12 Beloved Children's Authors Who Also Wrote for Grown-Ups

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You've probably heard by now that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has a new book releasing this week, and it is definitely not for children. But Rowling isn't the first well-known author of kids' books to take a stab at writing for adults. Here are 12 others.

1. Judy Blume

Almost everyone has read a Judy Blume book or two, and it's no surprise: classic middle-grade hits like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Freckle Juice, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great and, of course, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, have sealed Blume's place in the annals of timeless children's literature.

But the author is no one trick pony. Her first probably-not-for kids book, Forever, debuted in 1975, hot on the heels of Blubber's instant success. But parents weren't expecting the tale of a high-school senior's decisions about sex and love, or her friend's attempted suicide. The book has been the target of censorship since its publication, and clocked in at number 7 of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 1990-2000. And it doesn't end there; Blume's book Wifey, about a woman who decides to shake up her routine by having an extramarital affair only to discover that her husband has also been having an affair, came out in 1978. Since then, Blume has written both adult and children's fiction, including the Superfudge series for kids and Summer Sisters, which is obviously for adults.

2. Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events is undoubtedly for children, but the man behind Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler, has been concurrently publishing books for the over-18 set since 1998 with the release of The Basic Eight. Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs and Why We Broke Up followed between various Snicket titles, as Handler was promoting the Unfortunate Events books as "Lemony Snicket's handler" or as Snicket himself.

3. Shel Silverstein

Silverstein's career was eclectic, ranging from children's poetry to Broadway comedy and Johnny Cash songs. But it turns out the guy who gave us Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic started out in Playboy with an illustrated travel journal and drawing cartoons for columnist John Sack. Later, these cartoons would be expanded into a book titled Uncle Shelby's ABZ, which so closely resembled his children's book in both format and cover that later printings included the subtitle "A Primer for Adults Only."

4. Dr. Seuss

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You'd be hard-pressed to find a literate person alive today who hasn't read a book by Dr. Seuss. (Are any of you reading this?) But most people don't know that when Theodor Geisel moved to Random House, he did so on one condition: he wanted to write a book for adults. That book, The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family, came with all the signature Seussian perks: humor, illustrations by the author himself, and a strong moral theme. Unfortunately, it was a complete flop; he sold only 2500 of the 10,000 copies printed, and later said "I attempted to draw the sexiest babes I could, but they came out looking absurd."

5. Anthony Horowitz

The author of the Alex Rider series of spy novels for kids and young adults has written more than fifty books, almost all of which are for kids. But in 1999, Horowitz decided to try his hand at the adult market and penned William S., the first of five thrillers for grown-ups, and in 2010 released a series of graphic novel horror stories called Edge, which are definitely not for kids.

6. Roald Dahl

You know Roald Dahl as the guy behind well-loved favorites like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and (my favorite) Matilda. But aside from his 17 books and three poetry collections for kids, Dahl penned macabre short stories and novels for adults, and racked up three Edgar Awards for his efforts. One of his more successful stories, "The Man from the South," was featured twice on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in Quentin Tarantino's Four Rooms. A review for his 1979 novel, My Uncle Oswald, said that Dahl's work for adults provided "effortless reading and some amusing scenes, mostly of the kind film makers have taught us to call soft porn."

7. Rick Riordan

You can't really escape Percy Jackson, the boy who discovers he's the son of Poseidon. The feature films plus graphic novels, tie-in merchandise, (low, low) rumblings of a potential theme park ride and, of course, the 10 Olympian Demigod series books have some people calling Percy Jackson the "next Harry Potter." But lots of fans have no idea that Rick Riordan also has novels for adults, which have been in publication since 1997. The grown-ups-only Tres Navarre series, beginning with best-seller Big Red Tequila, follows an unlicensed Texas P.I. with a penchant for tequila and Tai Chi.

8. A. A. Milne

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Winnie-the-Pooh's creator will always be remembered as the father of Christopher Robin and his adorable band of stuffed companions. But Milne wasn't happy about the Pooh-sized shadow his children's books cast over his career as a playwright. Though Milne enjoyed a successful literary career in the U.S. and abroad, and continued writing detective novels, articles and plays for almost 30 years after Pooh's first appearance, he was always most famous for his children's work.

9. Jane O'Connor

Fancy Nancy was a big hit at our house, and pretty much everywhere, if 300+ weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller List and a Broadway musical adaptation are any indications. (They are.) Author Jane O'Connor has written more than thirty children's books, all Fancy Nancy-related, but her first adult novel, Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth came out in July 2007.

10. Dennis Lee

If you remember Alligator Pie, you know Dennis Lee. Rumor has it that the book is so popular in Canada that any random passersby can be counted on to recite a few lines. That poll was non-scientific and may be biased, but the poet behind the children's classics Jelly Belly, Dinosaur Dinner, and Garbage Delight also made sure to compose a few books for adults. His poetry and prose collections Civil Elegies, Body Music, Un, and Yesno are less popular than his children's books, but critically acclaimed and worth checking out.

11. Philip Pullman

Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy — which includes The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights, if you aren't in the U.S.), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass — is unquestionably the author's most famous work. All three books and their companion titles have been bestsellers in the U.S., despite being repeatedly challenged in schools and, when the film released, on the streets. But Pullman has been writing adult fiction since 1972, when he released The Haunted Storm, which according to the author was "published by a publisher who didn't realize it wasn't a very good book." His most recent title is a fictionalized account of the life of Jesus, in which the Virgin Mary has twin boys, one named Jesus and the other named Christ.

12. R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine has been called "Stephen King for kids," and chances are, you've read lots of his hundreds of Fear Street and Goosebumps books. The good news is that we don't have to resort to pint-sized thrills and chills anymore, because Stine's first horror novel for adults is coming out in October, 2012. According to an early press release, "In Red Rain, Stine uses his unerring knack for creating terror to tap into some very grownup fears." Get excited, people!

September 26, 2012 - 11:15am
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