One of the things I really love to do is read books with children. I love the way they engage with the story, how their eyes light up, how they fully embrace a story – expressing their joy, delight or outrage with great energy and enthusiasm! When I was asked to make a list of my 10 favourite picture books, it was so hard to narrow it down to just 10 – so these are my all-time, ‘gets better with every reading’ favourites. They are in no particular order. I’ve also snuck a few extras in under the ‘same author’ banner!
1. Where The Wild Things Are
I’ve always loved Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of the year in 1964 and is still beloved by children today! Whenever I read it to children, we roar our terrible roars and gnash our terrible teeth and roll our terrible eyes and show our terrible claws – what child hasn’t been a wild thing at one time or another? Pushing the boundaries, having an adult say, “Enough” and, “Go to your room”. After a while in there, just wanting to be loved, even if you are a wild thing, then finding that your mum is there, still loving you despite your wild thing tendencies!
2. Vegetable Glue
Vegetable Glue is written by Susan Chandler and illustrated by Elena Odriozola. It’s a wonderful mix of beautiful, quirky illustrations, humorous rhymes, the dangers of too much cake, with some excellent nutritional advice thrown in for good measure. “When my right arm fell off I knew what to do, I stuck it back on with vegetable glue.” Children love the page that starts, “Oops, pardon me I’ve made a rude sound”. Read it yourself to find out what’s “dropped off and is now on the ground”.
3. Lost and Found
Lost and Found is written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers in his own unique style. It’s the story of a boy and a penguin, misreading others’ intentions and body language and the realisation of what true friendship looks like. Children always catch their breath when the boy finally understands what the penguin wants and heads back to the South Pole. Is he too late? I also love The Incredible Book Eating Boy (a book of how to become really smart, really quickly). Did the boy really bite the book at the end? In fact, I love anything by Oliver Jeffers!
4. Where is the Green Sheep?
Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, is full of all sorts of sheep. It has a simple, repetitive, rhyming storyline that has the children joining in. The misplaced, lost green sheep provides the chorus to this fun tale (or tail?). By the end we’re all going, “Where is that green sheep?” at the top of our voices.
5. Koala Lou
Koala Lou is another favourite by Mem Fox and illustrated by Pamela Lofts. Koala Lou is “so soft and round that all who saw her loved her. But it was her mother who loved her most of all.” As the family grows, she wonders if her mother’s love can still stretch all around everyone to her. See how she works to gain the love she thought she lost. The children are with her every step of the way chanting, “Koala Lou, I do love you.”
6. Interrupting Chicken
Interrupting Chicken is written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. It’s bedtime in the Chicken household and it’s time for some stories but first the little red chicken needs to make a promise – “You’re not going to interrupt the story tonight, are you?” “Oh no, Papa, I’ll be good.” I love the relationship between the chicken and her dad. He is so patient, kind and understanding when she wants to jump in and help out the people in the stories. Who hasn’t wanted to stop the story, warn everyone and change all those dark, scary fairytales so they have happier endings?
Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, has wonderful, nostalgic, wartime illustrations that add to the warmth of the family life depicted in this book. “Here’s a little baby, 1,2,3 – what does he see? Peepo!” My girls (who are now all grown up) loved this book when they were babies and babies still love it today! It is available as a board book, which is perfect for little babies’ hands to explore.
8. Guess How Much I Love You
Guess How Much I Love You, written by Sam McBratney, is another bedtime story that involves a dad and his child. Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare try to outdo each other with how much they love each other. There is a sense of delightful one-upmanship in their declarations of love, captured so beautifully by Anita Jeram’s watercolour illustrations.
9. The Gruffalo
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, has a rhythmic, rhyming text that invites everyone to join in. Children love it that the little mouse could trick all the animals in the deep, dark wood who wanted to eat him and also trick the Gruffalo – a frightening figment of his imagination come to life! They also wonder, could there really be such a thing as a Gruffalo?
10. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Don’t let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! with words and pictures by Mo Willems. The pigeon in these stories obviously wants things that aren’t good for a pigeon and the reader is instructed to not let the pigeon do what he wants to do. The pigeon uses every reason or excuse that your children have ever used to get anything that they want, but now they have to respond to each request with a resounding, “No!” They just love saying it over and over again to the very persistent pigeon. A nice piece of parent/child role reversal!