My adult reading list is a pitiable thing because I spend most of my spare time reading with my children. So I thought I’d include my children’s book list as well (with some personal guesswork on the approx. age ranges). Here’s what I actually read:
THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD by Howard Pyle. Age 12ish? Prate and quoth — I couldn’t love this more. God knows if the kid understands a word. (The linked version is a really lovely hardback.)
Listed alphabetically within three age groups. And numbered. (Happy inner-geek.)
- THE RED ABBEY CHRONICLES: MARESI by Maria Turtschaninoff. Age: YA / sent as 11+. (ARC.) Another female MC (just read Baker’s Magic) — a young girl in an island abbey, in a utopian Maiden-Mother-Crone pagan abbey full of sisters where poor or abused girls can recuperate and flourish in a place of peaceful learning, earthy harvests, and moon goddess worship. The back story’s a bit gruesome (dead little girls) and the raiding men take us into rape, child abuse (one line), and knife attacks. Recommend parental screening for younger readers. ‘A token “nice man” would have been nice,’ said my son, ‘for balance,’ and, ‘The grim bits were too grim.’ Well, weren’t they just, but then again The Hunger Games film is rated a 12. Overall: gripping but imbalanced.
- BAKER’S MAGIC by Diane Zahler. Age 9-12. (ARC.) Yes! Love it when a review book turns out to be really, really brilliant — not least because it makes the review so much easier to write, although this one was my child reviewing for Lovereading4kids. Still though, saved watching him sweat. The story’s about Bee, an orphan girl who is adopted by a baker and taught to bake magical buns that contain moods, which come in very handy in fighting the local evil mage. There are pirates, princesses, long lost fathers, and moss maidens. Plus there’s a bun recipe, and the buns are GOOD. All the win: kid’s happy, I’m happy, and we all have buns. Due out Feb 2016 — recommend!
- GREAT LIES TO TELL SMALL KIDS by Andy Riley. Kinda funny — makes for a smiley five minutes (very short book).
- GRANDPA’S ESCAPE by David Walliams. Raj is back! He’s BACK! That totally rocks, I was saddened to read the letter in the back of Awful Auntie (Raj was left out of a book, not acceptable). Yeah, anyway, another bouncing rollick from Mr Walliams; if you’ve read the others, you’ll know what to expect*, and if you haven’t, do. (*I should add reviews of the others to last year’s pile, right? M’kay, pend, pend.)
- SKELLIG by David Almond. Age 9+ including, IMO, adults. Oh my eyes, how did I not read this at school? Or at any point during my childhood, or the 40 years leading up to now? So anyway, now, by way of an epiphany, I can see the little Skellig-sized hole running through the last 40 years of my life. This is a story of a loving family’s hard time, and a little boy clinging to whatever can help him through. (Thanks to @edgybooks for the signed, cloth-bound copies!) Read it, do.
- SPELLCHASERS: THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CURSES by Lari Don. Age 9+. Excellent, light, fantasy adventure, with the subtext of teamwork over competition. Much enjoyed by us. Am galloping so this is more of a heads up than proper review but YES, this one is good, buy it, read it, give it to friends. *Stars.*
- WAR HORSE by Michael Morpurgo. Age 10+. Ooooh yeah… just started this one.
- WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams. Age: 9+. (Classic.) About the size of a large house-brick and full of rabbits, wild, tame, alive and dead. Epic adventure with brilliant characters. Loving every minute.
- BIG BO PEEP by Jonathan Allen. I LOVE Big Bo Peep. Seriously, she rocks. Yuh huh. [I tie wolves into knots.]
- CAPTAIN PUGWASH by John Ryan. Age 3-6. Ha ha ha ha ha, Mummy was born in the seventies. Nuff said. I enjoyed it, and the kid said, ‘Arrrrrhh!’
- CHESTER THE CRAB and THE HUNGRY FROG (wiggly eyes books) by Peter Tovey. Age 2-4. Gift from someone. You have to poke your fingers into these sock-like eye things that protrude through holes in the book, and read the stories as you wiggle. Your child might adore these books and you might have to read them a hundred times — basically a test of how much you love your child. Good luck.
- DOGGER by Shirley Hughes. Age 3+. Very Seventies, very sweet. A little boy loses his toy, they find it, someone else has it, his sister is kind, and wey hey — with very Seventies illustrations. This is an opportunity for a sweet book-hug with a tiny child — nothing ironic, nothing funny, just nice. Yes.
- ELMER AND THE LOST TEDDY by David McKee. Well, when Middlest went to nursery, he borrowed the Elmer hide and seek book every day until I bought him a copy just to let the other children have a read. Before too long / a few hours later, we had a collection, and this is one of them. Elmer — a sweet little rainbow-coloured elephant, what’s not to love? And he has a cousin called Wilbur! Fab to read, and fab for a 4y/o learning to read. And just fab. Fab.
- FAT CAT by James Sage & Russell Ayto. Age 3-5. So, three farmers with mice find different ways of protecting their crops. Nothing new, but lots of cute pics and an OK story. Pack in some milk, a blanket and a hug and you’ve got a nice bedtime.
- MANGO AND BAMBANG: THE NOT-A-PIG by Polly Faber & Claire Vulliamy. Age 4+. Read this last year with then-8y/o and it was a teensy bit young, but sweet enough to enjoy together, and now reading it with a 4y/o, who’s sounding out the words and oh my, are we going to be a while — but if I rattle the paragraphs off in between, it’s again sweet enough to enjoy. Gorgeous set of short stories about a little girl called Mango and her Not-a-Pig. Strongly recommend for a 6y/o. (Plus it’s purple and retro, and a pretty, pretty hardback addition to a bookshelf.)
- MY MOMMY by Susan Paradis. Age 2-6. A family hand-me-down; this is a real mother-daughter celebration but small boys have no problem relating to it as mother-child. Touchy-feely American and there’s a stork hidden on every page. Old-fashioned illustration and prose — charming and well-meaning. A quick, fun, feel-good read and family favourite. (And retailing at £200 on Amazon? No way! But we won’t sell Granny’s book.)
- MOVING MOLLY by Shirley Hughes. Age 3-6. Got 5 Hughes books in a pack (because I’d heard of Dogger) and this was one. Another sweet little seventies feel-good book with no humour or irony but still nice. Littlest liked it. Very relaxing.
- OINK by David Wojtowycz. Age 0-4. This is a shit book EXCEPT it only has 16 words in it, and some cute animals, which makes it The Ideal Book for those nights when your kid says, ‘Can we read a book, please?’ and your body says, ‘No, no we bleddy can’t, because thanks to your horrible sleeping/waking habits over the last two years, Mummy/Daddy is about to die of exhaustion.’ It’s actually quicker to read this book than to say no. The text goes “Who says OINK OINK?” (MOO MOO / QUACK QUACK / NEIGH NEIGH) and then bingo, you’ve won your reading halo and Mini-me can go to sleep. Phew. There are also little ribbons with animals attached that can slot into the right place. It’s very sweet when the little ones manage to do it, they do that baby-proud smile, which is a nice little beacon glow through the fug of parenting exhaustion.
- NIPPER THE NOISY PUPPY by Jenny Dale. Age 6-ish? Little boy and dog story — a read-aloud to my littlest and the dog. Just started… more in a bit.
- PADDINGTON BEAR (Suitcase — 8-book set) by Michael Bond, illustrated by RW Alley. Age: 3-6. (Classic, gift.) This is a cute set of books for any child just learning to read, because the text is just a little more advanced than the books coming home from school but still within reach — so ideal for a “you read a bit / I read a bit” combo. The stories are a bit old fashioned and rely partially on children being interested in things like Hampton Court, and knowing why four-poster beds have rope rails around (to keep tourists off), but hey, it’s a cuddly bear on a day trip, the kids seem to like it anyway. Plus if you were brought up in the 1970s you’ll end up feeling five again. Contains: Paddington and the Busy Day, Paddington and the Marmalade Maze, Paddington and the Tutti Frutti Rainbow, Paddington at the Fair, Paddington at the Palace, Paddington at the Zoo, Paddington Minds the House, and Paddington the Artist.
- SECRET SEAHORSE by Stella Blackstone. Age: 1-4. Sweet little rhyming board book that someone gave one of our babies. Great for 1-2 year-olds who find the seahorses hiding on each page, and OK for the 4y/o who wants to read a book himself.
- TATTYBOGLE by Sandra Ann Horn. Age 3-6. This goes up with The Velveteen Rabbit as one of those books for very young children that really lifts the spirits and pulls at the heartstrings and LOVE love love. OK, why? Well, it’s about nature (yey) and the cycle of life, but told in one of the most uplifting and warm voices I’ve seen in young children’s literature. It doesn’t try to be funny, it just revels in the beauty of the natural world and sets a tone of oneness and hope for small children as they curl up before sleep. Plus there’s a wolfwind, which is freakin’ cool, and Tattybogle has an ace turn of understatement which is really funny when… well, OK, no spoilers. Poor old Tattybogle, love him. It’s hard to get copies of this book now, but Amazon sometimes come up with them. It’s worth the hunt — I’ve gone out of my way to track down used copies for friends, it’s one I want to share.
- TEN TINY TADPOLES by Debbie Tarbett. Age 3-6. Counting book — ten tiny tadpoles start a journey and one by one they drop off to play with newts or fish etc (which, oddly, don’t eat them?) and at the end are reunited as baby frogs. All the usual contrived rhymes, fairly nice illustrations, and some super-cute little plastic tadpoles which poke through holes in the pages. Nothing exceptional, but very nice.
- THE GAK’S GUESTS by Lisa Heather Schofield. Age 4-7. Gross, and hence brilliant: parasites fight for territory on the back of a silky, fluffy gak. Reminiscent of the nits and worms you get from hanging out with kids. Just me? Oh. I’ve said too much.
- THE TATTYBOGLE TREE by Sandra Ann Horn Age 3-6. — Oh, oh, ohhhh! There’s a sequel to Tattybogle! OK, in all brutal honesty, I preferred Tattybogle to the sequel but I don’t care because it’s an excuse to read both. 9y/o joined right on in (with some excitement) because he too loves Tattybogle, and youngest was excited to see mice in the tree and it was GOOD. As ruthless as Tattybogle, funnier, with a rather abrupt ending — but still on the nail and full of nature and just YES.
- THE TROUBLE WITH JACK by Shirley Hughes. Age 3+. Came free with DOGGER and so we read it. Um, yeah, a little girl has a messy little brother, let’s pull girly faces about messy boys. He makes a mess, they tidy up, um, yey? Not my scene but OK.
- THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams. Age 4+. Kleenex. Little guy all tucked up with his toy rabbit under his chin. First published in 1922, it tells of a little boy with scarlet fever, something most of us know nothing about, and how they burned bedding and toys after a bout, and then there are fluffy bunnies. It’s about childhood magic, the borders between reality and imagination, and love and friendship; the kind of story that makes little children wriggle and snuggle under the bedsheets, and smile as they drift off to sleep. [Tears streaming. I am pathetic, the book is great.]
- THE VERY FUNNY FROG by Jack Tickle. Age 2-4. You know the score — flutter flutter, slurp slurp, munch crunch — a cutesy, formulaic, rhyming, peekaboo-pop-up for the very young. Nice for multi-toddler book-hugs; also a sweet learn-to-read option.
- WE ARE NOT FROGS by Michael Morpurgo, illus Sam Usher. Age 3-5. Lovely new Morpurgo book with some enchanting Usher illustrations, published Feb ’16 so get it while it’s hot. Do you know the difference between toads and frogs? You do now. Also contains a cute dog and a story of a great escape. Published by Barrington Stoke with dyslexia-friendly font on cream background, too, so accessible to more children. All good.
- MY LITTLE BOOK OF BIG FREEDOMS by Chris Riddell, working with Amnesty. Age: any? Read in three sittings: each child at their own level. An important message about our rights to live, speak, and feel safe — and of course beautifully illustrated. One of those books to read through once, then let them pick up again in their own time.
- LITTLE RABBIT FOO FOO by Michael Rosen. Age: any, frankly. LITTLE RABBIT FOO FOO, I DON’T LIKE YOUR ATTITUDE. Top banana. Best. All the stars.
I read hundreds of children’s books last year, but these are the ones I mentioned on the blog. Momo in particular was an absolute joy.
WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG by AA Milne & EH Shepard. Age 3+. This is one of my favourite childhood memories, and it’s a wonderful read for tiny children in bed as the poems can be read piecemeal. Fave as ever: Disobedience. JJMMWGDuP.
THE NEVERENDING STORY by Michael Ende. Age 9+. So, so much bigger than the film.
MOMO by Michael Ende. Age 9+. A time-slowingly good book that took me back to childhood. Momo is a homeless girl whose love of her friends, and willingness to listen and experience, challenge the modern day (1970s) time thieves. Mindfulness, before it was a thing.
GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm — specifically The Goose Girl. This story took me apart as a child, and still does. Free on Kindle.
And from memory, here are a few of the books that I read with my youngest (alphabetical by title):
- BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson, illustrator Jane Chapman. Age 3-5. Will the bear wake up as other animals join him in his cave? A bit clunky but OK.
- BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? by Eric Carle. Age 2-3. Great repetitive, simple rhyming ditty that takes us through various coloured animals. Lovely for a child just starting to read — and simple, satisfying cadence. Fave.
- CHARLIE CHICK by Nick Denchfield (auth) and Ant Parker (illus). Age 1-3. Very funny pop-up, get the BIG book because the pop-up beak is MASSIVE and scares little children to bed perfectly. (They love it, really.)
- DEAR ZOO by Rod Campbell. Age 1-3, harmless pop up book, very brief. Simples. Will appeal when you want a quick read and the children like the flaps.
- EACH PEACH PEAR PLUM by the Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Age: 1-4. Rhyming snippets from a selection of fairy tales all put into a sweet little segue story — and the best, detailed, charming illustrations. The rhymes give a natural cadence, and you can spend hours looking at the tiny beasts in the picture backgrounds. ‘I loved that book!’ said my 9y/o, grabbing it to read to his brother. The kind of book you buy several copies of, in case you ever lose one, and then give away lots to friends having their first baby because it’s all just so lovely. All the stars.
- GIRAFFES CAN’T DANCE by Giles Andreae (auth) and Guy Parker-Rees (illus). Age 2-4. My child LOVED this book, and it is a sweet thing with nice prose, rich, detailed illustrations and the heart-warming message that we all have our own gifts as individuals. Makes a nice gift.
- GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown. Age 1-4. Awwwwwww. Hypnotic, how to put your child into a trance — the pictures are exquisite — a bedroom gradually getting darker, kittens playing, a tiny mouse scampering about, a red balloon, and goodnight, Moon… I LOVE this book, proper love, it almost sends me to sleep. Again, bought several copies. All the stars.
- HUG! by Jez Alborough. Age 1-4. Yeah, OK, a chimp loses his mother and sees the other animals hugging, and they don’t eat each other, how anthropomorphic is that? Sweet pictures, no words — you have to make up the story, so a storytelling prompt rather than reading, which I like.
- IF YOU SEE A TIGER by Richard Powell. Age 1-2. Super short, lift-the-flap board book with animal noises, fine.
- INCY WINCY SPIDER by Keith Chapman. Age 2-4. Well, ours came with a toy, so you know, A TOY. If you read out the slightly tortured rhymes to the tune of Incy Wincy Spider, it sort of works and you can bounce along and give a kid a good time — we read this loads and it was fun.
- MANGO AND BAMBANG: THE NOT-A-PIG by Polly Faber. Age 6-8. Lovely story about the city adventures of a little girl called Mango and Bambang, her pet not-a-pig.
- MY FRIEND BEAR by Jez Alborough. Age: 2-5. Well, there’s Teddy, Eddy, Freddy and a bear, and at least one of them is silly — a regular read.
- ONE MOOSE AND TWENTY MICE by Stella Blackstone (auth) and Clare Beaton (illus). Age 0-3. Cute counting board book, verrrry sweet.
- OPEN VERY CAREFULLY by Nick Bromley (Booktrust). Age 3-6. Madcap retelling of fairy tale (a bit like The Stinky Cheese Man, but younger), with a satisfying great hole in the back of the book. Fun.
- SOMEONE BIGGER by Jonathan Emmett and Adrian Reynolds. Age 4-6. This is crazy, no way could that many people float away on a kite, but it speaks to the parent who doesn’t always keep up with their growing child, and that would be me. Fun and sweet.
- TATTYBOGLE by Sandra Ann Horn. Age 3+. One of my favourite stories ever, and another one that’s hard to get hold of but they do pop up on Ebay, where I grab them for gifts. Worth it — the story of a scarecrow facing the elements… I’m not going to put a spoiler here. This book speaks to my soul; a simple tribute to life, nature, and the elements. Love.
- THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA by Judith Kerr. A tiger comes to tea and eats a lot, then leaves – selfish and weird. The family eat at a café instead. I know, I’m the only one who doesn’t like it. I don’t even dislike it, particularly. Sorry. Everyone else loves it. It’s not you, it’s me.
- THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY by Pam Adams. Age 1-4. Great little board book with holes in so your little darlings can really see the old lady’s stomach content before she dies. Ha haaa, there’s her stomach, and now she’s DEAD. Read and feel the glee.
- WHERE IS THE CAKE by The Tjong-Khing. Age 3+. It’s hard to get the original now but I think there’s a sequel. Basically, this is a beautifully illustrated book — retro/slightly art deco — about some rats who steal a cake, but there are no words so you have to create the story. There are numerous plots — the pig family, the rabbits, the ducks, all follow their own journey through the pages. Pick your MC and have a storytelling ball.
- WHERE’S SPOT by Eric Hill. Age 1-3. Fab little animal pop-up book, where’s Spot gone? Kids love this. Ours is mostly Sellotape now, but the flaps have survived and the animals are all there. Satisfying.
- WHY ELEPHANT HAS A TRUNK (Tinga Tinga Tales). Age 2-4. The gorgeous Tinga colours! A sweet little fable on how the elephant’s nose was stretched into a trunk.
- WINNIE THE POOH (collection) by AA Milne. Age: any. I bow. This is seriously gorgeous, an essential classic, but please, please make sure you get the AA Milne original stories and not some hideous Disney mash-up or simplified, boiled down version. The collection is worth the effort — contains WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG, WINNIE THE POOH, THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER, and NOW WE ARE SIX. I’ve linked to the collection nearest to the one we have, but we have the hardback set.
And last but not least, we really enjoyed a LOT of Julia Donaldson books, pitched probably at age 3-6y, which I’ll try and review soon. But for now, an incomplete list:
- THE GRUFFALO by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. How a mouse avoids being eaten by outwitting all the predators — landmark children’s book, you kind of have to read this, and THE GRUFFALO’S CHILD. OK, you don’t have to, but it’s a great rhyming romp through the forest and the repetitions mean that children start reading it with you very easily and readily. Beautiful illustrations by Scheffler (for all the books).
- THE GRUFFALO’S CHILD by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. The Gruffalo’s child heads into the forest to see if her father’s tales about the big, bad mouse are true. Almost preferred this to The Gruffalo — really related to the baby “not being scared” (not at all). Good book, and now Netflix does a neat animation to match, all the win.
- ROOM ON THE BROOM. Age 3-6. ‘DOWWWWWWWWWN!’ cried the witch. Top book for onomatopoeia: shriek away, kiddos. Great story about teamwork, and there’s a dragon.
- CHARLIE COOK’S FAVOURITE BOOK by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. This is a bit of a favourite, just because the story progresses from one book to another, so a bit of a meta feel which is fun for kids who read a lot of books. And, you know, has a headless ghost and a convict and lots of others. Stories within stories. I gave away my copy by accident before youngest had read it, so bought another. That kind of a book.
- A SQUASH AND A SQUEEZE by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. This old lady’s about to have a change in perspective on how big her house is, when she tries to fit in the farmyard animals. For some reason, this is one of my favourites — probably because it’s what my house started to look like when we had kids. The kids, meanwhile, all love it.
- THE SMARTEST GIANT IN TOWN by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. Big old fave, a story about what’s really important — this is a NICE giant, he’s the absolute sweetest. So, do you think he will stay smart? Does it matter?
- MONKEY PUZZLE by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. Will the baby monkey be able to find his mum? rhyming puzzles — how will he describe his mum in a way that will let others find her? Sweet.
- STICK MAN by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. Awwww! Yes. LOVELY. Will warm the cockles.
- TABBY MCTAT by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. So this one, a busker and his cat get separated by an accident — will they meet again? Very sweet, and a song to boot.
- THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. Sea snail goes around the world on a whale, and ends up saving his friend. Friendship and dreams — good.
- SUPERWORM by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. You know, this one didn’t grab me as much as some of the others, but hey. Probably just me.
- TIDDLER by Julia Donaldson (auth) and Axel Scheffler (illus). Age 3-6. Tiddler, the little fish, is late for school — but today, instead of all his usual excuses, he has a real reason. Love Tiddler’s journey and as usual, lots of thyming repetition so the kids join in. Lovely.
And there were probably a few more…