Adult Protagonists in Picture Books

Just because PPBF is taking a summer break I certainly haven’t stopped pouring over great picks. This week I came  across this beautiful award-winning book written by Lore Segal and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky (published in 1985, reissued in 2005) and had to wonder, once again, why is it that editors shun adult protagonists? Are children really unable to relate to them? Why are some of my favorites still so popular? Any one have a title they’d like to add?

11 thoughts on “Adult Protagonists in Picture Books

  1. Good question, Julie. Two that come to mind are “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” by Stead/Stead and “Dust Devil” by Anne Isaacs and Paul Zelinsky. Seems there are a lot so if you have that story to tell, you might as well tell it, right?


  2. Just speculating…but I think it has something to do with showing the MC grow and change through the story. No one blinks twice when a child MC grows due to a discovery, from overcoming a challenge, etc. But an adult MC? Is it still relatable from a child’s perspective? It can be, but I am wagering editors are reluctant to take that risk unless it is an outstanding MS or from an established author. Would love to read more opinions on this Julie!


    • I would say adults can grow and change too, esp when we are dealing with small situations. And I know they say child-like protags are ok, but if you read Mrs. Lovewright you’ll see how it works despite her stubbornness! In the end, I guess, a good manuscript is good, despite the details!


  3. Nice post Julie. I’m taking a break, but still am looking at books. Am catching up with MG and YA novels I want to read and review. Find it hard to keep up with this genre during the year. I’m enjoying it. And I’ve reviewed some other PBs that others did for PPB that I want on my blog.

    Cathy — For example, they did with the Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It was an outstanding MS. And, it was a bit quirky.


  4. Good point! I wonder about this all the time. “Old” people are often cast as the mc. There are plenty of historical, biographical, and fantasy picture books featuring grown-ups.
    Maybe we don’t realize we write them differently. Maybe the editors don’t give them a chance regardless of how they’re written.
    I guess that’s a great lesson: Work EXTRA hard on your hook and beginnings to win the editor over when you’re using an adult MC.
    Excellent food for thought. Thanks.


  5. Pingback: Blow A Kiss: Book Review and Craft Activity for Kids | Picture Books Help Kids Soar

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