Children’s books speak to something essential in all of us. Sometimes it is the focus of the book, sometimes the nostalgia. However, despite children’s books being full of great stories and enjoyable characters, there are plenty of them out in the world that are just not a good fit for adult readers. Below are three junior fiction books that adults will enjoy because they are well written and deeply beautiful.
By Kelly Barnhill
Kelly Barnhill was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2017 for her children’s book The Girl Who Drank the Moon, a beautifully-written story about a girl who has to learn to deal with the magical powers she gained by accident. The Witch’s Boy follows two outcasts, a girl with a criminal father and a boy who holds the soul of his dead twin in his heart. When the Bandit King tries to steal the village’s magic, they find an unexpected connection.
This book’s appeal is in the lush writing and the depth of the story. It’s not only a book that lets an underdog become a hero. This is a book that shows how good people can do bad things (just like bad people can do good things), how power can bring about good but always comes at a price, and how you can love someone deeply without falling in love. Adults will have plenty to think about long after the book is closed.
By Jonathan Auxier
Having tried his hand at a more lighthearted fantasy tale in Peter Nimble and the Fantastic Eyes, Jonathan Auxier cites Ray Bradbury’s novel Something Wicked This Way Comes as his inspiration for The Night Gardener. This hidden gem follows two orphans as they try to keep a job in a seemingly-haunted mansion.
While not the spookiest thing ever written, the book’s imagery is so striking it lingers in the mind, creeping around the edges of every dark corner or old tree. The mystery of the house builds anticipation and brings horrible thoughts to the reader, who wants the orphans to both live in the house and escape its evil grasp. It is a book that bears rereading, as the subtle twists come to light once the ending is known.
By Erin Entrada Kelly
In 2018, Erin Entrada Kelly won the Newbery Medal for her book Hello, Universe, which humanizes kids who are often labeled and disregarded. The next year she wrote Lalani of the Distant Sea. This book follows a young girl who, after making a series of mistakes trying to help her community, must complete a voyage to fix her island home.
For young readers, this would be a fun yet gentle sort of fable. For adult readers, it is a book that keeps the promises of childhood. It speaks to the part in all of us that wants an adventure but realizes that we are quite average when it comes to our actual adventure skills (swords, wilderness survival, diplomacy, languages). Instead, it illustrates something we were all taught as kids: kindness and understanding are the most important things.
Written by Nora, General Reference