Adulting is hard. Everything about it is really, truly difficult, whether you're making a dentist's appointment or trying out that networking thing. Just the Basic Adult Responsibility package will make you want to tear your hair out. Whenever you can escape adulthood — even if it's only for a few hours — you're sure to come back to the grown-up world a calmer person. That's why adult coloring books are so good for you: they allow you to enjoy a stress-free activity with no external expectations. You have enough people peeking over your shoulder and monitoring your work, so anything you can do to get away from that environment will have the calming, meditative effects you need.
One of the easiest ways to free yourself from adulthood and get back to your childlike roots is to read children's books. Not just any books for kids, though. Parents, babysitters, and big siblings agree: children's books can be mind-numbingly silly. You want to read something that will keep you entertained, without reminding you of work, bills, and the other stressors in your life.
These are 19 of the best children's books for adults. They are — by turns — endearing, heart-warming, mysterious, beautiful, and exciting. Put one, two, or all of them on your TBR, and press pause on your adult life.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
When I read this book last year, it was the first YA title I'd read in ... well, a while. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the distilled essence of Neil Gaiman's writing. It's a brilliant story involving innocent children, ancient families, dark magic, and worlds that were never meant to meet. Pick it up if you're looking for a new fantasy read.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Plucky heroines have a lasting charm, and none more so than Anne Shirley. The titular heroine of Anne of Green Gables is a precocious, literary youngster, possessing just the right balance of pretentiousness and down-to-earth practicality. If you're wondering what you were like as a kid, reread L.M. Montgomery's most famous novel for a quick refresher.
Shade's Children by Garth Nix
Thanks to some mild sexual content and thematic elements, Shade's Children is geared toward teen audiences more than children. In the world of dystopian teen fiction, though, this book towers above the rest. Just don't blame me if, after you read it, you're wary of interdimensional travelers bent on enslaving the human race.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This National Book Award winner is a collection of personal poetry, centered on the author's disparate experiences living as an African-American girl in the North and South during the 1960s and '70s. It's a beautiful introspective: a child's exploration of a changing and growing world that will not accept her without baggage.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
After crash-landing in the middle of a desert, an aviator meets a strange little boy: an alien travelling from world to world, meeting people. According to the book's website, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry himself claimed it's "a book for children written for grown-ups". The Little Prince is one of those books that makes you appreciate childhood, adulthood, and everything in-between.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Like Anne Shirley, Harriet M. Welsch is one of those amazingly precocious heroines we identified with as children. Harriet the Spy is a bildungsroman about a young writer growing up in New York City, and the title character's navigation of friendships will still ring true, even in today's digitized world.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This was my favorite book series, by far, when I was a kid. A Series of Unfortunate Events is absurdist juvenile literature, and it's fantastic. If you can imagine Marvin the Paranoid Android writing a series of children's books, you're well on your way to understanding the charm of this delightful collection of misadventures.
Suzuki Beane by Sandra Scoppettone
Suzuki Beane is a beatnik journey through New York City, told through the eyes of two children: one from Greenwich Village, one from the Upper East Side. With passages like "we all have a ball here /we don't have much bread but /bread is really not very important /when you have good relationships," you're sure to enjoy this read. Wise words, Suzuki Beane. Wise, wise words.
The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
If you haven't read The Eleventh Hour, I want to send you to your room until you do. This beautifully illustrated children's book tasks you with solving a mystery: which guest ate all the food for Horace the Elephant's 11th birthday? There are plenty of clues, codes, and ciphers, but coming up with the correct answer is sure to keep you entertained at any age.
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
When you learn that The Doll People involves a very old china doll who gets some hip, plastic neighbors, you're likely to assume it will play out like Toy Story: a culture clash, followed by a friendly resolution. Instead, Annabelle and Tiffany become fast friends, and take up a life of adventure, searching for toys that disappeared long ago.
Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch
The folks out there who have read this book are already laughing. Purple, Green and Yellow has a young target audience, but that doesn't mean you won't still enjoy it as an adult. We all remember collecting cool markers as kids, and there was always something better just on the horizon. But what happens when "better" means truly, completely, absolutely permanent? Hilarity, of course!
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Howl's Moving Castle is a wonderfully self-aware novel, in which the narrator knows that the characters live in a fairytale world with fairytale rules. Diana Wynne Jones purposefully subverts these old tropes, however, and keeps you smiling as she does.
Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen
If you love Arthurian legends, you've probably already read T.H. White's fantastic books on the famous king, but you might have overlooked Sword of the Rightful King. In Jane Yolen's YA novel, plans to help Arthur gain the throne by pulling the sword from the stone come to an unexpected end when someone else takes the blade instead, leaving Merlinnus and the young Arthur scrambling for a fix.
The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson
If you haven't yet encountered Tove Jansson's lovable Moomins, you can really start anywhere. For my fellow sticklers, The Moomins and the Great Flood is the first novel in the series, and the last to be translated into English. It's a great fantasy story with a variety of clever, colorful characters you're sure to love.
The Wainscott Weasel by Tor Seidler
Bagley isn't like other weasels. For one thing, he's in love with a fish named Bridget. When Bagley learns his lady love and her eggs are in danger, he becomes the hero they need. Tor Seidler's The Wainscott Weasel is the story of an eccentric who becomes truly exceptional after organizing a rescue effort that crosses class lines and works toward making the Wainscott Woods a truly diverse, inclusive neighborhood.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
A father who can bring book characters to life, a fire-eater with a pet marten, and an evil plot to take over the world with magic? If it sounds like a great, Wizard of Oz-like read, that's because it is. Inkheart is the first in a trilogy of books that follow the adventures of Meggie, Mo, and Dustfinger on a quest to save the world from various dark forces.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
The Chronicles of Prydain are a must-read for fans of Arthurian legends, Narnia, and Harry Potter. Lloyd Alexander is a master of children's fantasy literature, and he's at his best in this series based on the Welsh Mabinogion. The first installment, The Book of Three, tells the story of Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran and his quest — along with a cast of quirky friends — to stop the Horned King.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
I know I've included a lot of journey stories here, but that's only because they're timeless. In Kate DiCamillo's take on The Velveteen Rabbit, a china rabbit named Edward is separated from the little girl who owns him. Spending years as a lost toy, both loved and unloved, humbles the little rabbit, and teaches him how to love and be loved in return. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a remarkable book that everyone should read at least once.
The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig
In this retelling of Hamlet, a young boy is haunted by the ghost of his father, who convinces the boy to murder his father's brother, whom he claims murdered him. The boy tries to work up the nerve to kill his uncle, only to be waylaid by a series of mishaps, no matter which homicidal method he chooses. It's a poignant and darkly funny novel, and, even if you're sick of Hamlet adaptations, The Dead Fathers Club is a book you shouldn't pass over.
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