name a few. Like the BabyLit series, these do make a great way to introduce babes to the classics, but adults will truly appreciate the felt-work artistry and the Wangs’ skill with breaking these tomes down to such simplicity. Bonus for HamilFans: They’ve felted Lin-Manuel Miranda.
11. It’s Never Too Late: A Kid’s Book for Adults by Dallas Clayton
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, this offering from Dallas Clayton will soothe your exhausted soul. Clayton has been billed as the next Dr. Seuss and dreamy, watercolor illustrations paired uplifting prose fill his pages. Keep this one around for when you’re suffering from a case of the Mondays and questioning what you’re actually doing with your life.
12. The Taking Tree: A Selfish Parody by Shrill Travesty, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
If you’ve ever read The Giving Tree and felt really sorry for the poor tree just giving and giving and that selfish kid just taking and taking, this is the book for you. The Taking Tree – an oak, thank you – isn’t really down with her resources being stolen by an ungrateful brat and she’s about to exact her revenge… maybe?
13. Where’s Warhol? by Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae
Who didn’t love Where’s Waldo? as kid? Or as an adult really? Unless you had a rotten sibling who circled him in permanent marker. (My sister never did, but I knew of a few culprits.) Now art lovers, and Andy Warhol fans in particular, can enjoy this refresh on the series. If you’re more of a fashion fanatic, Where’s Karl? – as in Lagerfeld) by Stacey Caldwell and Ajiri A. Aki is another great choice.
14. Goodnight Unicorn by Karla Oceanak, illustrated by Kendra Spanjer
Here’s another excellent parody of Goodnight Moon; and this one is perfect for unicorn lovers. Nothing that isn’t kid friendly here. I love unicorns and I love Goodnight Moon, so this one is staying on this list. If you want more snark from your parodies, you have plenty of options: iPad, Obama, Brew, etc!
15. Ella by Mallory Kasdan, illustrated by Marcos Chin
Eloise fans also get an adult update with the sassy, hotel-living Ella. Her nanny, Manny, and she have adventures and attend social functions. She supports Hillary Clinton, dreams of owning a food truck, upcycles plastic bags into fashion accessories, and rides a scooter. Basically, Ella is the ultimate six-year-old hipster and I wholeheartedly adore her.
16. Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir by Graham Roumieu
Bigfoot is really just trying to fit in. He may be a big, hairy beast but he has the same struggles as you and me. Well, maybe not exactly the same, unless casual cannibalism is a normal concern for you. (I sincerely hope it’s not.) This one will have you laughing for sure.