Story time: brilliant books for young children.

It sounds revolting, in retrospect, but when my oldest daughter was in Special Care as a premature bambino, I took picture books in to read to her. I thought – maybe was told? – that it was important she heard my voice even from her incubator, but it was hard to make one-sided conversation with a neonate for the full 12 hours I sat beside her each day for three weeks. I have a feeling that some of the other mothers considered me a lunatic – or perhaps an ostentatious Tiger Mom – but it helped. A bit.

As a primary teacher, I’ve long had a great affection for a good children’s book and whilst some people find it irksome to hear, I can honestly say that in my experience, there’s pretty much nothing you can do for your children, educationally, that does more good than reading loads.

Ready for the sequel.


Best picture books for children.

I am a massive fan of the picture book. We have a bookcase full and visit the library most weeks on the hunt for more (#wild.) These are some of my very favourite and most will entertain bigger children as well as tots.

I cannot express quite how much I love this one. It was written in 1956 and the pictures are gloriously of their time. It’s fairly short, and lends itself beautifully to showcasing an unconvincing American accent. For those times when even a short story is a stretch too far, you can watch a Golden Girl reading it beautifully.



Another canine classic. These rhyming stories are tales of naughty Hairy and his friends, some featuring their feline nemeses Slinky Malinkiand Scarface Claw.If you don’t know them, you really should remedy this immediately.



Perhaps your children have a more sophisticated sense of humour, but mine are endlessly amused by toilet humour. If you’re going to read about poo, this is a good way.




This is much more recent than most of the rest of the books on my list and I haven’t met a child who doesn’t love the perceived humiliation of the adult reader.





Judith Kerr also wrote the Mog books – other faves of mine – but for me, this is the very best. Psychedelic storyline, 60s illustrations – there’s nothing not to love.





This isn’t strictly speaking a picture book. On each double spread is a picture page of a woman who has done something remarkable, and a page giving a short biography. There are plenty of well known subjects, but also many you may not be familiar with from scientists to artists to sportspeople to rockstars. It is my 8 year old’s favourite book by a mile.



This is the follow up to The Day The Crayons Quit – but I like this even more than the first. I love the humour and illustrations and it’s something I don’t tire of reading.




No list of picture books could be complete without one of the Donaldson oeuvre. JD is a genius and its hard to go wrong, but this is the one for which I hold the most affection, even having read it, at a conservative estimate, 17 million times.


Gorgeous pics, great rhyme, little girl scientist protagonist. One of my recent faves.





Very short and really a horribly depressing portrayal of extreme emotional neglect, but all the children I know laugh like drains. The heartless beasts. Poor Bernard.





Emily Gravett is a top author. Pretty much any of hers will be good.

Lots of these would make good costume inspiration for World Book Day (1.3.18 FYI) if that’s something on your radar. Head to toe in a fave colour for When the Crayons Came Home would be easy peasy and one of us goes as Mog most years – grey v-necked cardigan over a white T shirt, with grey leggings and cat ears from Halloween. I don’t even bother with a tail, but do make a rubbish medal by photocopying  the one Mog wears. It is plenty. Please, please don’t buy a costume from a supermarket – save your money and buy another book.


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