By Quentin Blake, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: The quintessentially British Mister Magnolia is a man of no logic. He dresses in a striped waistcoat, blue jacket and a pair of yellow trousers. His zany look is flourished off by him wearing only one boot. He rides around on a scooter, juggles fruit and has a pet dinosaur. The text is a poem, where in each verse Mr Magnolia has a marvellous possession – ‘two lovely sisters who play on the flute’ but he always only has one boot. The boot reference repeats, so the chldren can shout along with each page until a very happy, but odd ending occurs.
Why we love it: You’ll soon join in the fun and rejoice when a mysterious package containing another boot (but nothing like the one he already has) allowing him to splash in the puddles like everyone else.
First published: 1980
By Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Gwen Millward, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Two sisters go fishing in the magic pond and instead of a frog they discover a bog baby. Trying to keep the new foundling a secret proves difficult as the wild thing soon gets ill. The girls realise they have to tell their mother who gives them a valuable lesson about letting go of something or someone you love.
Why we love it: Perfect for young children with beautiful illustrations. The Bog Baby in question is too cute to resist. It won’t be a surprise if your little one starts searching for their own bog baby around the garden pond.
First published: 2008
By Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, published by Macmillan, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: This is the story of a quick-witted mouse as he encounters a host of predators who seem to think he might make for a tasty treat. As he ventures deeper into the deep dark wood, stumbling across a hungry fox, a not-so-wise owl, and a slimy snake, he spins ever-extraordinary yarns about the scary, scaly gruffalo. He quickly realises that the hungry beast he has been talking of isn’t imaginary after all.
Why we love it: It’s won an award for being the best book to read aloud and it’s not hard to see why! You can really go to town on the story telling front with animal and monster voices galore! Donaldson has received huge success for this book which has only been around for 12 years, and has been adapted for the theatre and most recently for TV – with Hugh Laurie and James Corden lending their voices to the characters.
First published: 1999
Harold and the Purple Crayon
By Crockett Johnson, published by Harper Collins, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Harold draws his way to adventure by using his ever present purple crayon. He sketches roads, apple trees, a dragon for a pet and a wavy sea before finally drawing his bedroom window so he can crawl in to bed and go to sleep.
Why we love it: There’s something so satisfying for infants to revel in the idea of creating personal realities. Just make sure you keep the crayons away from the wallpaper!
First published: 1955
Lost and Found
By Oliver Jeffers, published by Harper Collins, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: A tale of friendship and loneliness. When a penguin lands on the front doorstep of a little boy, the latter decides he’s lost and sets out to take him to his rightful owner. But when no one around seems to be missing a pet penguin the pair set off to the south poles. As the story progresses, we realise that maybe home wasn’t what the penguin was looking for after all.
Why we love it: Your child will want the story read again and again which is good because you’ll want to read it too. The illustrations perfectly capture the feeling of loss through delicate facial expressions and body language.
First published: 2005
Meg and Mog
By Helen Nicoll, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Meg is a witch who more often than not gets in a bit of a muddle with her spells and potions. Mog is her stripy black and white cat with spindly legs and pointy tale. Together they have many adventures and the spells they cast really go off with a BANG!
Why we love it: Nicoll and Pienkowski often came up with their ideas for the Meg and Mog stories while sitting at a motorway cafe. The less than creative environment hasn’t dispelled from the wonderful stories and beautiful bold illustrations that have spawned many more books in the series.
First published: 1977
The Tiger Who Came to Tea
By Judith Kerr, published by Harper Collins, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Sophie sits down to eat with her mother when a big furry tiger rings the doorbell and invites himself to tea. With a big grin, he proceeds to eat everything and then drinks all the water in the tap. It’s not only when the ‘guest’ politely takes his leave that Sophie and her mother realise that there’s nothing for father to have when he comes home from work. A pleasant family meal in a nearby cafe solves the problem, and although Sophie buys a big tin of ‘Tiger Food’ just in case her unexpected visitor should come again, he never does.
Why we love it: Like Sophie, you’ll want to climb on the loveable tiger’s back and stroke its tail while he genuinely eats up the house and home. He’s more of an outsized ginger cat with the most charming manners. If you really want to go all out, why not buy the book along with an accompanying tea set, in case you get an unexpected visitor one day!
First published: 1968
Little Bear’s Trousers
By Jane Hissey, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: This is just one of many stories of Little Bear and his fellow toy friends. The bizarre use of little bear’s trousers, (using them as a piping bag for icing a cake amongst other things) will amuse young readers
Why we love it: These placid tales have a comforting feel to them. It’s softly paced but still adventurous and the perspective of the toys somewhat mirrors that of small children – bathroom taps look like big steel chimneys and pudding bowls are big enough to fall in to.
First published: 1986
By Giles Andreae, illustrated by Nick Sharratt, published by Random House, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Based on the universal fact that kids (and some adults) find pants hysterically amusing. This is an unashamedly silly celebration of ‘smalls’ big and small.
Why we love it: It’s no surprise that Andrae (creator of Purple Ronnie) should come up with such a book. It’s a tongue in cheek read without being too outrageous. Look out for Sharratt’s vibrant drawings of ‘lighting up pants’ and ‘special pants for driving the car.’
First published: 2002
The Elephant and the Bad Baby
By Efrida Vipont, illustrated by Raymond Briggs, published by Puffin, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: One day the elephant offers the Bad Baby a ride, and as they gambol down the street with a ‘rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta’ rhythm all the way through town, their journey gets them into mischief with all kinds of people chasing after them. The elephant soon realises that the Bad Baby has forgotten his manners and the chase ends with a BUMP…and tea for everyone.
Why we love it: You’ll want to ‘rumpeta rumpeta’ again and again while getting the message of the importance of good manners to babies and toddlers. Briggs’ airy illustrations perfectly balance the chaos that the dreadful duo creates.
First published: 1969