- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss – There are unwanted guests and then there are top-hatted, fast-talking cats who turn your house upside down while your mum is out… Two children find themselves at the centre of a magical, tongue-twisting mess when a cocky moggy turns up at the door. Can he help undo the cartoon chaos he causes before mum returns? Clever and funny – a wonderful literary romp that should inspire a lifetime love of books.
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – Dressed in his wolf costume, naughty little Max behaves like a wild animal around the house and is sent to his room in disgrace. There he suddenly finds his surroundings magically transformed into a strange new world. He sails to an island and becomes the king of the beastly Wild Things. But eventually, after lots of untamed fun, Max decides there’s no place like home and returns to his family. An American classic that salutes creativity and individuality.
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler – Donaldson’s genius for inventive stories and deft rhymes is matched perfectly by Scheffler’s playful drawings in this award-winning modern classic. A little mouse outsmarts the hungry forests’ predators, but can he talk his way out of being eaten by the knobbliest monster of them all? Didn’t you know? There’s no such thing as a… oh!
- Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne – The simplicity of life in and around Hundred Acre Wood is evocatively expressed in Milne’s poetic style, as if these were a child’s toys acting out imaginary adventures in the nursery. The silly scrapes that Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and friends get into, continue to charm thanks to the dry humour in the telling.
- That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell, illustrated by Neal Layton – Emily loves her cuddly rabbit, Stanley. However, when the Queen decides she wants Stanley, she sends increasingly generous offers to swap him for shiny new toys. Emily, however, flatly refuses. When the Queen finally steals him, what will Emily do to get him back?
- The Tunnel by Anthony Browne – Browne’s softly illustrated and reassuringly lilting narratives certainly suit small children, but his books’ life themes are relevant to all. Here, a young girl must follow her strong-headed brother down a dark tunnel, but when she emerges into a dark forest, she finds that Jack has been turned to stone…
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren – Magical reading for any child with a restless spirit and a creative imagination. Nine-year-old Pippi lives all by herself with a horse, a monkey and a suitcase of gold coins. Freedom! As a result, she confounds the village grown-ups and spends her days on wild and wacky adventures.
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – Potter’s 100-year-old stories are far from outdated. Peter sneaks into Mr McGregor’s garden and gets into a lot of trouble before making his escape back to the safety of home. Potter’s conversational tone flows naturally making this ideal reading for a calm bedtime.
- The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith – Inspired by William Morris and William Blake, this acclaimed work is an eloquent and imaginative story about Fox and his friend Star, who each night guides Fox’s path through the woods. But one night, Star is not there and Fox must venture into the world alone and make new friends.
- The Conquerors by David McKee – The author of the Mr Benn series has a talent for playful picture books that concisely express something of the quirks and contradictions of the human condition. Here, a powerful General is furious when his invading troops meet no resistance in the last unconquered territory and instead befriend its people.
- Mr. Big by Ed Vere – Ed Vere’s vibrant picturebook explores themes of acceptance and tolerance. Mr Big is strong and tough, but also a bit of a softy. However, everyone is too scared to come near him to discover this, so how can he show them his nice side?
- The Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Dog by Jeremy Strong – Trevor’s dog, Streaker, is speedy, adoring yet uncontrollable, and the pressure is on to get him trained before Trevor gets in trouble. Mishaps abound as the book reveals Strong as a master of quirky stories for young readers. Also recommended, the ‘My Brother’s Famous Bottom’ series. As silly as it sounds.
- The Princess and the Wizard by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks – When the nasty wizard isn’t invited to Princess Eliza’s party he gatecrashes it and decides to turn everyone in the kingdom to stone and to enslave Eliza. Can her fairy godmother’s magic and Eliza’s smart thinking save her? Find out in a series of rhyming challenges. Funny, smart female-role-model stuff.
- Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book by Lauren Child – While reading bedtime stories, Herb accidentally falls into a book and finds himself in a perilous adventure where he encounters all the characters from classic fairy tales. Child’s comedy romp confounds the expectations of young readers to hilarious effect.
- Camille and the Sunflowers by Laurence Anholt – Author and illustrator Laurence Anholt created a series of picturebooks called Anholt’s Artists, all about the lives and works of great painters, portrayed through fictional tales that children can relate to. ‘Camille and the Sunflowers’ celebrates Vincent Van Gogh’s genius with compassion and insight.
- The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child – Child has such a dry sense of humour and a knack for talking intelligently to young readers. Plus of course, her mix of collage and illustration is colourful, funky and stylish. As a result, this post-modern retelling of a classic fairytale is essential reading for girls and boys who prize quirkiness over convention.
- The Twits by Roald Dahl – Dahl paints a joyously grisly portrait of a married couple who play nasty tricks on each other, enslave monkeys and trap birds for pies by gluing tree branches. Gruesome, yes, but perfectly pitched at under-eights with a robust sense of humour. And of course, The Twits get their just desserts in the end.
- The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake – Although it’s one of his stories for younger readers, Dahl doesn’t pull any punches – this Crocodile is in search of a juicy child or two to EAT! But fear not, as the toothy terror goes about his carnivorous mission, there’s a comic twist to the tale. Silly and smart.
- Here Comes Charlie Moon by Shirley Hughes – Who wouldn’t love an auntie who runs a joke shop at the seaside? Certainly not Charlie, even if he has to suffer his smarty-pants cousin. However, when Charlie finds himself caught up in a missing jewellery mystery, his cousin might prove to be a useful ally.
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