“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

For this week’s #TBT, it seemed appropriate to recall a piece we published back in June about the growing trend of creating books for adults in a style typically geared towards children. More and more, we’re seeing the way that art and literature is merging; we recently discussed the first-ever 3D book cover and how it’s changing the way that people perceive and experience print books. Here, we touched on some of the biggest writers of literature for “grown-ups” and how they’re playing around with picture-book formats…

Lovers of books know that there have always been many forms of literature. From science fiction novels, to romance stories, anthologies of poetry, young adult dramas, to classic fiction aimed towards an adult reader, the possibility of genres are infinite. Though less common, the intersection of picture books, typically intended for young readers, and grown up content, is becoming a trend in literature, and is changing the way that people read books.

What happens when an author who normally writes for adults wants to create a book for both children and their parents? Should we assume that picture books with fewer words than lengthy novels are less rich with meaning? This risky assumption literally provokes the old adage: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

B is for Beer by Tom Robbins

“B is for Beer” by Tom Robbins

More and more frequently, books with adult themes are being presented in a classic, picture book format. One example of this is Tom Robbins’ B is for Beer, with the subtitle: A Children’s Book for Grown-ups, A Grown-up Book for Children. The book, published by Harper Collins, is as subversive as it is comedic, and is intended for adults as well as children. Another picture book for children and adults is The Very Hungry Zombie, by Michael Teitelbaum, a parody of the classic illustrated story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by children’s author and legendary illustrator Eric Carle. Other parodies of classic picture books include Ann Droyd’s Goodnight ipad, and Dan Ewen’s The Talking Tree.

Despite recent trends in “adult picture books,” not all of them are parodies of classics. Some authors, famous for their intellectual literary contributions, have crossed over into the realm of children’s literature, creating original picture books that are teeming with complicated stylistic elements. For instance, famous American author Mark Twain once wrote Advice to Little Girls, an obscure children’s book that challenges young readers to understand his comedic, satirical style. Another author, known for his avant-garde poetry and novels in the early twentieth century, is James Joyce, who also published a little-known children’s book titled, The Cat and the Devil. These are just two of many authors of “adult” literature who have crossed over into genres typically enjoyed by children.

Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover, because in contemporary literature, stories for adults are being bound in surprising ways.

Here are a few more obscure children’s books by adult authors to check out!