The Very Hungry Caterpillar
By Eric Carle, published by Puffin, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: Every child should experience this wonderful, cumulative story, with its brightly coloured pictures of the tiny but greedy caterpillar that eats his way through one apple, two plums and three pears and much more, before turning into a beautiful butterfly on the very last page.
Why we love it: It is now over 40 years since The Very Hungry Caterpillar was first published. So popular is it that there is a Very Hungry Caterpillar Day celebration every year on 20th March. This is a much-loved classic but still relevant today that’s immensely satisfying for parents and children. Available in hardback, paperback, board book, giant boardbook (with a caterpillar toy big enough to poke its way through the cut out holes in the pages), means there’s a variety of ways to introduce your little one to this most loved of children’s book.
First published: 1969
Each Peach Pear Plum
By Janet and Allan Ahlberg, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Play ‘I spy’ with the characters hiding in the pictures. A poem on each page gives the clue as to what is hiding in the picture opposite. In the happy finale, the whole cast meets up for plum pie in the sun, where the little one on your lap will gleefully find everyone.
Why we love it: There’s no disappointment in an Ahlberg book, ever, with the combination of Janet’s fantastic drawings that fill the page in rich detail, and Allan’s clever rhymes and catchy word plays. The deserved winner of the 1978 Kate Greenaway Award, Each Peach Pear Plum is filled with beloved nursery characters from Mother Hubbard to Baby Bunting. Baby will delight in pointing out the characters sneakily hiding in the pictures.
First published: 1978
Baby Brains: The Smartest Baby in the Whole World
By Simon James, published by Walker, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Say hello to the world's brainiest baby. He reads the paper, mends the car, goes to school to teach the teacher and works as a doctor at the hospital after only two weeks of studying. He's so clever that some scientists ask him to go on their next space mission. And that's when Baby Brains shows that in one way, at least, he's like every other baby in the world: he wants his mummy!
Why we love it: This is a memorable picture book, as bright and engaging as its extraordinary young hero. The companion title, Baby Brains and Robomum (£10.99 in hardback), is just as funny.
First published: 2004
Doing the Animal Bop
By Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner, published by OUP, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Prepare yourself for a riotous animal romp that will have you and your young ones stamping their feet and joining in with gusto. Waddle like a penguin, stomp around like a rhino and wiggle like a monkey with this hugely entertaining, interactive and playful book.
Why we love it: You won’t be sure who enjoys this book more (you or your child) as you both jive, jiggle and jump around to this fantastic book that gets everyone moving. This book is also available with a CD for those who want that extra animal bopping experience.
First published: 2005
By Jan Ormerod, published by Bodley Head, RRP £3.99
What’s the story: Peek-a-boo must be the most popular baby game ever. Each page in this affectionately illustrated book shows a baby hiding its face with various objects. A simple flap to pull down reveals an awake and smiling face popping out to say ‘peek-a-boo’ to your baby, until the last page, when the baby is fast asleep.
Why we love it: This book has lovely clear pictures of babies from different cultures, who are all playing the universal game. It’s a perfect book for those moments when parents are too tired to play the game. This book does the game for them!
First published: 1997
All Join In
By Quentin Blake, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Simple rhymes and Quentin Blake’s prominent drawings convey the various sorts of noises that children love but drive tired adults slightly doolally. Trumpets are blown, drum-kits are bashed and dust bins are kicked to create a rollicking, thumping, stomp of a read. Wear earplugs and prepare for the loud din.
Why we love it: It’s all about noise and interaction which one year olds adore and respond to with great zest. Parents will sympathise with the illustrated adults on various pages looking rather weary and desperate for peace. However, this is such an infectiously joyful book that it would be difficult not to smile however many times its read and however noisy it gets. A quiet house is a boring one, right?
First published: 1990
By David Mckee, published by Andersen Press, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Elmer the elephant happens to be born in a patchwork of bright colours. The other elephants are fascinated by this, and love Elmer for his jokes, smiles and playfulness. But Elmer soon tires of all the attention he gets and decides to rub grey berries over his body in order to look like the others. But his playful nature shines through the disguise and when the rain comes, Elmer is restored to his colourful self. The other elephants are delighted and hatch up a plan to celebrate the day every year with a special Elmer Day where all the elephants decorate themselves in colours and patterns except for Elmer who decorates himself in elephant grey.
Why we love it: There’s a strong message about it being okay to be different, which will perhaps be made known more to children once they get older. For the time being, it’s quite possible that Elmer will be the brightest, most colourful thing your child has ever seen which will make him a favourite character in the nursery and will do so for many years to come.
First published: 1989
By Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson, published by Walker, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Three adorable owl chicks, Sarah, Percy and Bill, huddle together in a tree in the woods waiting for their Owl Mother to come home. They know she’s gone out hunting, but when will she come home? Will she come home? All turns out well in the end as Mum does comes back much to the delight of her three babies as they bounce up and down on the branch.
Why we love it: The subject of a child’s anxiety for its parent to come home is touchingly beautiful and Benson’s exquisite drawings delicately portray that feeling of loneliness. A great bedtime read for babies at this age.
First published: 1992
Mr Gumpy’s Outing
By John Burnigham, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Good-natured Mr Gumpy thinks it’s a good idea to set out on his flat-bottomed boat for a river trip. Apparently, several children and some animals think so too. For all their good intentions, mayhem eventually ensues, the boat sinks and everyone has to swim to shore. Kind-hearted Mr Gumpy forgives them all and marches them away to tea.
Why we love it: A boat that sinks, raucous behaviour and a picnic at the end make this book a delight to read, giving as much pleasure as going out on a real picnic in the countryside. Perfectly paced and sparely told, there are enough clues in the illustrations to enable young listeners to see the catastrophe and relish the outcome.
First published: 1970
Yummy! My Favourite Nursery Stories
By Lucy Cousins, published by Walker, RRP £9.99
What’s the story: In spare bold language and the brilliant vibrant pictures, beloved nursery stories are brought to life in this huge picture book. This is Cousins’ biggest book to date and one which she says gave her the greatest pleasure to make – ‘my paintbrushes were practically dancing on the paper!’
Why we love it: As well as the well known stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, lesser known traditional tales such as Little Red Hen and The Musicians of Bremen are included to pass down to new generations. Cousins has been hailed as the next Dick Bruna (creator of Miffy) and her style of drawing certainly deserves such praise with its quirky and childlike outlook which really appeals to everyone.
First published: 2009