If we lived in the pages of picture books, our problems would be resolved with a hug, a trophy, or a meal cooked by Strega Nona herself. Wouldn't that be delightful? That was author C.B. Bryza's line of thinking when she was working in children's publishing in 2006. She enjoyed the way children's books made jolly light of problems and wrapped them up with feel-good solutions. When her dating life was unfulfilling, Bryza carefully put together a 64-page modernized parody of P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother?, a kids' book from 1960.
Her book Are You My Boyfriend? is optimistic, light-hearted, and honest — and ultimately affirms that it's totally okay to be unsure what's what romantically. The heroine of Bryza's picture book (which she promises you can "totally read in 5 minutes") has game, smarts, and confidence — but she doesn't have a boyfriend. (Think equal parts Carrie Bradshaw and Mindy Lahiri.) While she navigates life, she asks the titular question to the seemingly perfect potential boyfriends she comes across. Guys like the "wealthy cad" and "the tough guy" (and the gay and married guys, too). Bryza's witty narrative is made better by excellent Seussian illustrations from Simon Greiner.
Bryza's book is one of many recent modern parodies on some of our favorite kids' books. Here are a few reasons you really should be reading picture books again:
Bi-Curious George by Andrew Simonian
Bi-Curious George tells the saga of "a straight little monkey" who's eager to explore. "One day George saw a man. He had on a sassy purple beret. And George got excited, despite himself." Sounds like many a Millennial I've met.
Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd
Goodnight iPad is for readers whose screens glow brighter than the moon. If you can't help but check your email in bed or send one last Snapchat before trying to sleep, you should learn to put those things to sleep. Speaking of which...
Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
There are some nasty-spirited parodies which evoke a laugh, but are kind of mean, like the very popular parenting lament, Go the F**k to Sleep. It sums up the frustration and exhaustion of trying to get a kid to sleep (with liberal use of expletives, which is a lot closer to reality than any other portrayal of parenting out there).
The Taking Tree by Shrill Travesty
In this snarky spoof, The Taking Tree, Shel Silverstein's classic apple tree is made to be not quite so generous and loving. In fact, she hates the kid who keeps asking for stuff. “Are you out of your mind?” it asks. “You took everything you could take. And I can't take it anymore!”
Whether you're seeking comfort, a laugh, or just a breezy read, these books spin the pithy tones of kids' books into too-true modern dilemmas: sexual identity, finding the ideal guy, getting a child to doze off. Just don't read any of these titles to the kid.