Greatest Kids Books for AdultsMay 30, 2011
Just as Sesame Street had as much appeal to adults as to kids, so too there are many books written for children that cannot be fully appreciated until one has reached adult years. There are perhaps three reasons there are so many of these. First, all these books are written by adults and therefore have at least some adult thought patterns built into them. Second, it is almost impossible for an author to think concretely (as a child does) when your brain has entered the abstract world. Third, nothing grips the mind of an adult more than the realization they are seeing more than is there. Notice the fascination with “Hidden Pictures” and listening to music backwards and this will be obvious.
This list is not in any particular order. I get annoyed by book lists that try to put their findings in any kind of order, because the subjectivity of it all just screams for renovation. So this list is purely a group of children’s books which most adults would admire and enjoy.
1. The House at Pooh Corner: As much as the other Winnie-the-Pooh books are wonderful, this book deals with interesting themes the others don’t. Tigger, the ADHD child bounces into our hearts. Homes are lost and found as are friends. Christopher Robin shows the first signs he is about to leave childhood behind; a realization that only an adult can note with wonder and sadness.
2. Charlotte’s Web: When Wilbur asks, “why did you do this for me?”, Charlotte’s answer informs the reader of one of life’s greatest motivations – Sacrificial Love. Though humans are interlaced with the story, we feel more for the animals and their dilemmas. Even a rat and his thieving, hording ways is not without pathos.
3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day: if you have not read this book, then you are in for a treat. Every book by Judith Viorst is a classic, but none more so than this beauty. Alexander is petulant and angry because every thing that can possibly make his day go badly is happening to him. What adult has not thought there was a sign on his back that says “Kick me”. Alexander shows that these signs exist….even in Australia.
4. Where the Wild Things are: Max doesn’t get dinner and he imagines himself running away and being carried to a world where someone must care. Except they don’t. In reality, Max is dealing with much deeper pain than anyone suspects. But through this even wilder world, Max learns that all living beings deal with pain and he shall not ever see himself the same way again.
5. A Wrinkle in Time: The Austin family sees the world a little differently than the rest. But that’s okay because we view the end result with wonder and delight. Since reading this, I have wondered what it would be like to Tessaract and fold reality to my bidding. So far I have only added wrinkles to my face in the folding process, but I will get there.
6. The Bridge to Terebithia: Another book where children face the sense of loss and grief that come to most children when they are least ready for it. Yet in the midst of pain comes the wonder of discovery. A charming book so well written that it may be put in the category of Classic Literature (with Charlotte’s Web of course).
7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I vowed I would abstain from Roald Dahl. He has a dark demented side that I cannot fully reconcile with children’s stories. But the unconquerable Charlie stands for all time as the childhood hero with flaws and emotions of real people. For this reason I include the book as the only Dahl novel to make my list.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia: Are they for children? I am not sure they qualify since the themes which dominate cannot be truly grasped by anyone under the age of accountability. But there is an innocence and wonder to Lucy which grabs the child-like reader and won’t let go.
9. The Secret Garden: What child doesn’t go looking for secrets, passageways, things that go bump in the day. It seems this list of children’s books have themes as dark as mankind and as bright as heaven. This book explores all of them and ends where a children’s book ought to end: At Truth.
10. Alice in Wonderland: This book was never intended as a children’s book. It was political satire and leaned toward the drug culture when that culture was almost unheard of. Yet Disney brought it to a child’s eyes and perhaps they were right. In any case, Tim Burton probably was closer to the original intent of its author.
11. The Giver: What child can discern the difference between an ideal world and a false Utopia. Yet this book desires to do just that. And if the child is precocious enough, they may see glimpses of reality shining forth.
12. Holes: “If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, you will make him a good boy.” This reform school classic will never go out of style. Although after reading this book (or the first part anyway) I did convince my wife it would be a good punishment for the kids. After reading the end, I changed my mind.
13. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back: The spreading stain is just the first thing that sticks to everything. The characters and wording of this book are monumentally stupendiferous.
14. Love You Forever: Other than the disturbing break-and-enter scene, this book touched my heart just as much as the kids. Maybe more. They wanted it read over and over, and I always acquiesced.
15. Island of the Blue Dolphins: This is the first book I read more than once as a child (A Wrinkle in Time was second). This is really a coming of age, Robinson Crusoe and discovery of California book all wrapped up together. I never got enough of wanting to live where she did. And now I almost do.