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favourite picturebooks

Helen is still going back and rereading them by herself, but we're slowly moving out of picturebook age and I can't see us buying many more. So now seems like a good time to offer up a list of our favourites. These are some of the ones we loved, and which we read and reread and will probably keep. They are in no particular order below, but grouped to make my commentary easier. Most of them are classics, but there are a few lesser known books and authors in there. (I will cover non-fiction in a separate post.)


Diana Hendry's The Very Noisy Night (1998) is a modern classic. Alison Lester is an Australian writer/illustrator who is not so well known in the UK. It was hard to know which of her books to include here: Magic Beach, My Farm, and Alison Lester's ABC were also really popular, but we must have read When Frank Was Four twenty or thirty times.

Oliver Jeffer's four little books had a long run, from age two to when they read The Way Back Home in Year 1. The Great Race was an acquisition from Barefoot Books before their Summertown shop closed down. We discovered Jane Hissey's Old Bear stories individually, through pre-school; later the more complex stories and poems in Old Bear's Bedtime Stories were one of the things Helen learned to read on.

Judith Kerr's classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea (1968) needs no introduction. The other books are both poems, simple but memorable. We had other Polly Dunbar books, notably the Tilly books Doodle Bites and Goodnight Tiptoe, which Helen once insisted on having read every night for a month, and other Alison Jay books, including the wordless Out of the Blue and Picture This.

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Three translated books. Christine Nöstlinger's Good Dragon, Bad Dragon (2012, translated from the German) was a chance discovery in the Last Bookshop. It is a charming story about a boy who has two dragons - to an adult reader clearly externalised aspects of his own personality - who (along with a sympathetic mother) help him get through the struggles of daily life. Shinsuke Yoshitake's It Might be an Apple, fairly ubiquitous but first seen in the Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, is a zany Japanese cartoon. The two sequels, Can I Build Another Me? and What Happens Next? are also great. And Tove Jansson's The Book of Moomin, Mymble and Little My (given to us by friends) stands in here for all the Moomin books: we have the other two picture books, Who Will Comfort Toffle? and The Dangerous Journey, and all the novels, as well as two of the (not written by Jansson) toddler books (Moomin and the Moonlight Adventure and Lift-the-flap Hide and Seek).

These three are classics. Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline stories (first book 1939) are romps set in a boarding school in Paris. Bear protagonist notwithstanding, Michael Bond's Paddington books depict upper middle-class life in London in the 1960s (the Treasury has six of the adaptations for children, with illustrations by R.W. Alley). And Shirley Hughes' Alfie books are a realistic account of a family further down the social scale, in the 1970s.

Glenda Millard's Isabella's Garden is a charming poem about the progression of seasons in a garden. Helen picked out Pamela Noensie's Tari: the Little Balinese Dancer at the airport in Bali on the way home and it proved to be one of her better selections: sufficiently impressive that it got its own review. And Ghosts in the House came from an online recommendation.

These are all high profile books. Andrea Beaty's Iggy Peck, Architect has two sequels (good, but not as good as Iggy Peck). Robert Munsch's The Paper Bag Princess and Quentin Blake's Mrs Armitage on Wheels were recommendations by friends; both authors are quite prolific.

Some older American classics: Don Freeman's Corduroy dates to 1968, Blueberries for Sal to 1948, and The Little Woman Wanted Noise to 1943.

And finally some of our boardbooks. Julia Donaldson's Toddle Waddle and My First Gruffalo Little Library were among the few books that actually got chewed. We also loved Monkey Puzzle, The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, among many others. Other notable boardbooks included Goodnight Moon, Each Peach Pear Plum, and Rosie's Walk. (The First 100 Words and Snowy Animals books, the latter from the council library when they were culling, are quite generic and just here for our memories.)

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