good "children's" book is really a book for all ages. I mean, sure, I'm not necessarily about to settle down with a glass of chardonnay and a copy of Pat the Bunny, but for the most part, a good book is a good book, regardless of reading level. A well written children's book character will still resonate with so-called adults. At least, any grown up who hasn't gone full Mr. Banks can still empathize with Ramona and Matilda and Hermione and their compatriots. But as we all get older, and start to revisit the literature of our youth, there are a few kids' book characters who might seem just a tad more relatable now that we have jobs and rent bills and crippling student loan debt. Here are some of the greatest children's book characters we relate to as adults, because kid lit still has something to offer, even to us olds.
When you're a kid, you mostly identify with the kid characters in any given piece of media. You're the one going on the adventure! You're the protagonist, because of course you are! As you grow up, though, you start to identify with more nuanced perspectives. Yes, you can still see yourself in the young adventuring hero or heroine... but you can also see the merits of staying home with a nice cup of tea once in a while:
Winnie and Piglet are great and all, but few children's book characters capture the apathy of adulthood like Eeyore. He's gloomy and pessimistic and prone to losing his own body parts. I know I've been there. I've had days of feeling like an elderly stuffed donkey, wallowing in my own despair. But Eeyore is also still a valued member of the 100 Acre Wood friend group, no matter how much of a killjoy he can be.
(And yes, his name is the sound a donkey makes as said with a British accent.)
Any young adult who has ever tried to explain global warming to their Republican uncle can identify with the Lorax and his desperate, futile attempt to stop capitalist greed from wrecking the environment. Yes, I know that the most recent film adaptation took the story in a...
weird, corporate-friendly direction. But Seuss's original story is still a deeply relatable, mildly hopeful tragedy for any grown up who cares about Earth and the continued survival of Bar-ba-loot populations. Click here to buy.
As kids, we all identified with the Banks children, going on all those wacky adventures with their magical, kind of scary nanny. But as a grown up, I have to say that Mary is pretty deeply relatable. She's constantly checking to make sure her makeup is on point, she's consistently frustrated with children (in the books, anyway), and basically all of her fun adventures involve her hitting up her ex-boyfriends and then rebuffing their attempts to get back together.
Click here to buy.
I loved Bilbo, even as a kid. As an adult, though, I
get Bilbo on a spiritual level. Yes, adventures are fun, but so is tea. And those dwarves had BETTER not show up at my apartment to eat all my snacks and then behave VERY irresponsibly with my flatware. Also, if I had a magical death ring, you'd better believe I would use it to avoid making small talk with casual acquaintances. Click here to buy.
Poor Charlotte. She was a brilliant artist, but she had to spend so much of her time and energy making art on spec to save Wilbur's life that she never received any recognition, and then she died. Sure, Wilbur was a nice guy. But if Charlotte's journey isn't a metaphor for the current state of the exposure-based gig economy for young freelancers, I don't know what is.
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Tired? Scruffy? Underemployed? Bad at dating? Unable to afford decent healthcare? Secretly full of inhuman rage? Living on chocolate and taking naps in inappropriate locations? Remus Lupin is an adult millennial icon. As a kid, reading the books, he was the one fun Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. As an adult... he's a weird combination of all of our goals and fears. Either way, Dumbledore should have done a better job of protecting his employees from blatant discrimination.
Click here to buy. The Last Unicorn is a little weird, as far as classic kids' books go. There aren't really any kid characters. There's just a goofy wizard, an emotionally distant unicorn, and Molly, the over-the-hill common-law wife of a bandit leader. Molly's not a beautiful young ingenue. But she is empathetic, smart, and deeply frustrated with how her life's turned out. Luckily, Molly is proof that it's never too late to make your childhood dreams come true (unless you dream is literally to meet a unicorn, then you might have to wait a while). Click here to buy.
Honestly? Wanting to be invited to a party by people you hate and then getting incredibly offended when you're snubbed, even though you didn't
really want to go to the party in the first place? That's a feeling we've all had. No, you shouldn't curse any babies with everlasting sleep just because your ego has been bruised. But the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty is relatable to anyone who's ever experienced FOMO over something they probably didn't want to go to anyway. Click here to buy.
Of course, Meg from
A Wrinkle in Time is a kid, and the main character of the book, and most young readers identify with her right away. She's gawky and nerdy and angry, like so many middle school aged kids. As an adult, though, you notice how much freaking time she has to spend saving her father and brother from their own dang egos. Like? Meg wouldn't have to save the whole universe if her male family members weren't so overly confident about their ability to defeat an alien brain monster in the first place? Click here to buy.
Modern, "adult" re-interpretations of
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland seem hellbent on making the whole thing "sexy" and "trippy" and the White Rabbit is a metaphor for drugs. But in the original book, the White Rabbit is mostly just a nervous wreck, driven by anxiety and running late for everything. I feel that. He's either racing around, stressing out, or groveling to his superiors, like a true cog in the nonsensical Wonderland bureaucratic machine. Click here to buy.
Susan is one of the four main kids in
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and in that book she's just your standard British child who wanders into a fantasy land and makes herself queen. But in the last book in the series, Susan is the only kid who's forbidden from going to Narnia-heaven because she now likes lipstick and nylons. Um... OK but I also like lipstick and nylons? And fantasy novels? From where I'm standing, Susan is a fine young lady who is capable of enjoying archery and makeup without being punished by eternal damnation. Click here to buy.