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Ten Great Not-Just-for-Kids Kids’ Books

Ten Great Not-Just-for-Kids Kids’ Books
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Our own Michael Roberts recently reported on HBO’s John Oliver and his March 18 takedown of Mike Pence, specifically regarding the vice president’s history of opposition to the reality of homosexuality and his support of the extremely anti-gay Colorado Springs outfit Focus on the Family. In Oliver’s methodical skewering of Pence, James Dobson and their anti-gay-agenda, the comedian brings up the Pence family’s most (and possibly only) endearing aspect: that they have a rabbit named Marlon Bundo.

Marlon Bundo got a book written about him (Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President), which inspired Oliver and his staff to write another book, a gay-friendly book…also starring Marlon Bundo. (One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book goes to support the Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, as well as AIDS United.)

This noble project — already number one on Amazon's bestseller list and temporarily out of stock as of this writing (though the Kindle edition is still available) got us thinking: There seem to have been an awful lot of children’s books in recent memory that were on the subversive side. And some have just plain been for adults. What are some of the best? Here’s a list of ten kids’ books that might be suited for your adult bookcase, too.

click to enlarge LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
Little, Brown, and Company
1. Goodnight Bush, Erich Origen and Gan Golan
Let's start with one of the most famous examples of its kind: the Goodnight Moon parody written in response to the disasters of the Bush Two political era. Written by former employees of Bush-era Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the book used the original’s rhyme scheme, color palette, and even the same ink and paper stock, and turned the bedtime story into a “traumedy” of torture policy, Hurricane Katrina response, 9/11, and war profiteering. It closed the chapter on the Bush era with a goodnight to “failures everywhere.”


click to enlarge CHRONICLE BOOKS
Chronicle Books
2. All My Friends Are Dead, Avery Monson and Jory Jonn
This 2010 book gained massive traction in the zeitgeist when its first ten pages were released by animated gif to Tumblr, and soon became one of the most liked and re-blogged posts in that platform’s history. With the dinosaur on the cover, the premise seems pretty clear, but the interior pages, which include a tree saying “All my friends are end tables” and a houseplant saying “Please stop buying my friends if you are just going to slowly kill them,” really hit home:  You might not have been aware of all the things in your house that were saying (screaming?) this all the time.

click to enlarge AKASHIC BOOKS
Akashic Books
3. Go the F*ck to Sleep, Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes
Another legend of the genre, this was a book that started out as a frustrated Facebook post from author Mansbach when his daughter — you guessed it — wouldn’t go the fuck to sleep. Mansbach, bowing to pressure from parents who wanted to read the book to their kids but didn’t have the cojones to use the word “fuck,” also wrote a G-rated version called Seriously, Just Go to Sleep, but like radio edits, that pretty much takes all the fun out of it.

click to enlarge AKASHIC BOOKS
Akashic Books
4. It's Just a Plant: A Children's Story About Marijuana, Ricardo Cortes
There are a lot of pot-related picture books out there, some more serious than others. But all of them really do mean well, from If a Peacock Finds a Pot Leaf to Mommy’s Funny Medicine to Stinky Steve Explains Medical Marijuana. (All of those are real. Seriously.) But It’s Just a Plant seems to have risen to the top of the hemp heap, perhaps because its author is Ricardo Cortes, illustrator of the aforementioned Go the F*ck to Sleep. Even though the former are designed for kids and the latter is decidedly not, there’s clearly a crossover audience there.

click to enlarge CHRONICLE BOOKS
Chronicle Books
5. K Is for Knifeball, Avery Monson and Jory Jonn
Another entry from Monson and Jonn (All My Friends Are Dead), this book’s subtitle is “An Alphabet of Terrible Advice.” Which is exactly what it is: a rhyming book (mostly, anyway) that is all about things that kids should definitely not do. Such as: “D is for Drifter, who’s out on your lawn. Bring him inside when your parents are gone.” Or: “J is for Justice. Make sure things are fair. If somebody wrongs you, just cut off their hair.” Think of it as Richard Scarry by way of Edward Gorey.


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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen