GOOD Books: Cynical Children's Books Written for Adults
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In adulthood, the joy of frivolous reading disappears as we are compelled to consume endless newspaper articles focused on death, destruction, and corruption. Our mornings begin with a black cup of coffee and the dreariness of the Wall Street Journal. But there once was a time when all we worried about when we woke up was whether to eat Captain Crunch or Lucky Charms for breakfast. And at night, we curled up in bed with our footie pajamas and favorite stuffed animal as mom and dad read us a bedtime story.
Those days may be over, but you can still return to the roots of childhood and bask in the flippant pages of children’s books written for adults. These books entertain with the biting wit that only adults frustrated with reality can understand, from a parent desperately reading a bedtime story to his insomniac toddler to a bloody-yet-satisfying remake of the children's classic Pat the Bunny. Put down the iPad, step away from the Xanax, and indulge in a book that’s short, illustrated, and perfect for a momentary escape.
Go the Fuck to Sleep
By Adam Mansbach
Illustrated by Ricardo Cortés
32 pages. Akashic Books. $8.97
Parents everywhere know all too well the hellish experience of putting a stubborn child to bed. Even if you are a slave to their demands and give into a cup of water or just one more story or a golden-lined plate of Oreos, they still won’t just go the fuck to sleep. Mansbach’s bedtime story for adults chronicles this nightly struggle with poetic and hilarious prose. The first pages read, “The cats nestle close to their kittens, the lambs have laid down with the sheep/ You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear, please go the fuck to sleep.” You may not actually want to read this book with your little darlings, but later on when you and your exhausted partner finally put the brat down, it will provide many cathartic laughs.
All My Friends are Dead.
By Avery Monson and Jory John
96 pages. Chronicle Books. $9.95
What do dinosaurs, dodo birds, and incredibly old humans have in common? Everyone they used to know is dead. Monson and John use irony and illustration to gloss right over the concepts of imminent death and unbearable loss. The chicken’s friends are now Kentucky-fried, the tree’s friends were made into furniture, and the pirate’s brethren are all infected with scurvy. Nobody is having a good day, yet somehow it brightens yours.
The Taking Tree: A Selfish Parody
By Shrill Travesty
Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
48 pages. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. $11.55
Travesty’s parody of the The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein shows how the nice little boy was actually a selfish asshole. The tree hates this kid from the beginning, when he first steals her branches to poke his sister with. He gets older and greedier, asking her to grow apples (even though she's an oak tree) and chopping down her branches to build a home he subsequently burns for insurance money. The only relief the tree gets is when the boy goes away to jail every now and then, just like some of the family members we tend to scrapbook less about. Don't worry, he gets his comeuppance in the end.
Pat the Zombie: A Cruel (Adult) Spoof
By Aaron Ximm
Illustrated by Kaveh Soofi
20 pages. Ten Speed Press. $9.39
Pat the Bunny is a now a zombie that will munch on your entrails and kill your family. Follow non-zombie kids Judy and Paul on a grotesque adventure of monkey-see, monkey-do. After Paul searches through decomposing remains, so can you! After Judy cuts out Pat the Zombie's guts, so can you! The gory illustrations of rotting flesh and blood-soaked entrails are more comical than disturbing. But unless you want your child to gain early psychopathic tendencies, this one is probably better left for your daily "me" time.
I Hate Everything
By Matthew DiBenedetti
400 pages. Adams Media. $4.38
Author DiBenedetti wants everyone to know that the real world isn't just cupcakes and cats cuddling on the internet. In fact, he hates cupcakes and cuddling cats. I Hate Everything is a 400-page ode to all of the things in life that are often really normal, but at the same time really unpleasant. A few lines that may really hit close to home: "I hate that you only need to exercise for twenty minutes, three times a week to be fit. I hate that I waste more time than that. I hate that I'm still not fit." I hate that it's true.