Where the Wild Things Are
By Maurice Sendak, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: One day, Max plays at home making mischief in his wolf-like costume. As punishment, his mother sends him to bed without supper. In his room, a mysterious, wild forest and sea grows out of his imagination, and Max sails to the land where the wild things are. Max manages to tame them and he’s made King of the Wild Things. However, he soon finds himself lonely and homesick and returns home to his bedroom where he finds his supper waiting for him, still hot.
Why we love it: To those who read this book as a child, the story has remained constant and fresh in their memories. Sendak’s colour illustrations are beautiful, and full of wonder. The wild things manage to be scary looking without being terrifying to a young child – most of the time they are made to look comical. Sendak creates somewhat of a floating feeling, of being half way between a dream and the wondrous imagination that children have. The message at the end of the book, like many others, is that there’s really no place like home.
First published: 1963
The Man on the Moon
By Simon Bertram, published by Templar, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Subtitled The Day in the Life of Bob, this beautifully illustrated book is about a very polite English chap who lives on Earth and commutes to the moon everyday to work.
Why we love it: There’s a retro Fifties feel to the pictures which evokes a simple time when moon landings were almost, but not quite possible, and an element of what’s out there beyond our horizon was even more fascinating than it is now. Children will have fun spotting aliens everywhere, hiding in craters, sneaking into Bob’s rocket and even peering out of his garden bushes back home!
First published: 2002
By John Burningham, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Granpa describes the very special relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. Together they go share some precious moments and adventures together.
Why we love it: The charm of Granpa is the dialogue of the two characters which is both amusing and insightful. This is a very touching book that helps a parent deal with and explain to a young child the sensitive issue of bereavement. Burningham doesn’t flat out say that the grandfather is dead, instead he ends the book with room for interpretation. When Granpa’s chair is empty at the end it’s up to the children to decide whether they’re ready to understand where he’s gone – either he’s passed away, gone on holiday or absent for a little while so the little girl has to wait for him to return.
First published: 1984
Green Eggs and Ham
By Dr Seuss, published by Harper Collins, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: The main character, Sam-I-Am, is on a mission to find a taker for his dish of green eggs and ham. He’s desperate to get his friend to eat his speciality and thinks up of all kinds of scenarios that might make the food more appealing – all of which are haughtily rebuffed.
Why we love it: The sheer genius of Dr Seuss’ use of language cannot be denied. Simple rhymes such as ‘fox’ and ‘box’, ‘goat and boat’ help in the development in children’s ability to speak and have fun with language. You all might get a hunger for the title dish, which can be made simply by whipping up an omelette and stirring pesto into it (check out Nigella Lawson’s very tasty version).
First published: 1960
By A.A. Milne, illustrated by E.H. Shepard, published by Egmont, RRP £6.99
What’s the story: The stories of set in ‘100 Aker Wood’ have been loved by generations of children since Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, Roo and Eeyore first made their appearance in 1926. Accompanied by E.H. Shepard’s original illustrations in colour, this edition is an ideal book for bedtime reading. While the tales were inspired by Milne’s own son, Christopher Robin, and his cuddly toys, the image of Edward Bear (Winnie-the-Pooh to you and I) comes from Shepard’s son’s favoured toy bear.
Why we love it: Discover what happens when Pooh goes visiting and Piglet meets a Heffalump, not forgetting when Eeyore loses his tail and Pooh finds one! Delightfully sweet, just like Pooh’s beloved honey.
First published: 1926
My Dad is Brilliant
By Nick Butterworth, published by Walker, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: This book is a cheerful, captivatingly illustrated celebration of fathers. Children love to talk about how brilliant their dad’s are. This dad is, quite simply, gifted! He’s as strong as a gorilla, can play any instruments, can make things and he’s alright in the kitchen too.
Why we love it: This colourful book that positively bursts over with appreciation for pas…everyone’s dad is brilliant at something!
First published: 1989
The Tale of Peter Rabbit
By Beatrix Potter, published by Warne, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: One day, Peter strays away from his mother and siblings, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, and finds himself in a garden full of vegetables. Greedily settling down to chomp on as much as he can, he is spotted by the angry Mr McGregor and Peter has to flee before being caught in a rabbit trap. He may have escaped from the clutches of Mr McGregor, but Peter can’t run away from getting his comeuppance by falling ill and being sent to bed with a cup of camomile tea.
Why we love it: The Tale of Peter Rabbit paved the way for Potter’s series of wildlife stories of well dressed mice, washer-women hedgehogs, scatty ducks and ill behaved kittens and other dressed up creatures with human traits. There are 23 tales to look out for, each one as quintessentially English and enchanting.
First published: 1902
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy
By Lynley Dodd, published by Puffin, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: The scruffy black mutt doesn’t get up to much most of the time except to chew some bones and hang out with some friends, ‘Bottomley Potts covered in Spots’ and ‘Schnitzel Von Krumm with a very low tum’, that is until Scarface Claw ‘the toughest Tom in Town’ makes an appearance.
Why we love it: Dodd is a master with language and she provides the richest of words in this book, such as ‘a scatter of paws and a clatter of claws’. The follow up books star animal characters with equally catchy names, Slinky Malinki, and Zachary Quack to name a few.
First published: 1983
By E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams, published by Puffin, RRP £5.99
What’s the story: Stuart Little is no ordinary mouse. Born to a family of humans he lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George and Snowball the cat. Though he’s shy and thoughtful, he’s an adventurous and heroic little mouse. His daring escapades include racing a toy boat in a Central Park pond, retrieving his mother’s ring from a drain, and crawling inside a piano to fix the keys for his brother.
Why we love it: This is a funny and touching book which can be read on many levels – aloud to a very small child, or alone by an older child. With one adventure after another, it covers themes from adventure, courage and reliability, independence, and first love, to acceptance of differences, family crisis, and the importance of education.
First published: 1945
By Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, published by Puffin, RRP £4.99
What’s the story: Mr Hoppy, a retired bachelor, secretly loves his neighbour, the lovely Mrs Silver. Unfortunately she lavishes all her affection on another , Alfie, her pet tortoise. Mr Hoppy’s wildly ingenious plot to defeat his rival and win the love of his lady will delight and amaze, involving, as it does a cryptic riddle and no fewer than a hundred and forty tortoises, large and small.
Why we love it: The book contains a single story, without chapters, and you would be well advised to start it when you have a bit of time on your hands, as you won’t want to put it down till the very end. The book sounds good when read aloud, too, especially the incredible magic words Mr Hoppy gives Mrs Silver to say.
First published: 1990