Working in a children’s bookstore, I’ve heard many customers comment over the years that their kids are “too old” for picture books. It’s as if there is some kind of invisible barrier when a child hits a certain age that picture books become childish or even insulting. This may be true for many readers who are excited to devour longer and longer novels, but I’d hate for someone to brush off the power of pictures too quickly. Here at The Carle Museum Bookstore, we carry only illustrated books, and yet have so much more than just books for children under five. People might not know that I see adults and teenagers buying picture books for themselves every day. And it’s not just the books they remember nostalgically from their childhoods, but new books. They find books in new unique formats, books with dark humor, or books that contains subtexts they never “got” as a child.
A perfect example happened this weekend, when a small group of college students came in to the store. I overheard a few occasional, “I remember this!” or “I loved this one as a kid!” but overall they seemed to be discovering new books. I was thrilled to hear them laughing and exploring the store, sharing books they unearthed from our shelves with each other, and best of all to a bookseller – buying a whole bunch of them for themselves! And what did they buy? Picture books, of course. Edward Gorey, Mac Barnett, Jon Scieszka, Shaun Tan, Chris Van Allsburg and David Macaulay picture books. Picture books that made them laugh, made them think, or made them in awe of the artwork. Picture books that played with words in ways that not only children love, but adults can appreciate as an art form. Picture books that turn what is “expected” on its head.
These kinds of books are so popular with customers, that we even have a designated section of our store we’ve nicknamed “Picture Books for Grown-Ups“. It’s filled with illustrated books of all kinds – comics, memoirs, picture books that deal with intense subject matters or adult humor, illustrated novels, and quirky coffee table-esque finds. But by browsing through our shelves or asking one of our booksellers, you’ll find a picture book for any adult or teen.
You’ll find picture books for modern design-lovers:
and everything in between.
The point, my friends, is that there’s a picture book for everyone.
What’s your favorite picture book that you’ve purchased for yourself or given as a gift to other adults? Let us know in the comments below.