Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Picture Books Are Not Just For Preschoolers Anymore

I have been saying for years that the publishing world should create a category of picture books for adults. Well, to my knowledge, no one has done it yet. But I am seeing some movement upwards in the age range for picture books.

A couple of weeks ago when I was looking for Kevin O'Malley books at my local library, I found his very clever Mount Olympus Basketball. It's a beautiful and witty picturebook in which a team of Greek gods take on a team of Greek heroes at basketball, complete with twenty-first century commentators and an "up close and personal" type half-time feature on ancient Greece. ("Thanks, Chet. That was fascinating.") This thing reads as if someone went to O'Malley and asked him to do an educational picture book on mythology, and he said, "You've got to be kidding." You get your info on the gods, alright, but in a satirical, twisted way.

As I was reading Mount Olympus Basketball, I kept thinking that all this was great. Greater than great. But only if the reader already knew quite a bit about mythology. You had to have some base knowledge to get the joke. Would the picture book crowd have that base knowledge?

I took a look at the publisher's suggested age group for the book. It was 6 to 11. This was a picture book for middle grade students. They really should enjoy it.

Now, Mount Olympus Basketball was published back in 2003. Perhaps picture books have been being published for older kids for a while, and I just missed it. If you take a look at the most recent issure of The Horn Book, you'll find reviews in the Picture Book category for even older readers. Margaret Wild's Woolvs in the Sitee (illustrated by Anne Spudvilas) is described as being for Intermediate and Middle School students. And Shaun Tan's The Arrival is listed as being for Middle School and High School students.

That's darn close to adults. I'm hopeful that it will only be a matter of time before we have picture books marketed to them, too. Of course, some would say that all picture books are marketed to adults, since preschoolers don't do their own shopping. Still, I'm talking about picture books marketed to adults for adults.

Final note: I can't help noticing that The Arrival and Woolvs in the Sitee are written and illustrated by Australians. You think maybe those folks are a little more interested in picture books for older people?


Chrissy said...

Fables From The Mud by Erik Quisling Is one of my favorite Fiction/Philosophy reads.
His bedtime stories for Adults is the most unusual and like nothing I've read before, but is pretty much 'dark humor fables' with lots of drawings. (definately not for Preschoolers)
He tweaks pop culture and our society's endless obsession with self and self-improvement.
These philosophical tales are the perfect mix of dark humor and simple yet shrewd observations of the human condition.

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