By Roger Hargreaves, published by Egmont, RRP £2.50 each
What’s the story: The series features characters with names such as Mr Tickle and Mr Happy who all have personalities based on their names. Each book follows the character who gets up to all kinds of comical capers and catastrophes because of their single dominant personality. Mr Tickle was the first book in the series. Inspired by his son who asked what a tickle looked like, Hargreaves responded by drawing a round orange figure with long bendy arms.
Why we love it: It’s hard for any child to not have at least one book of the 47 to choose from if not the whole library. A Little Miss series is also available (which began in 1981) and introduced Little Miss Sunshine and Little Miss Twins.
First published: 1971 (Mr Tickle)
Thomas the Tank Engine
By Rev, W. Awdry, published by Egmont, RRP £4.99 each
What’s the story: Thomas is a cheeky little tank engine who has many adventures with his engine friends, Gordon, Edward, Henry and James in this popular series. Each short story (there are 41 to collect) ends on a moral note where boastful little engines finally get their comeuppance and modest heroics are rewarded.
Why we love it: The books are small in size and in hardback form, making it easy for a young baby to hold. The stories have a regular pattern in all the books that’s comforting and appealing to the young mind. Yes, there are gender stereotypes along with a nostalgia for an idealistic England in the illustrations, but you can’t help but love these stories. Primarily, the books are aimed at boys, but little girls will love them too.
First published: 1946
Where does Maisy Live?
By Lucy Cousins, published by Walker, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: Maisy, a jovial mouse in a stripy top, dungarees and red boots disappears after the first page leaving readers with the task of lifting up various flaps of hen houses, pig pens and stables to determine where she lives. All the places are occupied with no Maisy to be seen. On the last page there’s a house with a green door when once lifted reveals a smiling Maisy.
Why we love it: Inventive, witty and always right on a child’s wavelength, Cousins’ has created a modern family favourite character. Many books about Maisy the Mouse are available including Maisy at the Farm (£7.00), Maisy Goes to Playschool (£7.99) and Maisy Goes on Holiday (£4.99).
First published: 2000
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
By Mo Willems, published by Walker, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: When a bus driver takes a break from his normal route, he just has one rule for all of us – ‘Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!’ But lo and behold the pigeon pops up and tries every trick to get in the driving seat.
Why we love it: This book is perfect for interaction. The reader can pretend to be the bus driver and the pigeon while the child can shout out ‘no!’ to the pigeon’s unruly requests. There’s so much humour in this book that adults will never tire of reading it. Willems’ drawings are meant to cause giggles. A smirk will escape every time you look at the pigeon’s pleading beady eye.
First published: 2004
The Pirate Cruncher
By Jonny Duddle, published by Templar, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: A salty sea pup tells the tale of a mysterious island, bursting with pirate booty. Captain Purplebeard and his cut-throat crew have already set sail in search of the treasure before they’re made aware of the hideous pirate cruncher who guards the gold.
Why we love it: Appealing to the child and adult who love a jolly adventure, Duddle’s drawings are packed with so much to see. Searching for the hidden tentacle in the corner of a page, and a pair of googly eyes peeking over a chest of gold on the next makes the book an ‘I spy a monster’ game. There’s plenty of text too to keep the story going.
First published: 2010
By An Vrombaut, published by Hodder, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: It’s the birthday of Princess Florrie’s, but she’s tired of all the jugglers, jesters and acrobats and wants something a little unusual for her party. Something like the kingdom’s dreadful dragon will do. The rest of the palace is convinced he’s too dreadful, but Princess Florrie likes a challenge so she decides to write him a letter.
Why we love it: This is a bright and humorous story bursting with colour and bubbles along with a funky spunky heroine that creates a winning formula for a story from the creator of the 64 Zoo Lane series.
First published: 2005
Guess How Much I Love You
By Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram, published by Walker, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: Big Nutbrown Hare and a Little Nutbrown Hare try to show each other how much love they have for each other with leaps, stretches, swings and hugs. This is a gentle story which explains that love is so huge, it’s not such an easy thing to measure.
Why we love it: This is one of the world’s best-loved picture books with the endearing simplicity of McBratney’s story coupled with Jeram’s exquisite watercolour drawings. This is a modern classic that all adults need to read to their children at some point.
First published: 1994
Here Come the Aliens!
By Colin McNaughton, published by Walker, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: A fleet of fearsome aliens head towards Earth in their weird and wonderful spaceships. What a bizarre bunch they are, with their gobbledygook languages, unusual take on human fashion and hilarious observations of the Earth and the people that live on it.
Why we love it: A sing song rhyming text will become addictive. You’ll want to read it again and again while your child listens and observes the pictures rich in colour and detail. McNauhghton has clearly gone to town with his alien creations which even the youngest of children will appreciate.
First published: 1995
By Lizzie Finlay, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: When the delightfully different, bright yellow and rather scruffy Dandylion joins Miss Gardener’s neat and tidy class, chaos and fun follow. But after one messy incident too many he’s told to go home – he just doesn’t fit in because he’s a weed. It doesn’t take long, however, for everyone to realise that too much neatness and order isn’t always a good thing and everyone’s desperate for Dandylion to return! When he does, the class hold a Wildflower Day. At last, Dandylion feels like he’s in the right place.
Why we love it: As well as the powerful message of friendship, diversity and finding your place, this book is packed with gorgeous illustrations. The very bright yellow Dandylion is a splash of colour on the page against the simple pale lines of the neater characters. The last page is a party of colours full of sunshine, flowers and smiles.
First published: 2009
My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes
By Eve Sutton, illustrated by Lynley Dodd, published by Puffin, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: Lots of cats all around the world do exciting and clever things like fly aeroplanes or play the violin – but the narrator’s cat, an ordinary round-the-house cat, simply likes to hide in boxes. According to Dodd, the book was based upon the Dodd family cat, Wooskit, who, like all cats, liked to hide in boxes, supermarket bags, cupboards and hidey-holes.
Why we love it: Children will love joining in with this fun chant and rhyme text that’s simple but remains masterful throughout.
First published: 1973