Children’s Books for Adults: the Best and the Worst

A range of books to keep your kids happy and you sane

A range of books to keep your kids happy and you sane. Photo: Emma Rennie

When my sister was young, she asked our dad to read her favorite book when he came to visit us every weekend. I’m sure after a while both Dad and my sister could easily have recited the entire story word for word without ever touching it, but the ritual endured anyway.

Emma Rennie reviews some of the best and worst children’s books to keep parents sane.

It is not in the nature of children to get bored of their favourite book as easily as an adult might. Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for your sanity if your darling child’s favourite bedtime story is one that you can’t stand!

Here are a few picture books for young children that can keep the adults entertained as well:

Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

This is a beautifully endearing book. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare try to find different ways of expressing how much they love the other. Young children will love the cute pictures and have a giggle at some of the silly antics of the two hares. You, however, will probably enjoy this book because of how beautifully it expresses the overwhelming love a parent can feel for their child – especially when the child is acting as adorable as Little Nutbrown Hare.

Adult Sanity Rating: Very Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Pretty Entertaining

Publisher: Walker Books

Price: $16.95 (paperback)

Pages: 32

Diary of a Wombat – Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

This is an Australian classic – if you haven’t already read it then you certainly should, especially if you’re an animal lover. Anyone who has ever had an animal take up a shared residency with them – family pet or otherwise – will sympathise with the family in this book. Be prepared to laugh at the lighthearted way Jackie French shows you what the world looks like from your visitor’s point of view.

Warning: this book has been known to cause children to ask for a pet wombat.

Adult Sanity Rating: Very Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Very Entertaining

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, Australia – Angus & Robertson

Price: $14.99 (paperback)

Pages: 16

Patricia – Stephen Michael King

Some parents might have trouble reconciling themselves with this book at first as it features a young girl who feels ignored and frustrated. The story does have a nice ending but the real draw here is the artwork. The author’s creativity is incredible, and his illustrations encourage you to remember your own childhood, when you were overflowing with childish creativity and wonderful ideas as well.

Adult Sanity Rating: Pretty Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Moderately Entertaining

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Price: $12.99 (paperback)

Pages: 32

Come Down, Cat! – Sonya Hartnett and Lucia Masciullo

Anyone who has ever met a cat is likely to enjoy this story. I’m not generally a fan of children’s entertainment with blatant morals and lessons-to-be-learnt, but this story shows how devoted people can to be to those they love – even if the thing they love is a stubborn cat who wants to spend the night on a roof. The artwork is vivid and enjoyable, and the ending leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling that cat owners might recognise as the vain hope that your cat loves you as much as you love it.

Adult Sanity Rating: Pretty Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Pretty Entertaining

Publisher: Penguin – Viking

Price: $24.95 (hardcover)

Pages: 32

 

Wombat Divine – Mem Fox and Kerry Argent

Mem Fox is a pillar of Australian children’s literature. Possum Magic is arguably one of her best-known works, but Wombat Divine is an adorable story and a great Christmas present, as the plot revolves around Wombat, trying out for roles in the local Nativity play.

Regardless of how you feel about the Nativity, this book will surely remind you of someone you know who dreams big and trips up (literally) along the way. Most likely that someone will be your own child, racing headlong into something that excites them as much as the Nativity play excites Wombat, and facing the inevitable pitfalls and triumphs along the way.

Adult Sanity Rating: Pretty Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Moderately Entertaining

Publisher: Scholastic Australia – Omnibus Books

Price: $15.99 (paperback)

Pages: 32

Dinosaur Encore – Patricia Mullins

A great option for boys and men alike (and women – we don’t discriminate!), this is a fun introduction to dinosaurs with some superbly creative pictures.

If you don’t know much about dinosaurs, this is a good place to start. It has some great comparisons and, for the real enthusiasts, an index at the back with the phonetic pronunciation of each dinosaur name that the book features. At least you’re won’t be tripping over your words as you try to settle the kids into bed at night.

Adult Sanity Rating: Moderately Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Very Entertaining

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Price: $12.99 (paperback)

Pages: 32

My Dad’s the Coolest – Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley

Dads might enjoy going through this book and comparing their own skills to the animals Bruce Whatley uses in his illustrations. I bet you can’t play hide and seek as well as a chameleon. The book is a jumble of short sentences describing all the things that dads do with their children that make children think their Dad is the best. It’s quick and simple, suited to young children and dads who just really want to go to bed.

Adult Sanity Rating: Not So Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Moderately Entertaining

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Price: $16.99 (hardcover)

Pages: 24

 

Two Little Monkeys – Mem Fox and Jill Barton

Two Little Monkeys was not written with the sanity of parents in mind. Of course, if your sanity levels have already been depleted by the constant repetition of silly words then this book might suit you perfectly fine, especially if you have a couple of young boys who can climb trees and cause mischief nearly as well as these monkeys. I’m sure they’ll get a kick out of it, at least.

Adult Sanity Rating: Not So Sane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Pretty Entertaining

Pot-San’s Tabletop Tales  – Satoshi Kitamura

My dislike of morals comes to the fore in this book. I have no problem at all with teapots, cups and utensils coming to life (after all, I was as happy as any child to think that the dish and the spoon eloped and lived happily ever after) but the lessons that children ought to be respectful, welcoming and friendly are, although not bad lessons to teach a child, about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

The stories are so short that there’s no time to enjoy them, and if I had to read this more than once I’d feel sorry for myself. Luckily, there’s probably no huge amount of danger that this book is going to be a great favourite with your children either, so breathe easy.

Adult Sanity Rating: Insane

Children’s Enjoyment Rating: Terrible

Publisher: Random House Books – Andersen

Price: $24.95 (hardcover)

Pages: 32

By Emma Rennie

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