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Writers for Adults Write for Kids

June 21, 2024

Writing books for adults and writing books for children are two very different things. While it may seem rather asinine to say that, there are some folks out there with the mistaken apprehension that writing for children must be easier than writing for adults.  "It's shorter! You can write about silly and ridiculous things! And a picture book? *phffftttt* Child's play!" 

In actuality, most people agree that writing for children is harder than writing for adults. Children's developmental needs require that one write with humor, kindness, respect, wonder, and keep it short and to the point. Don't talk down to children, or fail to take them seriously. And if you're writing a picture book, don't forget that you are in fact working in a visual medium. 

There is a lot at stake. 

That's why it's such a treat to learn that some well-known writers of adult fiction and memoir have also given their readers picture books to enjoy. I have written about some of these authors before in this blog, including Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Junot Díaz, and bell hooks.  

But a search of the library's catalog reveals more books by more writers to discover. This year alone has seen at least three well-known authors publish books for younger readers!

In May of this year, famed Latin American author Isabel Allende published her first ever picture book. Perla the Mighty Dog is a tender look at the bond between a child and their pet and will appeal to dog lovers of all ages. 

Also published this year is Simone, by Pulitzer prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. Forced to evacuate after a wildfire threatens their home, Simone learns that her mother had a similar experience as a child in Viet Nam. While at the emergency shelter, Simone turns to art to process her feelings and find community. 

Finally, 2024 saw humorist David Sedaris publish Pretty Ugly, a subversive story about a young monster that—GROSS!—becomes an adorable rosy cheeked human girl.  Illustrated by Ian Falconer, the creator of the beloved Olivia picture book series, this book is a wry commentary on what really makes a beautiful child. 

But of course there are more books to discover in our catalog! More commonly known as the award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty, Zadie Smith is also the author of The Surprise, a delightful story about  a judo suit wearing guinea pig. 

The incomparable novelist, essayist, poet, playwright, and critic James Baldwin also gave us Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood. Originally published in 1976 and reissued in 2018, this ode to black childhood was illustrated by visionary French artist Yoran Cazac

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni has written several books for children. Drawing on her own childhood, A Library is a celebration of the power of libraries to both inform and inspire. 

While the renowned author Chinua Achebe wrote what is considered one of the most important novels of the 20th century, he also wrote a few books for children, including How the Leopard Got His Claws. This animal fable about power, cooperation, and justice is ideal for older picture book readers. 

For more picture books written by writers for adults, check out the catalog widget below. It includes books by Ursula K. Le Guin, Nnedi Okorafor, Carl Sandburg, and more. You just may find one of your favorite authors on the list! 

Writers for Adults Write for Kids

Klem-Mari Cajigas


In a former life, Klem-Marí was a Religious Studies scholar. She much prefers being the Family Literacy Coordinator for Bringing Books to Life! She wants you to read and share books with the children in your life, and for those children to see you to read as well. Originally from Puerto Rico, Klem-Marí also enjoys her cat, baking, yoga, and the works of Octavia Butler.