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Picture Books That Make Great Gifts for Adults

by Miranda Rosbach

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Background credit: Iuzvykova Iaroslava/Shutterstock

The beauty of picture books is that they take only a few minutes to read. Which means they have a high probability of being reread. Similarly, picture books are one of the most complex art forms. Thoughtful text paired with beautifully crafted illustrations, a dust jacket that matches the case cover, endpapers that forecast what’s inside, perfectly paced page turns, and typography choices, not to mention an occasional author’s note. Yes, I could wax eloquent for some time about the merits of picture books. Each well-crafted picture book is a gift for the ages.

These ten books are each perfect for a different reason. Check these out from the library and then buy your favorites for your dearest friends. Wrap each one in brown paper and send it via inexpensive media mail. You might get a text from them, and they may be a little confused, but over time they’ll realize (if they didn’t already know) what a genius gift-giver you are. And that, my friends, is the beauty of a picture book — it reignites a love of stories no matter your age or life circumstance.

  • What We’ll Build

    by Oliver Jeffers

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    A dad and daughter gather their tools and start a project together. Soon, they’ve erected a red door in the middle of a vast landscape. The building continues as they shape a future together. In their cozy fortress, they encounter enemies but manage to bridge the gap and set differences aside. With details like a hammock on the moon, a pink pig, and the hands of loved ones reaching towards each other, this book makes a fantastic gift for new parents or recent graduates. In truth, I think every single Oliver Jeffers book holds wisdom beyond its pages.

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  • This Is Your Time

    by Ruby Bridges

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    The first black child to enter a segregated school in New Orleans compiles her thoughts about what it means to be a trailblazer. Her father couldn’t walk her to school, and her teacher taught her one-on-one. Interspersed with black and white images, this historical perspective of Ruby Bridges is still advocating for equality today. No doubt you’ll learn something new about this impressive individual in this slim volume.

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  • My Heart

    by Corinna Luyken

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    How often do you check in with your heart? This lyrical and exquisitely rendered picture book is an homage to that timeless self-reflective act. It illustrates tiny acts of self-care as our hearts grow to expand and give love to others. Its message—that we are all worthy and deserving of love—is perfect for every day of the year. We’ve read this book countless times over the last few years, and each time, it becomes more meaningful to me. Give this for Valentine’s Day or a milestone birthday (30, 40, 50, etc.).

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  • She Persisted

    by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

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    This book, and the entire series, begs to be shared with your old philosophy professor or your ladies’ night pals. It’s perfect for Women’s History Month (March) and provides facts about women who made contributions to society despite the obstacles they faced. It's approachable and empowering for both genders. I especially love the entry on Harriet Tubman.

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  • That’s Me Loving You

    by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Teagan White

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    While this is an ode of a parent’s love for their child, I bet that gifting this rhyming book to a friend or grandparent would soothe the loneliness that many have experienced over this past pandemic year. It’s available in both a board book and picture book format, and Teagan White’s endearing images make this timeless message of unfaltering love one that anyone will cherish.

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  • I Talk Like a River

    by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith

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    A young boy feels the sting of defeat as he has a tough day at school, unable to get the words out of his mouth, impeded by his stutter. His observant parent takes him to a favorite spot next to the river’s edge. Surrounded by babbles and gurgles, the river calms him, reminding him of the beauty of his halting speech. Few books belong in every home, but this award-winner is one of them. I even gifted it to a long-time friend last Christmas.

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  • Home

    by Carson Ellis

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    From yurts to castles, houses in remote places or sandwiched between tall buildings, homes of all sizes and shapes fill the pages of this book—each one offering protection from the elements and respite from the world. Home is a place and a feeling, masterfully depicted in this oversized gem. Perhaps it’s the inordinate amount of time we’ve all spent at home over the last year that makes this book feel especially timely for adults in 2021. It makes a brilliant house-warming gift for anyone that has recently moved.

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  • The Lost House

    by B.B. Cronin

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    Grandad has promised to take his grandchildren to the park, but he needs help locating a few lost things first. Follow the perplexed trio through Grandad's house, where each room is devoted to a single color. This challenging seek-and-find book becomes easier once you notice the items needed on the opening page. Once you’ve mastered this one, The Lost Picnic is a fun and vibrant follow-up. It's a perfect gift for any design-loving or art-centric friend.

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  • Milo Imagines the World

    by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

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    Milo and his sister pass the time on the subway together. Milo begins noticing the people around him and imagining details about their lives. He draws images in his mind (depicted with primitive childlike crayon drawings). When one immaculate boy enters the subway, Milo imagines his life is ideal. When the siblings reach their destination, they wait in a security line before entering the prison to visit their incarcerated parent. Milo is surprised to see the boy from the subway waiting in the same line. This layered story is about families, assumptions, and the judgments we make of others. It’s as much a social commentary as a beautiful conversation starter.

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  • The Not So Quiet Library

    by Zachariah OHora

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    On Saturdays, Oskar and Theodore venture to the library with dad (after a stop at the donut shop, of course). Once they’ve settled into their books, an unsettling noise disrupts their solitude. Enter a five-headed monster! One that isn’t especially keen on books and has no respect for proper library etiquette. Will the duo escape their foe, or will they be eaten instead? If you’re not familiar with the joy of Zachariah OHora’s body of work, do rectify that immediately.

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