Picture Books & Animated Movies for Grown-ups

by Michelle C.

I still remember the first time my mom handed me a chapter book–<angry scowl> where are all the pictures? Young Michelle was horrified that she would have to use her imagination while reading. Unacceptable! (Young Michelle also got in trouble in Kindergarten for copying her friend’s drawing in art class, so originality/imagination wasn’t really her thing.)

I have since become a champion imaginator and most books I read have no pictures. But I am still drawn to beautifully (or hilariously) illustrated books. There is a subset of picture books that, based on topic or language, is more suited to grown-ups than children. The close kin of the grown-up picture book is, of course, the animated movie for adults. And I don’t just mean the pockets of adult humor you find in most Pixar movies. Some animated movies were created with an adult audience in mind.

In a visual cacophony, I am pairing grown-up picture books with animated movies. While the stories are different, the themes are similar. Think of the picture book as an aperitif for the main course of the movie.

The Heart and the Bottle is the story of a young girl who experiences loss and tries to bottle up her feelings so that she never experiences pain again. In the process she loses her sense of wonder and joy. Loving Vincent delves into similar topics of loss, while looking at the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh. The artwork within both book and movie help to further the story and more deeply express the wonder and surprise that comes from the world around even when things are dark.

Raven Girl, a dark fairy tale, originally created as a story that could be turned into a ballet, is full of poetry, art, and movement. Born the daughter of a human father and raven mother, the heroine feels trapped in a body that contains no wings. In The Breadwinner, the heroine, Parvana is also trapped in a female body that doesn’t allow her to provide for her family in the way that she needs. Growing up under the Taliban, Parvana must dress as a boy to survive. It is through the power of transformation that both heroines can fulfill their destiny.

What are some of your favorite grown-up picture books and animated movies? Are there any pairs that you think might go well with each other?

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6 responses to “Picture Books & Animated Movies for Grown-ups”

  1. Lindsey A. says:

    I loved The Breadwinner! It was put out by the same studio that did The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, which are also incredible. I want to see more traditionally animated films like these!

  2. Jenny says:

    Two of my favorites are The Danish Poet and The Lion and the Bird, both touching on topics of loneliness, destiny, and discovering yourself in the process.

  3. Erin L. says:

    I love “The Wave” by Suzy Lee. https://sno-isle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/175059121
    This book is for all ages and has no words at all. The beautiful pictures tell the story all on their own. I love how you can see new details each time you “read” it.

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