For the Young at Heart: Adult Books on Children's Literature

By NYPL Staff
October 2, 2018

For many of us, children's books are our first encounter with literature. Perhaps we fell in love with stories reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats or the stories of Beatrix Potter.

As adults, nostalgia may lead us to revisit and reconsider the stories of our youth, so we've assembled this list of adult books that turn a critical eye toward children's favorites.

Have more recommendations? Share them in our comment section below.

Alice had been looking over his shoulder with much curiosity

From NYPL's Digital Collections, ca. 1901. ID:1704728.

Wild Things

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as Adults by Bruce Handy
A nostalgic ramble through classic children's literature by a Vanity Fair  contributing editor. This book explores the stories of forefront authors and illustrators and also reveals the wisdom that can be found in children's masterpieces, from The Cat in the Hat and Charlotte's Web to Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.


A Boy Named Shel

A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein by Lisa Rogak
A revealing portrait of the little-known life of the children's author best known for poetry collections like Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic describes his forays into songwriting and scriptwriting, his jet-setting residences throughout the country, and his complicated personality.

Was the Cat in the Hat Black?

Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books by Phillip Nel
Nel presents five serious critiques of the history and current state of children's literature's tempestuous relationship with both implicit and explicit forms of racism. Rooted in research yet written with a lively, crackling touch, this book delves into years of literary criticism and recent sociological data to show a way forward. The text concludes with a short and stark proposal of actions everyone—reader, author, publisher, scholar, citizen—can take to fight the biases and prejudices that plague children's literature.

Girl Sleuth

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
All those mysteries solved by Nancy Drew, the brainchild of children's story mogul Edward Stratemeyer, were created by two different women who published under the pseudonym "Carolyn Keene." Working from correspondence, articles, and other archival materials, Rehak recreates the lives and careers of Stratemeyer, his daughter Harriet, and writer Mildred Wirt Benson, in an engaging book for grown-up Drew aficionados.

Enchanted Hunters

Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood by Maria Tatar
Tatar challenges assumptions about childhood reading. By exploring how beauty and horror operate in children's literature, she examines how and what children read, showing how literature can transport and transform lives.

Little Author in the Big Woods

Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough
A narrative portrait of the author of the beloved Little House series details her real life as a young pioneer traveling west with her family and homesteading on new territories, revealing how her actual life differed from the adventures in her books.


The Secret History of Wonder Woman

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
This cultural history of Wonder Woman traces the character's creation and enduring popularity, drawing on interviews and archival research to highlight the pivotal role of feminism in shaping her seven-decade story.



Book descriptions taken from the NYPL catalog.

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations