For Those About to Be Bored Out of Your Skull, We Salute You

Now, it should be clear to anyone reading this blog for even a minute that I like children's literature. Not to the exclusion of grownup literature, but still—I'm happy to pick up (almost) anything either of my children is reading and check it out. Perfectly content.


There are times when I'm just done with it. When I can't stand the portentousness of the fantasy novels or the eager earnestness of early chapter books, and heaven knows I can never bear (in particular) the sugary, evil, robotic, forced-nice agenda of Strawberry Shortcake or the equally horrific My Little Pony. I shiver with disgust even remembering reading those.

But what's a parent to do? I mean, even if we are the conduit for the books kids read, the books aren't meant for us, nor should they be. And when you have a very nice little person getting all warm and sleepy and friendly with you, and they want to cuddle up and read a book with you after a long day of slogging through this hard old world, who can find it in their heart to say no?

It is for these troubled times, friends, that I offer you grown-up reading that will work for children, too.

Now of course, who knows whether my children like to read these books because they're great books that everyone will love, or because they happen to groove with a particular idiosyncratic taste in my kids. I can only say that 1) they worked for us, and 2) they are an absolute pleasure when you can't stand another kid-centric thing for one second longer. Behold, a small assortment:


I have no idea why Diana goes for these, but I can tell you that nothing gives her greater pleasure than for the two of us to sit down together going over a particularly brutal set of product reviews of say, vinegar or tea (neither of which she will ever try).


Adult's book? Kids? Who's to say? But to go through these with Chestnut is eminently satisfying. And while they're not necessarily narrative reading what you want, they're a heck of a lot better than…Garfield.


This, along with American Fried, has given me untold hours of real joy with Diana. We discuss, we ponder. She likes to read certain sections aloud (particularly about "Fats" and a certain cold that prevented the tasting of a soup) and it's just all so amazingly enjoyable great that it's as if any time spent in the saccharine clutches of Ms. Shortcake—why, it's as if that never happened.

But of course, these are things that happened to be lying around the house that found their way into our parent-child reading arena. And no doubt, you have other sanity-savers of your own to share? Please do. We all need them.

10 thoughts on “For Those About to Be Bored Out of Your Skull, We Salute You

  1. Calvin Trillin is a personal favorite of mine, and a palate cleanser for all ages. I shall plot to leave my own battered copy of ‘The Tummy Trilogy’ casually lying around where my girl can inquire about it… bwahahaha…


  2. Magazines are a big favorite in our house too – my 8-year-old reads the occasional short article and EVERY cartoon in New Yorker Magazine (!) and we just got a mythology book that is proving a great diversion from kid lit. Great post, thank you. (Oh and Calvin & Hobbes is great here too – along with Peanuts books!)


  3. Our Times Atlas is a big favourite with our 5 year old – we can spend a long time pouring over that. She also loves our bird books – again great illustrations, but she always wants to know the details about call / location etc


  4. My 10 year old daughter read my husband’s collection of Calvin & Hobbes a year ago and LOVED it. Calvin reminds us all of her little brother. She also loves reading those free real estate magazines you see outside of grocery stores for some reason. I guess she’d like to upgrade to a nicer house?


  5. In our house it’s Mutts cartoon books and poetry. Robert Frost went over well, and I keep some books of children’s poetry near the table to read from when meals go too long.


  6. Field guides (birds, north american animals) and James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small, etc.), Peanuts comics…. will have to try Calvin and Hobbes hadn’t thought to pull that out yet!


  7. My kids love my Taschen art books (each slim book focuses on a single artist, with LOTS of pictures).
    For example, Toulouse Lautrec:
    Now, they love these partially because of the thrill of discovering naked ladies (especially in the Matisse book), but they also just really like looking at the art, and comparing/contrasting the artists, picking out favorites and least favorites, etc… I remember going over and over again with similar fascination to my mother’s many-volumed set of very tiny little art books. Same deal – one book per author, lots of pictures.
    I house the whole set in a pretty antique planter box on the floor of the downstairs powder room, where they can all get to them, or peruse when they stop in throughout the day. They’re great for quick dip-ins, and mini-discussions, and accessible to all my kids (15, 8, 5, and even the 18 month old gets into them – they’re so colorful!) because they go to them with no expectations, and are able to get from them exactly what they need to at their ages. And (BONUS!) I’m able to feel good about exposing them to art, and the idea of discussing it for fun.


  8. Atlases are great. Older ones can actually read them and ask questions about places, while the very youngest ones enjoy exploring the many brightly-colored pages! Calvin and Hobbes are winners here too, always. And I have spent countless happy hours looking through “The Surreal Gourmet Entertains.” I enjoy the recipes, but the kids adore the truly surreal illustrations, which they only vaguely understood as silly when they were small but now are starting to understand (such as the recipe for curry that includes an image of a coconut with an udder).


  9. Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Apparently published in 2 separate editions with different artwork in the UK, one for grownups and one for children, so it has appeal for all.
    I loved it, read it twice and am now reading it to my 6 year old daughter. Nobody Owens is a wonderful character.


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