My husband and I have enjoyed reading picture books to our children since they were very little. My daughter took to the idea quickly, whilst it took my son a little longer to get the idea. However, I realised recently that both my children have always been quite particular about which books they liked. I didn’t initially notice this about my daughter, as her favourite books as a young child were the kind of stories that have plenty more to explore as you get older. With my son we learnt early on that there is a ‘right time’ for some stories, when Wendel and the Robot’s by Chris Riddell sat ignored on his bookshelf for over a year and then became his favourite book for the next 2 years! My kids are now aged 6 and 9 years. I take particular note of any picture books that fully engage both of them, as it takes a special kind of book to do that. Here are 9 of our favourites, All are great for reading aloud to children of different ages.
The rhyming text, and the story of a child taking the moon for a walk make this a real winner. Put, that together with Alison Jay’s picture which are both bold and detailed and you have a story which is truly special. It is a story that flows beautifully, but where there is also lot’s to spot and look at in the pictures. It is one of our favourite of all time picture books, and has probably helped foster my children’s love of the outdoors.
Great for children aged 1 to 6 years
This is a beautifully illustrated animal encyclopaedia for younger children. What set’s it apart from other encyclopaedia’s is the innovative way it organises the Animal Kingdom, and the way it uses both pictures and words in it’s content pages. This means the very young can select which animals they want to learn about by looking at the pictures. The stunning illustrations, clear and concise text and fun way of organising the animals also make this appeal to older children too. My children love taking it turns to choose which group of animals they would like to find out about.
This is a simple story. It is about a Robot that looses his bottom and spends the rest of the story trying to find it. There is something endearing about a main character loosing his bottom on a park swing, and it is really amusing when he keeps thinking he has found it! Sue Hendra beautifully captures the emotions of the Robot and his friends that are trying to help him find his bottom.
The Day the Crayons Came Home, author Drew Daywalt, illustrator Oliver Jeffers
We love the Day the Crayons quit, but we love the sequel even more! It is great to have the story of the crayons continued and developed in book 2. I think this is one of the things my eldest really relates too. The stories are based on the great idea of a set of crayons which write letters or postcards to their owner Duncan. The story cleverly captures the emotions of the crayons and there are also different levels on which to relate to the story, which make it a great read aloud for children of different ages. On the last page there is a cardboard fort which Duncan has built for his crayons. My kids love identifying the different crayons and working out why they are shown like that and/or if their needs have been met. On one occasion it even inspired my children to make their own crayon forts!
Mr Postman’s Rounds by Marianne Dubuc
I only discovered this book because of the research I was doing into picture books as an indepedent seller of children’s books. I am so glad I did, as it’s such a unique book. The journey narrative is really important in keeping the listeners interested. We have had fun trying to remember which animal the postman is visiting next. The illustrations are great and provide plenty of detail to look at, talk about and things to count. We especially like that the animals homes are drawn as cross sections, and that you can make connections within the picture, whether it’s how the bear get’s to feed himself honey, how the crocodile heats his eggs or that the Magpie is a wanted bird for something that he is has hoarded in his nest. This is the additional story that only the pictures tell.
Edgar and the Sausage Inspector by Jan Fearnley
This is one of our new favourites which was published earlier this year, and which both my children love. Jan Fearnley is both author and illustrator. The story is about a cat called Edgar who every time he goes shopping bumps into the Inspector, who takes Edgar’s food claiming it has gone bad. Finally Edgar has had enough and it is great when he stands up to the Inspector. With a modern day freshness the illustrations capture the same magic as my daughters favourite stories as a young child by Clare Beaton and Alison Jay, but in a story that is aimed at older children. Jan Fearnley creates pictures that are bold and eye catching and which capture the journey and narrative well, and that have lots of detail to explore too. Including lot’s of food you want to pick right off the page!
Superworm by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
This is a wonderful catchy, rhyming story, which is the kind of story Julia Donaldson is popular for. It is about a worm who helps all his fellow insects, but one day he is captured by an evil wizard and his friends come up with a plan to rescue him. Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are spot on and brilliantly capture the worm and his relationship with the other insects. We especially like the cross-section picture of the worm underground trying to find treasure for the wizard. The way Superworm is rescued by his friends is pretty cool too! My son has been crazy about all things recycling since he was 3 years old, So for him the fact that the wizard is thrown in a rubbish dump is a great addition to the story and he loves identifying the different things you can find in the tip.
Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory by Elys Dolan
Another new favourite which was published this year, is by talented debut author and illustrator Elys Dolan. This story is based on such a great idea of a factory run by Mr Bunny, which produces chocolate egg’s that are laid by chickens. The detailed pictures of how the factory actually works really grabbed my kids attention.They love working out how the different parts are interconnected and what is about to go wrong. In the story Mr Bunny get’s greedy and makes some not so wise changes to produce even more eggs. This provides a great double layer to the story, of before and after, where my kids love comparing the two. It also prompted them to suggest some solutions of their own of what the chickens could do to deal with the increasing stock pile of eggs. I have a feeling we will be enjoying this book for many more years to come.
Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola
This beautifully illustrated story is an Italian twist on the traditional story of the Magic Porridge Pot, which is also one of my son’s favourite stories. Strega Nona, translates as “Grandma Witch’. The story is about an old woman who has a magic touch in healing people. One day she decides to go over the mountain to visit her friend and leaves her helper a young lad called Big Anthony in charge. He can not resist using Strega Nona’s magic pot, which magically produces something. Can you guess (what are the Italians famous for?) Spaghetti of course! However Anthony fails to overhear what Strega Nona does to stops the magic pot. Both my kids love it when the spaghetti starts to spread out of the pot and down the road of the village! Strega Nona arrives back in the nick of time. Some of the pages have beautifully illustrated sequences that help tell the story. As we have Italian relatives we also like that this tale sneeks in a few Italian words.