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We Ask a Book Blogger: Do You Buy Picture Books for Yourself?

February 8, 2013

Each month, we present a panel of book bloggers with a question relating to children’s books and we share their views here on the blog.  If you missed last month’s post on the books our bloggers thought would win (or should win) at the ALA awards, you can read it here to see if their predictions were correct!

This month, I was thinking about picture books that appeal to adult readers. Personally, I buy many picture books, often ones that I know I will understand or enjoy more than my children. Two recent examples are The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and Grandpa Green. Both books are very poignant and deal with themes of loss and aging. I asked the bloggers if they buy picture books for themselves or adult friends? Which ones and why? And should a book appeal to both kids and adults or is there a market for picture books specifically geared toward adult readers?


I definitely and shamelessly buy picture books for myself and love to give them as gifts sometimes (if you can pry them out of my hands first.) My recent picks have been Hippoposites by Janik Coat and Henri’s Walk to Paris by Saul Bass. Hippoposites is a brilliant little board book with hilarious contrasting hippos, and is a perfect way to teach contrast (even to adults!) as a graphic design element. I love it so much. And Saul Bass’ only picture book Henri’s Walk to Paris is a delightful romp through colors and shapes and is just a gem. He’s the father of modern motion graphics — think title sequences like Vertigo and West Side Story — and I’ve long admired his designs and style. Both of these are absolutely kid-worthy, but I adore that they do double duty as a portable art gallery that adults can appreciate.

Also, at my sister’s wedding last summer, I toasted the new couple with a tiny reading from I Like You, by Sandol Stoddard Warburg and Jacqueline Chwast. It’s so dear that you need to clench your chest just to be sure your heart doesn’t leap right out. And again, the sweetness wouldn’t be lost on kids, but it’s a beautiful portrait of kinship for anyone that you love, old or young.

– Carter, Design of the Picture Book @carterhiggins


While I rarely buy picture books for adult friends, I do buy them for myself all the time (and not just because I’m trying to write picture books!). In fact, I bought One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and David Small for myself when it first came out a year ago and I was shelving it in the bookstore. Leafing through it I realized right away that this was my kind of story! I also adore David Small’s illustrations.The recent Caldecott honor was simply icing on the cake.

My purchases have included the delightful Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, because I follow her blog and met her at an SCBWI conference and the touching Tonight You Are My Baby by Jeannine Norris, because she’s a friend and crit group partner. Then there are books like It’s a Book by Lane Smith, which I purchased mainly because it was autographed (and, well, I thought it was funny!).

In the ten years I worked at a now-closed indie bookstore, there were quite a few picture books we coded NJFK (Not Just For Kids). Usually these were the quieter books, like House Held Up By Trees by Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen, or the more lavishly illustrated fairy tales.

I suspect the most successful picture books work for both adults and children. Every parent or grandparent reading to the child in their life wants to enjoy the story too.

– Joanne, My Brain on Books @booksnbrains


The World is Waiting for You by Barbara Kerley and Hope is an Open Heart by Lauren Thompson are two of my favorite kids’ books for adults. I like to give them as graduation or life-change presents.The clear words and beautiful pictures are little pick-me-ups of inspiration that work as coffee table books or to brighten up a cubicle.

A picture book that I find adults buying just for themselves is Marcel the Shell with Shoes On by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp. We can’t resist reading it aloud to each other in that sill little Marcel voice, and the absurdity tickles adult funny bones in a delightful way.

When it was available in big picture book format rather than as a small paperback, I used to give Keith Baker’s Mr. and Mrs. Green as an engagement present because I thought the main characters, with their friendship and support, are exemplars of a good married couple. It was always good for a read-aloud at wedding showers, too!

– Tegan, TSquared Blog @ttigani


I don’t buy picture books as gifts for other adults, but I have started collecting some of my favorite picture books from when I was younger. One that I adored was A Fairy Went A-Marketing by Rose Fyleman and I was surprised to learn it’s still popular today. I’ve also managed to collect almost all of Stephen Cosgrove’s Serendipity series and love re-reading those again and again.

I think it’s fantastic when picture books speak to adults. We have a warped concept that both pictures and short form equal lesser value and I love seeing that misconception thwarted.

– Rachel, Rachel Ann Hanley


I love picture books and I am THRILLED that there are so many out there that are appropriate for grown-ups. I often take a pile of picture books to bed and do a long read aloud with my husband. It gives me a chance to test the readability of the book and my husband a chance to relax and enjoy the artwork (and we all know that the best artwork out there is in a children’s book!). I like picture books based on fairy tales and myths, books with twisty, snorty humor, and books that focus on a specific moment of a child’s life. You know it’s a good book when a bookseller actually BUYS a copy of the book to keep just for themselves!

My favorites this year, so far:

Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee

Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson

A Perfect Day by Carin Berger

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady McDonald Denton

– Rene, Notes from the Bedside Table


I adore picture books! I love reading them with my nieces and nephew. I love reading them to my middle-schoolers. I just love reading them! I prefer them to have universal appeal.It’s far more likely that I’ll buy a picture book if it appeals to me and to my nieces and nephew. We love reading books like Chester and Scaredy Squirrel both by Melanie Watt and Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems. I also have a special place in my heart for wordless books. I was just talking with a friend about the beauty of books such as The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Flotsam by David Wiesner, and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. For me, the beauty of a picture book is in the shared experience of reading it.

– Heidi, YA Bibliophile  @hmz1505

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Deanna permalink
    February 8, 2013 9:08 am

    I was just discussing Hippoposites with a colleague this week. Fantastic board book for kids and adults to enjoy together!

  2. February 8, 2013 12:07 pm

    I love hearing all the other book bloggers’ favorites (and my deepest apologies to Toni Buzzeo for spelling her name wrong- Ack!). Now I have to check out some of these titles I haven’t read. Thanks!

  3. February 8, 2013 1:27 pm

    I’ve never thought to buy picture books for other adults but I do buy them for myself. Grandpa Green was one of my favorite reads last year.

  4. February 8, 2013 3:24 pm

    I don’t buy pictures books for myself or adults, though I would for a good friend that was a picture book writer maybe. I used to love them when my daughter was young but she and I have aged out of them. Interesting question though.

  5. February 9, 2013 8:02 pm

    I buy picture books like I buy shoes (and handbags), I LOVE them. Like Carter I have trouble giving them away,(In those cases I buy three) and as much as I want the world to enjoy my favorites I don’t like to let them out of my sight to lend them out… Eeeeek what if they never get returned or drown in juice or get tatty corners (that I haven’t created with my love and cuddles).

  6. February 20, 2013 2:27 am

    I don’t buy picture books for myself, but I do listen to kids audiobooks. LOL! I found a great site where I download them for free.


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