Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Y is for...Why do adults like children’s books?

We may be older than the target audience, but age should never be a barrier for enjoying and appreciating good stories. Picture books, mid-grade, and young adult – the world teems with fantastic children’s fiction, and it's a shame to feel excluded by the amount of candles on a birthday cake. I am equally comfortable reading books by Evelyn Waugh and by Mary Norton on the tube, although get far more looks when seen with the latter.

I adore children’s picture books because I adore illustration. I’ve always enjoyed pictures that tell a story, or tell more of the story than the words beside it. There can be several layers of understanding within a tale, and this can be shown by the illustrations. Children may laugh at the picture of an octopus doing the washing up; adults might laugh at the bottle named ‘Sud Off’.

My love for picture books as an adult seems split between nostalgic memories and darker tales. For the former I enjoy books like The Church Mice by Graham Oakley and Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem. For the latter it would be The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, A Dark Dark Tale by Ruth Brown, or The Rabbits by Shaun Tan. I love the medium of picture books – especially the ones that treat children as intelligent beings who can grasp concepts, as well as understanding their humour. Now I am thinking of any book by Lauren Child – they are a perfect mix of fun language and brilliant illustrations. Even better, the author really knows her audience.

I also love reading and re-reading older children’s books. I collect classic Puffin titles, and enjoy escaping occasionally back into that world. Children’s books by their very nature are often seen as ‘light’ reads, yet they can be just as hard hitting as their adult counterparts. There is also a pleasing nostalgic element to some children’s books, which appeals to me. More importantly, some of them are just pure fun!

Do you still read children’s books? If so, which ones? Why do you like them?

12 comments:

Austin James said...

I still read children's books every once and a while. One of my favourite authors is Louis Lowry and I think she has a talent with the english language that few adult books show.

And then, I do sometimes love to re-read some childhood favourites sometime... everything from Charlottes Web to Where the Red Fern Grows.

music obsessive said...

All the best children's books are effectively adult books written by inmates of the Home for the Terminally Batty. Children love 'strange' or incongruous ideas and none better to supply them than the likes of Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and A A Milne.

Personally, I have no problem reading 'children's books' - I was transfixed by Harry Potter - and still read all types today because they are genuinely inventive in a way that not all adult literature can muster.

However, if anyone understands 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' from Wind in the Willows, please let me know...

Sarah said...

I read a lot of children's books--to my children! It's wonderful to see the joy they get out of it. I'm looking forward to reading some of the classics (including Wind in the Willows!) to them when they're a bit older. But as for myself, I read almost exclusively YA, because it is some of the freshest and most well-written stuff around.

mise said...

I guess, reread, they are an insight into the children we once were and an escape to our private, secret worlds. I'm looking forward to rereading everything as my girls grow up, and rescuing my full Biggles set from the attic.

Old Kitty said...

I found it hilarious when the publishers offered a more adult looking book cover for the Harry Potters for their adult fans! LOL!!

Anyway - Roald Dahl. Oh he's my favourite - wicked and dark and outrageous and just totally crazy and yet very very poignant. I still cry buckets when I re-read the Boy who Talked with Animals. Wonderful!!!!

Take care
x

fishducky said...

Any adult who reads children's books would probably love "The Phantom Tollbooth". I read it to my kids when they were young & they loved it. I read it again a couple of years ago & it was still compelling. It's written on an adult & children's level, both. For instance, there are the Islands of Conclusions, which you cannot reach by boat or plane, but only by jumping...

Al said...

I don't read many any more. Alas my children are all grown up.
Although I must admit I immensely enjoyed re-reading Winnie the Pooh recently.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

When I wrote my middle grade novel, I definitely had in mind that it would be a book that grown-ups love too, and so far that has been true. Everybody likes a good story, and it's only because the kids are the "stars" and the heroes that it turns out to be a kid's book!

Myne Whitman said...

I love reading children's books too. One of my latest book purchases is a scary fairytale kind of book for MG, lol. I guess it's cos we were all children once, and some of us remain that still, in our hearts.

MorningAJ said...

Music obsessive said: "if anyone understands 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' from Wind in the Willows, please let me know... "

What's not to understand?

The Piper

Out on the prairie said...

I too like the illustration. You can read an idea fairly quick and enjoy a simple thought all day. Eve Bunting is a favorite.

Deniz Bevan said...

I always read children's and young adult books (though I like Evelyn Waugh too :-)). Interesting, I never really thought about the illustrations (unless it's Quentin Blake or Pauline Baynes) - I enjoy both the layers of meaning that you pointed out, as well as the "tightness" of the stories - there may be all kinds of flights of fantasy, but everything wraps up at the end and the ride is delightful!
Not sure where the confusion lies with that passage from The Wind in the Willows either...