1. Aren’t you Lucky? By Catherine Anholt – A pregnant mother prepares her child for the arrival of a sibling, highlighting all the good things to look forward to (ie not the tantrums or the sharing). Picturebooks are a handy way to explain your bump to the rest of the family. ‘There’s a House Inside My Mummy’ by Giles Andreae is brilliant, too.
  2. I Will Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child – Quirky imagination and wry humour make this a wonderful book for fussy eaters. As always, older brother Charlie must talk his sister into something she doesn’t want to do. Lola won’t eat her tea until Charlie tells her carrots are really orange twiglets from Jupiter and peas are green drops from Greenland.
  3. There Are Cats in This Book By Viviane Schwarz – Meet three friendly and (just slightly) feisty cats in this sweet and simple lift-the-flap book by author and illustrator Viviane Schwarz. Clever and funny, the pages talk directly to the reader as we go on a mild feline adventure before bedtime. Also recommended, ‘There Are NO Cats in This Book’ and ‘Adventures of a Nose’.
  4. So Much! By Trish Cooke – Even very young babies can enjoy the illustrations and lilting narrative of a really good picturebook like this one. As different family members arrive at the door (‘Ding dong!’) there are lots of hugs and kisses because everyone loves the baby SO MUCH. A colourful and comforting read.
  5. Guess How Much I love you by Sam McBratney – At any time of the day, sharing a book is one of the best ways to bring calm to wild family life. No wonder then, that this classic with its simple, reassuring conversation between a parent and child rabbit and its soothing watercolor illustrations has sold over 28 million copies.
  6. Mr. Magnolia by Quentin Blake – This is typical Blake – pages festooned with detailed, colourful sketches and eccentric characters doing charmingly silly things, in rhyme. Mr. Magnolia has only one boot (and a trumpet that goes rooty-toot, and sisters who play the flute… you get the idea). Could a mysterious parcel be what he’s looking for?
  7. Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers – Picturebooks like this is brilliant for exploring concepts like friendship. A penguin turns up on a boy’s doorstep and the pair go on a quest to find its home. Braving the seas, it’s only after the boy delivers the penguin back to the South Pole that he realises he doesn’t want to leave the creature behind.
  8. A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Chris Riddell – Children learn so much from listening to us talk, long before they can express themselves in words. Rosen’s funny, insightful rhymes are a perfect way to nurture a love of poetry and language. Easy to read, and lovely to share thanks to Riddell’s sketched artwork.
  9. Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson – In Martin Waddell’s quiet tale, three baby owls wake up in their nest to find their mother is missing. As it gets dark they grow anxious but when mummy returns there’s a celebration all around. An exploration of love and belonging – useful reading to prepare for the first days at nursery.
  10. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr – Sophie and Mummy are having tea in the kitchen when a tiger arrives and decides to hang around a while, eating them out of house and home. Colourful and silly, this classic has endured thanks to Kerr’s crafted words and every child’s love of stories that start curious and build into something fantastically silly.
  11. Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough – This bright and breezy picturebook stands squarely with the dreamers. Sid the dog is so happy one day that he finds himself flying to school, but his friends don’t believe him. When his dad sees him sad and upset, he lets Sid into a little secret – some dogs really do fly!
  12. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – Allan Ahlberg and his wife met at teacher training college and created many quietly funny storybooks together before her death in 1994. The classics continue to enchant, including this detailed little book throughout which young readers are encouraged to find fairy tale and nursery characters on each page.
  13. Two Frogs by Chris Wormell – Two frogs sit on a pond, one of them has a stick which he intends to use to protect himself from a dog we haven’t seen yet. A funny picturebook fable about two hapless amphibians. Also recommended, Wormell’s ‘Mice, Morals and Monkey Business’ – illustrated with stunning lino block print pictures.
  14. The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg – Ahlberg is a master of playful, smart stories for picturebook and storybook readers and this adventure is one of his more recent gems. When a boy’s teatime sausage makes an escape from his plate, followed by the veg, the cutlery and even the table, a comical chase ensues, with a brilliant punchline.
  15. Dogger by Shirley Hughes – Hughes’ works possess a timeless charm, full of reassuring reflections on the everyday excitements of young family life. Dave is heartbroken when he loses Dogger, but when the beloved cuddly toy turns up for sale at the school fair it looks like a happy ending – until someone else buys him!
  16. We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury – A family goes searching for a bear in this poetic little adventure. Share the book, enjoying Oxenbury’s playful drawings, then act it out – wading through grass, splashing in a river, squelching over mud and struggling through a snowstorm – before reversing the journey at speed in retreat from the bear you’ve found!
  17. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – A baby caterpillar eats his way through lots of different foods and gives himself a tummy ache. Then he spins a cocoon and rests, eventually emerging as a stunning butterfly. Brilliant for first counting and learning days of the week, this 30-million-selling classic started life as a doodle when Carle was playing with his hole-punch.
  18. Peepo! By Janet and Allan Ahlberg – As young parents, author Allan and (the late) illustrator Janet Ahlberg created a beautiful evocation of the small world surrounding a baby –  the view from the cot of mum and dad’s bedroom, the washing in front of a fireside and a loving family home. Each scene is first glimpsed through a little hole as we see this world through the child’s eyes: ‘Here’s a little baby. One, two, three…’ Nostalgic yet timelessly lovely. Can also be read to younger children.