Picture books are chock full of great life lessons, but are those wise words just for children? Sure, grown-ups could probably be a lot smarter about making friends and being nice and appreciating the potential of a plain cardboard box, but what about more adult concerns? Can picture books guide poor souls to true love? As far as I know, no one has addressed the untapped potential of picture books to soothe the troubled psyches of lonelyhearts, but, after all, the best dating advice is really just good life advice in disguise, and picture books have good life advice in spades. The titles below are merely a sampling of the picture books that, while probably not intentionally, slyly give tips many adults might forget, which are especially useful when trying to meet new special friends.
Interstellar Cinderella, by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt
Cindy’s dream of being a rocket-ship engineer preoccupies her daily thoughts. When the handsome prince gets in a jam during the royal space parade, she swoops in to fix his ship and her expert engineering catches his eye. Her wicked stepsisters and stepmother do everything in their power to keep the prince away from the pink-haired Ms. Fix-it, but he’s determined to find the girl who rescued his rocket.
He’s good-looking, rich, totally into rockets, and definitely interested. Should she put aside her career aspirations and she seize the day?
Nope: Cindy knows that sometimes it’s not the right time for love, and it’s OK to focus on your career instead of settling down before you’re ready. The lesson here, apart from “don’t trust wicked stepsisters with your tool box,” is to follow your heart, even if the true love it leads you to has absolutely nothing to do with relationships.
Marilyn’s Monster, by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Matt Phelan
Poor Marilyn. Everyone on her block is paired up with a monster. She’s the only one on the playground all by herself, and she wistfully looks on as her friends frolic with their monstrous partners. But she’s an optimistic young lady and sure she’ll meet him any day now, so she puts on her sunniest outfit and waits. And waits.
Alas, sometimes the nicest, prettiest, friendliest people can wait around forever for the right monster to take notice, and Marilyn is no different. For all her attempts to be just the right kind of girl, she still doesn’t meet her monster, and like anyone might, she gets a bit grumpy.
Luckily, Marilyn isn’t content to just sit and wait. She bucks convention and takes matters into her own hands, loads up her pack, and embarks on a quest to find a monster herself. Trudging through fields and forest, she finally finds her monster, who was there all along but needed a little saving himself. The takeaway? Don’t abandon your intrepid, impatient, sometimes grumpy true self in order to appear likeable to monsters; those very characteristics might be the key to finding just the right one.
Red, by Michael Hall
Red is a crayon who is different—his label says red, but his insides are blue. He can’t seem to get anything right: berries, fire trucks, and his own self-portrait should be easy. All he should be is red! But instead of trying to understand him, all the other crayons wonder what’s wrong with him.
One day, however, Berry is working on drawing a ship and needs a blue ocean. Who does she turn to? Red, of course. And he feels right at home.
All Red needed was another crayon to recognize what made him unique and understand his true gifts. The other crayons couldn’t see beyond Red’s exterior, but once he found a friend who could see beyond his wrapper, he stopped feeling like such an outsider. The advice here is this: don’t let close-minded critics make you feel weird for being you; wait for the crayon (or person) who values what you are at your core.
We forgot Brock, by Carter Goodrich
Brock’s got a lot going for him: he’s strong, he’s got a great mustache and an even greater chopper, and he’s got the best best-friend a guy could hope for in Phillip. But when a scheduling snafu happens at the local fair and he’s stranded without his pal, he happens to meet Princess Sparkledust, a beautiful, flouncy-dressed lady who catches his eye.
He’s having a great time with Princess Sparkledust and her friend, Anne, but Brock misses Phillip. Goofing around with Princess Sparkledust and Anne, however, takes his mind of it long enough that he’s OK. Phillip, on the other hand is distraught, and when Brock finally sees how much his friend misses him, he realizes they’d all be better off playing together.
What can grownups get out of this story? Meeting new friends is fun—especially new friends who make your cheeks get rosy—but don’t keep them all to yourself! Make sure to introduce your new special friends to your best pals, too.
Octopuppy, by Martin McKenna
Edgar has the perfect dog in mind—strong, capable, handsome enough to win the Westminster dog show. He’s delighted when he gets a birthday present wrapped in dog-bone-covered paper, but there’s not a pup inside but a weird, waggle-armed octopus named Jarvis.
The cephalopod can do lots of amazing things, but Edgar keeps hoping for his dream dog and tries to turn poor Jarvis into a more dog-like octopus. Who could live up to that pressure? Soon Jarvis leaves, and Edgar realizes what he’s done. How could he long for a dumb old dog when he had such a great, surprising creature right in front of him?
After some hearty apologies, all is well. The lesson? Sometimes the octopus you least expect is exactly the dog you need.