If the runaway success of Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep has taught us anything – other than the fact that profanely begging your kid to go to bed is, apparently, a strangely universal experience – it’s that there is a definite market for kids’ books that are really for grown-ups. Yes, they might look like lavish children’s tomes with their 32 pages of lushly rendered illustrations, but, c’mon, there are two different picture books based on Bob Dylan songs. NO kids were asking Santa for those books. Those were for the parents.
And I get it. These “kids’ books for grown-ups” exist for two main reasons. First, there’s total value in parents wanting to share something that they love with their kids. Even though it’s not my cup of tea, I totally get why a die-hard Dylan fan would cherish a kid-friendly way to introduce their offspring to “Forever Young.” And, second, there’s something just inherently hilarious about something that looks like it’s for kids, but really, it’s got a secret grown-up dirty side. (It’s the reason why there’s almost nothing as funny as watching a toddler say the f-word.)
There are a lot of these kinds of books out there, but I thought I’d share two of my favorites.
First up, illustrator Andrew Kolb‘s ridiculously cool picture book version of the classic David Bowie song “Space Oddity”. Yes, that “Space Oddity” – Ground control to Major Tom, take your protein pills, and put your helmet on…. Kolb turned Bowie’s optimistically tragic space anthem into an epic modernist picture book for kids that he originally released as a free download on his website. However, EMI and the rights holders for “Space Oddity,” perhaps a wee bit predictably, brought down the hammer on Kolb and the download link is no more. The artwork is still up on Kolb’s site, sans lyrics and labeled now as “Space Picture Book”, with a note that specifies “[t]his is merely a concept and no physical form of this book will be made until all involved approve of the collaboration.”
But you can still browse through a copy of the original version of Kolb’s book on Wired.com’s Underwire blog here, and they even provide a link, so you can play Bowie’s song while you read.
[Author’s aside: Thanks to the movie Labyrinth, my daughter is OBSESSED with David Bowie. She loves him – loves “Magic Dance,” loves “Rebel, Rebel”… she’s a big fan. In a misguided attempt to foster her newfound Bowie love, I burned her a CD with a bunch of Bowie hits without, admittedly, really looking at the songs I was putting on there. So, while driving to swim class one day, I was suddenly hit with a barrage of very urgent, very worried questions from the back seat about what exactly was happening to Major Tom. The song has since migrated its way off the mix CD.]
While Kolb’s “Space Oddity” might work as a fun way to introduce Bowie to children, Josh Cooley’s Movies R Fun is just having a lot of fun making inappropriate books for kids that pop culture-obsessed parents will love. Cooley is a fantastic illustrator who works as a story artist for Pixar (yes, THAT Pixar), and Movies R Us is his loving tribute to both great scenes from kick-butt movies and classic Little Golden Books – you know, those indelibly small books for young readers with the gold foil spines and cardboard covers.
Movies R Fun collects a series of illustrations by Cooley that recount scenes from movies like The Professional, Terminator 2, The Godfather, Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club, The Big Lebowski, and more – all presented in the style of traditional Little Golden Books. It’s like a visual guide to your favorite cult video store assembled by the creators of The Poky Little Puppy. (As an added bonus, Cooley’s drawings are as beautiful as they are hilarious.)
So, parents, go ahead and indulge yourselves. After your fiftieth consecutive reading of Hop on Pop, on a long night when your kids simply will not go the eff to sleep, you deserve some books that will either pander to your personal passions or make you laugh your ass off. Enjoy.