The best picture books (in our house)

If you have small children, you will read the same books again and again until your eyes bleed. Having enjoyed (survived?) 6 years of bedtime reading, here are my tips for staying just the right side of insanity at story time.

First Hippo on the Moon (David Walliams).
I Took the Moon for a Walk (Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay). ‘We raced for the swings, where I kicked my feet high And imagined the Moon had just asked me to fly, Hand holding hand through the starry night sky when I tool the Moon for a walk.’ I reviewed this here.
Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd). A classic first bedtime book.
Do you speak English, Moon? (Francesca Simon and Ben Cort).
Many Moons (James Thurber).
Moon Zoo by Carol Ann Duffy would fit this category, but actually her related book, Underwater Farmyard, is far superior.
Zoe and Beans, Pants On The Moon (Chloe And Mick Inkpen).
Moon Rabbit (Natalie Russell). This is not really a moon book, more of an odd couple friendship book about a city rabbit falling for a country rabbit.

The Princess and the Peas (Caryl Hart, Sarah Warburton). Lily-Rose May can’t eat peas, so she must be a princess. She moves to the palace but it’s not as much fun as she expected.
I Don’t Want to be a Pea (Ann Bonwill, Simon Rickerty). Hugo the hippo wants to go to the party as the princess and her pea, Bella the bird is not keen.

Ahoyty Toyty (Helen Stephens) Why it’s no fun to be a snobby dog (I also like Poochie Poo with the same characters).
Zoom (Tim Wynne-Jones, Eric Beddows).
The Lighthouse-Keeper’s Lunch (Ronda Armitage, David Armitage). Every day he rows to the lighthouse and his wife prepares an amazing lunch and sends it to him by rope over the waves. But the pesky seagulls notice the lobster roll and peach surprise. 

Daddy’s sandwich (Pip Jones and Laura Hughes). Daddy, shall I make you a sandwich with all your favorite things? It’s obvious that Daddy’s favorite things include not only smelly cheese and jelly beans, but also his phone, his bike the paddling pool and…
The Disgusting Sandwich (Gareth Edwards and Hannah Shaw).
The Giant Jam Sandwich (John Vernon Lord, Janet Burroway). One from my childhood. Wasps take over a small town and the plan is to trap them in an enormous jam sandwich.

I find all pirate books a bit tedious, with the exception of The Princess and The Sleep Stealer (Elissa Elwick). If you must continue the pirate theme, then The Night Pirates is well done and The Troll by Julia Donaldson is not her finest but still excellent.

Bear (Mick Inkpen). Joyful. A bear falls into a storybook, will they be allowed to keep him?Wibbly Pig’s Silly Big Bear (Mick Inkpen). Spoons mean nothing to him, but he is enthusiastic! In fact he’s rather like a toddler.
It’s a Bear’s Life (Anna Wilson, Suzanna Diederen). Parker is fed up of being taken for granted by his boy, so he runs off to the bear’s hotel for a break.

The Day the Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers). ‘Hey Duncan. It’s me, RED CRAYON. We NEED to talk.’ Genius.
The Pencil (Allan Ahlberg, Bruce Ingman). The pencil drew a boy. The boy asked for dog… (also, their other one, The Runaway Dinner).

Use Your Imagination (Nicola O’Byrne).
Beware of the Storybook Wolves and Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book? (Lauren Child).

As with pirate books, this is mostly a painful genre. However, if you must indulge, let Mick Inkpen be your guide (Kipper’s Christmas Eve, Tickly Christmas Wibbly Pig etc.). Or Raymond Briggs, of course (The Snowman, Father Chrsitmas). Notable mentions to How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr Seuss), Angelina’s Christmas (Katherine Holabird) and Zoe and Beans – Zoe’s Christmas List (Mick and Chloe Inkpen).

Z Is For Moose (Kelly Bingham, Paul O. Zelinsky). Zebra pushes Moose out of his alphabet pageant and Moose gets disruptive.
Once Upon An Alphabet (Oliver Jeffers).
Operation Alphabet (Al MacCuish, Jim Bletsas). The Ministry of Letters comes to the rescue when Charlie Foxtrot is in trouble with an alphabet test.

Orlando, the Marmalade Cat (Kathleen Hale). A classic, with several in the series.
365 Penguins (Jean Luc Fromental, Joelle Jolivet). On 1st January, the doorbell rings. A penguin has been delivered. On 2nd January, same again. By March, the problem is where to put them. 


Julia Donaldson is ubiquitous but never tedious. We have 20 of her books, and she is a genius. See her ‘day in the life’ poem. My personal JD top ten:

  1. The Snail and the Whale
  2. Tiddler
  3. Cave Baby
  4. Zog
  5. What the Ladybird Heard
  6. Paper Dolls
  7. Tyrannosaurus Drip
  8. Monkey Puzzle
  9. The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat
  10. The Magic Paintbrush
  11. Room on the Broom (I know that’s more than ten, but she really is great).

Peely Wally (Kali Stileman)
Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear and Monkey and Me (Emily Gravett)
Where is the Green Sheep? (Mem Fox)
The Hairy Maclary oeuvre (Lynley Dodd)
Socks / Pants / More Pants (Giles Andreae, Nick Sharratt)

And finally, my other top top favourites, the ones I always pick off the shelf when I’m allowed to choose:

  1. Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes (Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie).
  2. That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown (Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton).
  3. Oi Frog (Kes Gray and Jim Field) An uptight cat needs frog to sit on a log, not on a chair, or a mat. And only pumas sit on satsumas.
  4. I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen).
  5. Click, Clack, Moo – Cows that type (Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin). “Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We’d like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows”.
  6. The Bog Baby (Jeanne Willis, Gwen Millward).
  7. Dogs Don’t Do Ballet (Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie).
  8. Anything by Oliver Jeffers or Mick Inkpen.
  9. The Alfie books (Shirley Hughes).
  10. Great Day for Up (Dr Seuss and Quentin Blake).
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