Ten unmissable picture books

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I love children’s picture books. Some of the most delicious artwork and the most delightful, moving and pitch-perfect writing is to be found within their enticing, large format covers. The best examples of the  genre work on many levels in pretty much the same way as classic films like Toy Story and ET. They appeal to adults and children alike, reinforcing the pleasure and appeal of a bedtime read. Some have layers of meaning and significance which give them longevity and universal appeal.  Others tackle subjects that we adults find hard to handle. Some are just funny or lovely to look at. I find them a pleasure to own and to revisit, even without the excuse of children or grandchildren.

Here is my personal top ten list, in no particular order:

‘Beegu’ by Alexis Duncan (Red Fox)

This powerful little book , like most on my list, works on many levels. It’s about being lost, being different, finding friends, adventure, missing loved ones, dealing with uncertainty, unkindness and confusion.  

Penguin’ by Polly Dunbar (Walker Books)

Funny! And it tackles anger, frustration, imagination and love. Beautifully done.  An absolute romp.

‘Get Happy’ by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Caroline Uff, (Scholastic).

This charming book has a wonderfully uplifting message conveyed in a really fun way. We could all do with heeding Malachy’s advice advice to ‘Worry less…wonder more!’

‘Lazy Cat’ by Julia Woolf. (Templar)
Oh my, Lazy Cat is a spoiled boy! This is a really entertaining exploration of friendship, selfishness and caring about others. ‘Duck and Penguin are NOT friends’, by the  same author, is also great fun.

Now for an absolute classic: ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein. (Particular Books)

This makes me cry every time. Maybe read it to yourself before being brave enough to read it with your kids/grandkids. What a book. It has never been more timely. Growing up, being self-centred, taking nature for granted, unconditional love? It’s got it all. Hankies. Loads of them.

‘Halibut Jackson’ by David Lucas (Andersen Press)

This is wonderfully quirky. Halibut Jackson is incredibly shy, but then he finds his metier and his life changes forever. Great message for any shrinking violets.  Lots to look at and it’s kinda bonkers.

‘Not Now, Bernard’ by David McKee (Andersen Press)

Let’s be frank. This is a bit scary and more than a little disturbing. Busy, preoccupied parents will identify, but also cringe. Do I do that? It’s darkly hilarious, though. One for the grown ups! You’ll know ‘Elmer’, I’m sure -David’s eternal classic on the joys of being different.

‘The Elephant and the Bad Baby’ by Elfrida Vipont, illustrated by Raymond Briggs (Puffin Picture Books)

My son used to love the naughty baby and jpined in with the ‘rumpeta-trumpeta’ with glee. One for the littlies.

‘Mouse and Bear’ by Kev Payne (Andonart)

This is about as topical as it gets. It was written just recenty by one the #ExcludedUK’s members in response to the feelings of rejection, powerlessness and hurt at being deemed not worthy of government’s Covid-19 support. It can be read as a lovely, simple tale of friendship and standing up to false friends and bullies. I love the illustrations.

‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan (Hodder and Stoughton)

Last but not least, a real biggie. This is absolutely for all but the youngest age groups and once you own it, you will never ever want to be without it.  It’s a sort of graphic novel. No words but, wow, what powerful pictures! If this does not engender empathy with immigrants and refugees, nothing will. It’s a game-changer.

Enjoy! Oh, and please, if you can, support your local bookshop!