Adult Picture Books

Firstly, I am not using "adult" as an innuendo for pornography or erotica, I actually mean adult as in the state of being over 18. Picture books are often relegated to being considered only of value to very young children. Although recent artists and writers have been producing work that fits into the young adult category, there is very little that would be categorised as an adult picture book that does not then become a graphic novel. Largely this is a matter of categorisation, as publishers are uncomfortable with the idea of an adult picture book, and that many people too would not be comfortable purchasing one. Yet those picture books that end up categorised as young adult are usually very mature in their subject matter, dealing with issues as diverse as mental health, sexuality, grief and death, love and social responsibility. A prime example of this is Shaun Tan’s ‘The Red Tree’ shows the journey of a girl through a myriad of situations in a dark world that we would recognise: isolation in a crowd, depression and anxiety, feeling trapped by a situation, loneliness, a loss of direction, a loss of self, all without engaging in any writing and yet this is still considered as only a children’s book. Another example is ‘Meh’ by Deborah Malcolm about a boys experience of depression, and then there is ‘Michael Rosen’s Sad Book’ by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake that depicts a father’s grief and mourning for his son, it even comes with a warning about the serious and realistic depiction of grief. Graphic novels and comics used to suffer from this assumption of immaturity, but many are now comfortably accepted as being adult-only.

So why is it that we still cannot accept that a book that is primarily full of pictures can be for adults, and by extension may actually have something very real and important to say?

  • I love the take you're having with picture books. You may add how parents tend to read picture books for their child's benefit, yet they can also benefit from it. Also, there has to be adults that go back to the picture books they used to read. Perhaps you can find articles on that. – Yvonne T. 5 years ago

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