Whether that book was Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are or Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, children’s books have marked us in a significant way. Although we’ve outgrown the cradle, kids books can still be relevant in our adult lives because they offer a different and a more hopeful perspective on things we seem to lose sight of as we grow older.
Today’s literature is slowly but surely giving classic kids books a run for their money. A great example of this is Kyo Maclear’s Virginia Wolf. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (who is nominated for a Governor General’s literary award), the book tells the story of two sisters; Vanessa and Virginia, an obvious allusion to writer Virginia Woolf, and painter Vanessa Bell, her sister. In the book, Vanessa’s sister is feeling “wolfish” and Vanessa, wanting to help her sister, decides to paint a whole mural of her sister’s perfect imaginary place called Bloomsberry. Virginia is instantly cheered up.
The real lives of Virginia and Vanessa are rather melancholic, but Maclear and Arsenault take simple words and stunning illustrations and turn a tale of sisterhood into a beautiful children’s story about overcoming fears and doing something beautiful for someone you love. Virginia Wolf is the perfect example of a children’s story that takes real life adult events and turns them into a more hopeful situation. This is exactly what we need as adults, since our sometimes cynical views tend to make use lose sight of the bigger picture.
Judd Palmer’s The Umbrella, also nominated for a Governor General’s award, is about a black umbrella which is a man’s sole companion. When the umbrella gets ruined, a sinister crow tells the umbrella that the man will no longer love him. However, the man continues to love his umbrella. This story demonstrates the purity of love and how “true love is always returned.”
The crow represents the many challenges and people we face that force us to doubt ourselves and the ones we love. Palmer’s metaphors make this book and its message easily relatable to adults.
One thing people tend to forget about kids books is that they are written and illustrated by adults. Even though their target audiences are children under the ages of eight, anyone, whether you’re 18 or 80, can enjoy them.
Chloé Beaudet-Centomo, a second-year political science student at Université de Montréal said she feels that “kids books present the facts of life in a way that a child can easily comprehend.” Although the message in children’s books is somewhat simple, Beaudet-Centomo thinks a simple message is often better, even for adults.
“Kids books use imagery to represent situations we deal with in real life, and most importantly, kids literature is inherently hopeful,” she said.
Katherine Beauséjour, a second-year administration student at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business said she thinks that, although kids books consist mostly of bright and colorful images, they still have significant storylines.
“They convey strong messages,” said Beauséjour. “People should keep reading kids books because they remind you of the small, important stuff in life that one should enjoy.”
Books like Virginia Wolf and The Umbrella, do just that. They have beautiful images and easy to follow, yet entertaining storylines. Children’s literature can still be significant in your adult life, if you’re willing to read between the lines and enjoy a simple, yet meaningful story.
As C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”