8 of the most inspiring children’s books for adults

Beautifully written and illustrated picture books on love, purpose, loss and belonging

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From The Little Prince to The Giving Tree, the best children’s books are never written just for children. As the great writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak once said, “I don’t write for children. I write—and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’”

If you’re in need of some recommendations, we list 8 of our most cherished picture books. Exploring everything from happiness, love and purpose to creativity, friendship and loss, these books inspire the very best within us.

1. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Poignant and funny, this book explores the transformative power of being okay with making mistakes, inspiring us to find the courage to face life’s challenges with optimism and laughter.

2. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Written in 1922, this timeless classic is about a stuffed rabbit’s desire to become real through the love of its owner. A beautiful and deeply touching exploration of the power and pains of love, it’s the perfect example of the kind of book that finds new meaning as you read it as an adult.

Favourite quote: “It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

3. Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss

You can’t make a list of children’s books and not include Dr Seuss. A timeless classic, this is the last book Dr Seuss wrote, and its message is clear: Life is full of ups and downs, and sometimes things are downright scary, but it’ll be fine if we just take things step by step.

Favourite quote: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

4. This Is A Poem That Heals Fish by Jean-Pierre Simeon

Afraid that his fish is dying of boredom, a young boy decides to write the fish a poem. Not quite knowing what a poem is, he goes around asking his neighbours for answers. The answers he encounters are equal parts philosophical and heartfelt—a reminder of what poetry can do for the human spirit.

Favourite quote: “A poem turns words around, upside down, and –suddenly!—the world is new.”

5. Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved

Death is never easy to talk about, whether you’re a kid or an adult. Cry, Heart, But Never Break is easily one of our favourite picture books of all-time. It’s a warm-hearted and profound story of the relationship between loss and life. There are many picture books that touch on the topic of death, but this book is easily the one that has left the greatest impact on our hearts.

Favourite quote: “Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for the day if there were no night?”

6. The White Cat and the Monk

In a culture that glorifies busyness and comparison, The White Cat and the Monk is a remarkable counterpoint exploring the beauty of empowering each other, uncompetitive purposefulness, friendship and slowing down. Based on an Old Irish poem called ‘Pangur Bán’ about the friendship between a monk and a cat, this beautifully illustrated book is a quiet celebration of the pursuit of joy and purpose.

7. We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen

This one’s for the fans of minimalist visual comedy and dry humour. Written by the award-winning Jon Klassen, this book is the third in the author’s “hat trilogy” and is about two turtles who find a hat. Both think they look good in it, but there’s only one hat. A story about perception, jealousy and transformative generosity, this deceptively simple book is a relatable and inspiring read.

8. Here We Are: Notes For Living on Planet Earth by Olivier Jeffers

The TIME Best Book of the Year 2017 winner is a thought-provoking book that combines a scientific guide to our planet and a heartfelt field guide to living. A wonderfully contemplative read for people of all ages, this book is filled with important reminders on the shortness of time, responsibility, kindness and our shared humanity.

What’s your favourite children’s book? Let us know at [email protected]

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