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Apparently I still have an inner child that is delighted and excited by picture books

With a background in design I suppose it was inevitable that my passion for this kind of book would run amuck. I just can't get enough of them. What could be better than snuggling up with your children to get lost in an unfolding story, sometimes told solely through the art on the page?

So offering me the job of picking my favourite ten was virtually impossible. I have listed ten below (well twelve actually), but I could easily squash twenty into my top ten. Ten (or twelve) just isn't enough! Narrators of the world (Moms and Dads, Grans and Grandads) from here to eternity should be introduced to brilliant books, so if you've found one, don't be shy, shout about it from the rooftops, share the joy! Books are brilliant, deadly, full of excitement and fun and most importantly imagination and the little imaginators in our lives like nothing more than the hook of a good story or illustration, just like we do!

There are some obvious and some not so obvious ones listed below, but all are really brilliant, well I think so anyway. I have tried really hard to only make one offering from each author but this was the real toughie as these people are geniuses! Julia Donaldson who is so witty and engaging and rhyming!... Mo Willems who tickles the funny bone, even if you don't have one and of course Oliver Jeffers, yes who doesn't love to devour his books?

Although, on the serious side, picture books are a child's first introduction to reading and it's at this very important moment in time where we can instil a lifelong love of reading in our children. Children do 'judge a book by its cover', they initially interpret the story through its illustrations and so the pictures have huge importance. So an exploration of image as well as text is vital.

Its probably very selfish to say, but when I'm picking a picture book I always pick ones that entertain me too, then I really don't mind reading it over and over again, while I chuckle quietly to myself. So, with Christmas on the way, make sure you have added at least one book to the pressie bundle, otherwise the Elves will get you!!

And so without further ado and in no particular order.............

Veg Glue

Title: Vegetable Glue

Author: Susan Chandler

Illustrator: Elena Odriozola

Age: 3-6

We've been reading this book in our house for years! Vegetable Glue is an hilarious, quirky and quite absurd, fun for all the family type of book. It's light hearted, but with a moral- If you eat cake all the time and don't eat any vegetables, your body will fall apart! "When my right arm fell off, I knew what to do, I stuck it back on, with vegetable glue".

The beautifully illustrated little girl explains how she repeatedly sticks her body parts back on, her arm, her nose, even her head, with the giant vat of vegetable glue. Her amazingly fit and super active, veggie loving grandma bounds in to save the day with bags full of veggies to make more of this amazing Glue.

A super book for the veggie-dodgers in every family (and we all have them), full of whimsical fun and great entertainment, most especially when the little girls bum falls off! The story rhymes and jolly's a long, flowing easily from page to page. It's the perfect length for the little ones, who just love to guess which body part is next to hit the floor and which nose belongs to whom.

 

The Pencil

Title: The Pencil

Author: Allan Ahlberg

Illustrator: Bruce Ingham

Age: 5+

This is a brilliant book to awaken the imagination. It's a timeless piece that brings back memories of 'Well, you know my name is Simon, and the things I draw come true!', anyone remember that little gem?

As the title suggests, it all begins with a pencil, a lonely pencil with an appetite to draw. He begins with drawing a boy named Banjo who really wants a dog, (named Bruce), who really wants a cat (named Mildred) etc. The pencil then draws on his creative juices sketching a house, a town and a family for the little boy but everything is just a little bit dull, so he adds a splash of colour by drawing a paintbrush. But then reality bites as he realises he can't please everyone (well who can?). Complaints start rolling in and it seems no one is happy. Everyone has a change they want made and made yesterday! So what to do? Well the only answer of course is an Eraser!

Unfortunately this little eraser gets somewhat carried away and starts to rub out everything in his path. With his creative world facing demise, he must work hard to come up with a solution, and fast!

With simplistic, whimsical but sparse illustrations, and pencil sharp wit, the reader is left in suspense at nearly every page turn, wondering what will happen next. Until of course, when the pressure is really in place and the end of the world is nigh! Having read this book before I read it to my daughter, I paused at the very treacherous moment and asked her what she would do if she were pencil and her imagination ran wild! Draw a hole in the rubber, draw a monster to eat the rubber and on and on! Lots of super answers and a great 'thinking on your feet' type situation. Of course all is well with the world when the little pencil and paintbrush snuggle up together in a happily ever after ending.

 

Title: There Are No Cats in this Book

Author/Illustrator: Viviane Schwarz

Age: 3 -7 years

I laughed out loud at this book, and that was just me! My daughter loved it too and we're not even a cat family, we've a house full of dogs! This is the second book of cats by Viviane Schwarz and this time the cats are full of the spirit of adventure. Despite the title there is plenty of feline fun in this hilarious engaging little book.

Kids from 3 to 7 will love this book, a super idea, where the characters of the book are dying to get out into the world and explore! After a lot of pulling, pushing and jumping (get everyone to join in), they head off on a little adventure of their own. Of course they need the readers help to get there, and low and behold, they are gone! The shock and hilarity this caused was amazing. Where could the story go when the characters had left? I closed the book at this point and asked my daughter what the point was in reading on, to gasps of, 'No, we need to find them!'

A truly engaging and interactive book, plenty of movement and actions, its warm and witty and the illustrations are fluid and fun. Brilliant as a one on one, but also great as a group read with a delightful surprise at the end!

 

Title: The Incredible Book Eating Boy

Author/Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Age: 4-8 years

This book has everything!

Its topic is hilarious, why would anyone want to eat books? And yet the implication of the importance of education is blatant. This book makes books 'Cool' to kids and subtly encourages them to over indulge in the art of reading, if not eating books!

We loved this book in our house.

Like many children, Henry loves books. But rather than reading books, Henry has discovered an appetite for eating books. Big books, picture books, reference books . . . if it has pages, Henry devours them. The funny thing is that the more he eats, the smarter he gets, and in fact he is not far from being the smartest boy in the world! But one day he begins to feel sick and suddenly he can't think straight, everything is getting all jumbled up and he just can't digest! So Henrys challenge is set, can he enjoy books without eating them?

The illustrations in this book are simply superb. My daughter loved the disappearing books and henrys lack of feet, while I was fascinated by the background images from many an old manuscript / book / typewriter page. Floating equations, lined pages, angled script and random maps, make this book a visual feast for adult and child alike.

 

Title: The Day the Crayons Quit

Author: Drew Daywalt

Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Age: 4+

As avid and expert colourers in my house, this book was an epiphany! A new found respect for the colouring box ensued along with the subsequent and fervent interest in what was under the paper on the peach crayon? Some picture books are almost painful for parents to read, but not this one! It is imaginative, adorable and most of all hilarious, and the best part is that it encourages creativity and thinking outside the (crayon) box!

Poor old Duncan just wants to colour, but when he opens his crayon box all he finds are letters from the crayons, a colourful chorus of...'We Quit!'.

Emotional, overworked or sometimes underworked crayons detail their complaints, their feelings and other observations in their endearing childishly scrawled letters to Duncan. The personality of each of the crayons is evident and specific to colour, red being a bit of a stress head, grey being exhausted, white feeling invisible and purple being quite strait-laced. All the crayons have written to Duncan expressing their grievances and why they have quit. They are not a happy pack! Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown. Blue needs a break from colouring all that water, (it's tough being the favourite year on year), while Pink just wants to be used. Yellow and orange were arguing and are now not speaking over the 'Real' colour of the sun and their argument is making all the other crayons miserable! What is Duncan going to do?

The illustrations and text work beautifully together, the letters are written in and by the crayons themselves but each with their own specific paper. The childish writing and the roughly illustrated images capture the essence of the young at heart. In Duncan's final and most magnificent drawing, each of the crayons problems is addressed visually as well as with compassion, understanding, and compromise.

Above all, this story captures the imagination of its readers young and old and drives children to their colouring box with a whole new outlook on the colourful world around them. With their new found 'personality-full' crayons, they discover that water doesn't have to be blue, whales don't have to be grey and colouring outside the lines is the best fun!

 

Title: That Is NOT a Good Idea!

Author / Illustrator: Mo Willems

Age: 4-7 years

One of the things I love about shopping for books is the screams of delight from my daughter when she finds a 'MUST HAVE' read, and the other is laying my hands on a brilliant, brand spanking shiny and new, little gem of a book like this!

The story begins with a spritely, polite but clever fox who spies a sweet plump Goose while out on a brisk walk and hatches a cunning plan to fill his belly!

Mo Willems, with true expertise draws adults and children alike, deeper and deeper into a silent movie villainesque style uneasiness with the flutter of an eye and the tipping of a hat, all the while in complete disparity to the manic roars of the crazed panic-strewn audience of baby goslings screaming -"That is really NOT a good idea!'. Memories of 'Chicken Licken' abound as the sweet plump Goose journeys closer and closer to impending doom.

There is no doubt that this is a definite 'Can we read it again please' type of book. Full of wonder and trepidation as children ponder the outcome while interacting with the audience of goslings in an overwrought collaboration that delights both adult and child. The imminent doom, repetitive warnings and simplistic manoeuvres make this a super book for children aged 4-7 years and Moms and Dads are sure to enjoy it too. I certainly did!

Can he outfox her or will her goose be cooked???

Knuffle Bunny

Title: Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Tale.

Author/Illustrator: Mo Willems

Age: 2-4

This book is a Gem!

This is a sweet story of a little girl and her daddy heading off on an amazing adventure (for the toddler) to the Laundromat to do the laundry. Unfortunately Trixie misplaces her adored little Knuffle Bunny and all hell breaks loose as she tries to communicate her devastation to her father.

Even the thought of the lost 'tag-blanket' in our house could bring an unnerving, catastrophic bug eyed level of insanity, so if your child has a stuffed animal, a specific dohdoh, a blankie or any type of comforter, you will most certainly appreciate this little tale!

Trixies gorgeous expression full face, and her gobble-de-gook speech tell their own little story. Interestingly the language nuances that we as parents offer back to our babbling kids offer other little personal insights on our own journey through this book.

Dealing with a lost toy on any level is exceptionally horrific but the use of the phrase 'she went boneless' just brought me to my knees. Oh how many times have we all experienced that moment, yes emblazoned on our brains! But it's with these little phrases that Mo Willems catches the attention of the parent, shooting their enjoyment levels through the roof with one small description while also totally engaging the interest of children at the age of two and three.

Lovely photographic images bring you back to your Sesame street days with a beautifully illustrated Dad and Trixie superimposed. This is a definite for every parent and toddler.

Title: Jack and the Flum Flum Tree

Author: Julia Donaldson

Illustrator: David Roberts

Age: 4-7

Ah.. the master at work! Julia Donaldson never ceases to enthral and amaze. The astounding author of A Squash & a Squeeze, The Gruffalo (and Child),The Singing Mermaid, Room on the Broom, Tabby McTat, The Smartest Giant in Town, Monkey Puzzle(huge favourite of mine when my daughter was 2), The snail and the whale...the list is endless! If you're looking for a picture book that is smart, witty and rhyming, then look no further.

To Jacks dismay his Grandma has come down with a bad dose of the moozles and the lifesaving cure is the fruit of the FlumFlum Tree, which can only be found on the island of Blowyernose (Hilarious!). So off Jack sails with his trusty pals to save granny with nothing but a silly patchwork bag full of bits and bobs that she has given him. Little did he know just how relevant and helpful every single thing in that bag would be, in one case enough to save their lives from hungry sharks.

This book trots along beautifully in rhyme, with readers trotting alongside. Funny wordy repetition that the little ones love in the phrase "Don't get your knickers in a twist said Jack, let's have a look in the patchwork sack" gives everyone a giggle every time it pops up, and doesn't everyone just love to shout it out. The illustrations sway up and down along with the rhyme drawing everyone into the big adventure, all the way through the dangerous moments and back to safety.

The Lonely Beast

Title: The Lonely Beast

Author/Illustrator: Chris Judge

Age: 4-6 years

A great read-aloud choice for 4-6 year olds. The lonely beast is a very endearing character that children absolutely love, even though he barely has any features at all! He is dark and interesting, looks shaggy and must be lovely as he drinks tea and bakes cakes. He sets off on a long and interesting journey to find creatures just like himself and although he does make friends, he misses home and has a great surprise when he gets back. Children really empathise with this beast, his feeling of loneliness and need of companionship and of course, his love of home.

The illustrations are fantastic in this book, with so many different environments to journey through. The beast is easily recognisable on every page as his blackness contrasts sharply with all the vivid colourful beauty of the world around him. Each of the panels have something quirky and fun to look at, like the seagull landing on his head when he is swimming or when being interviewed, he is wearing a tie!

If this book becomes a firm favourite in your house, you will be delighted to hear that the Beast has returned with another journey to take in 'The Brave Beast'.

 

Title: Dinosaurs love Underpants

Author/Illustrator: Clare Freedman & Ben Cort

Age: 3 /4 + (My 6 year old still loves it!)

The great mystery of Dinosaur extinction is solved in this book. How? An Underpant War of course!

While on a day trip to the 'Dead Zoo', I saw this book in the little gift shop area and couldn't resist picking it up. The humour in the title, the bright and vibrant colours and the crazy little caveman all caught my attention and I wasn't disappointed.

The story starts with a crew of quirky nude Cavemen being embarrassed and worried about being rude, when one of them had a brainwave and created underpants. The huge hit amongst the caving community soon drew the attention of an assortment of selfish and scary Dino's who decided there was nothing for it but to get these underpants for themselves. A mighty underpant war ensues with everyone battling for the pants, sure to make even the adults chortle, it ends in the eventual wipe-out of all things Dino!

So much fun squashed into a story full of hilarity and absurdity. The story is told through rhyming text and trots along nicely, while the colour and expression add excitement and intrigue as children are driven to the final and full wacky appreciation and celebration of their very own underpants.

Horrid Henry

Title: All Horrid Henry Books

Author: Francesca Simon

Illustrator: Tony Ross

Age: 6+

The majority of good (well, most of the time) little girls and boys really do love to read about the adventurous naughtiness of bad little girls and boys and that's what makes Horrid Henry a really big hit. Kids enjoy a vicarious pleasure when they read about a boy who is just down right naughty, knows he's being naughty and still goes through with it anyway no matter the consequence.

Throughout all of the Horrid Henry books, Henry is not just horrid. Henry migrates from being bold, to being bad to being categorically nasty. He really is a distasteful character for all parents reading these books, but for kids, well they are hook, line and sinker from the very first horrid moment. The saving grace is the fact that the bad things he gets up to are offered an equal and opposite, correct and proper way to behave, offering parents an opportunity to add lessons to the story and children the understanding of right versus wrong.

The illustrations are vibrant and action packed, with super nasty facial expressions.

Great for the reluctant readers, especially ones that love a little mischief!

 

Title: Sally Go Round the Stars

Authors: Sarah Webb & Claire Ranson

Illustrator: Steve McCarthy

Age: Young and old

If you're anything like me, getting past the second line of the lesser known nursery rhymes is a challenge. I can remember the musical references, can hum the whole thing, even have the intonation down pat, but the words are long gone. That's what makes 'Sally Go Round the Stars' a must in our house.

This book is delightful and will awaken a host of memories of bedtime songs with your own parents and rhyming and skipping games out on the road. It is a trip down memory lane for parents and grandparents alike and will definitely spark and engage the youngest listeners and readers too. So much fun surrounded by beautifully illustrated pieces of art and all inside this lovely book.

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