Good news everyone. You know how your life is incredibly busy and you don’t have time to do the things you know are good for you? Things like doing your tax return, going to the gym, reading a book. While I can’t help out with the first two problems, I’ve solved the third by compiling a list of quick reads. You won’t find shorter stories unless you’re into haikus or twitterverses. I’m talking of course about picture books, stories ostensibly for kids, but hidden in this form are sooooo many literary gems for adults. Incidentally I discovered all five books on this list at the Brisbane City Council library… although if you read it and love it, consider ordering a copy from your local book shop because they would make fabulous Christmas presents.

First on my list… I Want My Hat Back by John Klaasen. A bear loses his hat and wants it back. Sounds simple right? But as the bear goes around questioning the other animals, his dead eyes bore into you and the minimalistic dialogue becomes deliberately and hilarious. My one year old son didn’t agree with me so while I was rolling around on the floor cackling, he wandered off in search for quality literature (Grug) (PFfttttt!)

Another gorgeous find is They All Saw The Cat by Brendan Wenzel. This is probably the cleverest picture book I’ve read in a long time. By ‘read’ I mean the reading of images as well as words. With one simple, lyrical phrase ‘The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears and paws…’ Wenzel illustrates beautifully how perspectives shape what we see.

The third book on my list is actually one that my son and I enjoyed together. That’s not a hippopotamus by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis is definitely a picture book for little ones but I think it brings out the animator in me. The illustrations appear to move on the page. Davis’ cast of school kids have weight and rhythm as they dash around around a zoo looking for the missing hippopotamus. And the rhyme is playful and addictive.

‘I’ve got him, Miss! A lot amiss! A missing hippopotamus!’

I was chanting the rhyme in my head hours after putting down the book.

The White Cat and the Monk is a retelling of an old Irish poem. This is more of a graphic novel than a picture book in terms of its layout, but like the other books on this list, the words are poignant for all it is sparingly applied. It tells the story of a Monk and his cat as they go about their day; the former studies while the latter catch mice and explore the abby.

And the fifth book is not actually one book, but general recommendations of picture books for adults, If you like this type of work, Oliver Jeffers is an author/ illustrator to check out. His books are a little too syrupy for my liking but he has definitely got the charm factor. The Boss Baby by Maria Frazee (the book came out before the movie!) is a clever, tongue-in-cheek story that every new parent should read. Pretty much anything by Maurice Sendak and Shaun Tan needs to be 

consumed immediately. I’m excluding Go The Fuck To Sleep by Adam Mansbach from my list just because it is already on every single list of ‘picture books for adults. I’m also excluding picture books with higher word counts (such as the fairytale works of Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell). While I do enjoy picture books for older readers with more complex language, this list is all about quick reads, the art of being sparing with words but still convey powerful messages.