Picture Books: They’re Not Just for Kids

Back to school has got us thinking about kids' books and the important role they play in nurturing a child's love of reading. At home and at school, books remain a constant source of entertainment and escape for children. Every year, new seasons bring new crops of children's illustrated books, but what makes some stand out from the others?

From our experience, the children's books that tend to have a lot of impact and staying power are those that somehow appeal to both kids and adults alike – "kidult" books is what we used to call them at Raincoast.

Why is that? Well, for starters, we love to read books to our children that entertain and make us feel good, too. It doesn't have to be the topic that appeals to both adult and child; it could simply be the theme, such as self-esteem, or the humour, or what we both can learn from the content. It could be the way the words or the art are crafted, or in the case of a book like Mixed Beasts by Wallace Edwards, it's both.

However, there's a fine line between books that do a good job of capturing the interest of both adult and child and those that don't. In the latter category, some authors lose sight of the child in their attempts to win the attention of the adult book buyer. It's a delicate balance, to be sure, and what these authors are forgetting is that the book still has to speak to a child's world. "Be very aware that an adult viewing how a child views the world is entirely different from, and not nearly as interesting as, a child's view," says award-winning children's book writer, Hazel Hutchins.

The bottom line is picture books aren't necessarily just for kids. As Rick Walton, author of more than 90 children's books, points out, "Picture books are often seen as literary baby food, the stuff we feed children until they have the teeth to eat real food. I would argue, however, that picture books are not baby food. They are not just for young children. In fact, I would argue that picture books are perhaps the most important literary format that we have. [They] are poetry, adventure, imagination, language, interaction, precision, and so much more."

We couldn't agree more. For some of our, and our kids', favourite books, see our "Children's Books" board on Pinterest. In addition, the Top 100 Children's Books of All-Time has something for the "kidult" in all of us. And, if you're interested in writing a children's book, the Canadian Children's Book Centre offers a wealth of helpful resources.