Baby A is 16 months, so the list is a little skewed towards the younger ones, and I have avoided books already covered in the blog. I apologise for having no Australian ones. The ones I remember loving as a child are all for older children (guess I’ve forgotten the ones I read when I was two!). Suggestions welcome.
This list for slightly younger ones functioned as a bit of a farewell for us. I’m not allowed to read Peepo any more, The Baby’s Catalogue is a distant memory, Brown Bear sits sadly on the shelf and Maisy Tidies Up only gets rare outings.
Here is our top ten for littler ones, anyway:
Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The gentle rhythms of Peepo are in my opinion wonderful for supporting language development. The pictures are intricate and full of little details for children to explore. It is also one of those book families that you wish you belonged to. Baby A needs to be bought all books by these two authors, they are completely wonderful. The Baby’s Catalogue is another must-have. Baby H wanted to look at the pictures of highchairs all day.
When We Went to The Park by Shirley Hughes
This is the one I’ve chosen to represent Hughes’ nursery collection, which is all great. This one is particularly special to us because it contains ice-cream. Again, Shirley Hughes books should be bought and stashed for later whenever seen (I have found lots in charity shops).
Maisy Tidies Up by Lucy Cousins
Again, a representative tome. I love the Maisy books because they read like documentaries; observing Maisy’s strange life in which she is seemingly a child-mouse but lives alone and is totally self-governing. Something about the way they are written makes me feel like David Attenborough. We can recite this one in its entirety, and it also seems to have made H rather keen on window-cleaning, which can be no bad thing.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrations by Clement Hurd
Will put them to sleep. Enough said.
Anno’s Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno
This comes with an ironclad guarantee that the young reader will blossom into a Nobel-prize winning theoretical physicist (this being one of Brad’s specifications for the Baby A reading list). There is no text, only illustrations that evolve through the book, demonstrating mathematical concepts in real life and showing how much maths youngsters have already unknowingly mastered. Apparently you can teach trigonometry from it, should you be so minded and so able.
You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodheart
I loathe this book. I really, really loathe it, and its sister Just Imagine. There is only a certain number of times you can read any book before the loathing sets in. But H is passionate about it still and I cannot in all honesty leave it off our top ten. It is good value, too, as it is the sort of book that ages with them, and about which you can have increasingly complex discussions (if you haven’t secretly set fire to it after the nine hundred thousandth iteration).
Husherbye by John Burningham
Again, this is here to represent a completely brilliant author, who is again one you should compulsively seek out and acquire at jumble sales. I am really dazzled by the complexity, the darkness, the range of moods and the humour that he can get into books for such young children. And, once your child has gazed upon the poor single mother cat with nowhere for her kittens to sleep, you can guarantee that he or she will not grow into a nasty ruthless Tory.
The Tiger Who Came for Tea by Judith Kerr
Complete classic. Baby A will be humiliated at playdates if she doesn’t read it. I like thinking about what the tiger represented to the author. I also really love the 60s clothes and furniture. And the Dad’s a bit of a good sort, I reckon.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr
The perfect book for learning colours. I never tire of looking at the Purple Cat with the green eyes. A wonderful singsong rhythm too, great for speech development.
Doing the Washing by Sarah Garland
Sarah Garland is brilliant. H at just under Baby A’s age was fundamentally and unswervingly focused on washing-machines, so this was a dream come true for him. The family are lovely and happy and they have great times together. When you look at the washing machine, though, it is either broken or an antique piece that I don’t understand. Its relationship with the bath is unnerving.
H comment: I have chosen his favourite bit of Tiger Who Came for Tea, when they go out to the cafe: ‘What they have Mummy? They have sausages! And chips! And ICE-CREAM!’.