1. The Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic picture book about a caterpillar munching his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly has sold 22 million copies.
In the story, the newly hatched caterpillar starts to look for food. On day one he eats one piece of fruit, the next two, the next three and so on, until he reaches the end of the week, when he eats a fabulous feast of muffins, pizza and pickle. By now he is too fat to move but there’s a moment of triumph as he transforms into a beautiful butterfly.
2. Each Peach Pear Plum, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
The lilting rhymes, playful sense of humour and Janet Ahlberg’s warm, cartoony illustrative style are all effortlessly appealing to young readers. Each Peach Pear Plum is a picture book for the very young with simple sentences on each page and an I-spy challenge to the reader to find Tom Thumb, Cinderella, The Three Bears, and so on.
3. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney & Anita Jeram
In Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You, a big cuddly hare and a little cuddly hare exchange expressions of love in a warm and reassuring way that any child at bedtime could enjoy. Coupled with Anita Jeram’s gentle illustrative style, it’s not hard to see why this book has sold 18 million copies worldwide.
4. Peepo!, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
In Peepo!, a baby glimpses his small domestic world through a little circular cut-out on the page, before the full scene – a cosy kitchen, a visit to the park, the soft light of bedtime - is revealed overleaf. Set in the early Forties, it’s an unpretentious vision of a baby’s contented life based on Allan Ahlberg’s own working-class childhood.
5. Maisy’s Bus, by Lucy Cousins
Maisy, Mimi, Mausi or even Molly has been translated into 28 languages and sold over 25 million copies. There are now more than 150 colourful first stories about the little mouse and her friends. A wonderful route to colours, objects and early words.
6. The Baby’s Catalogue, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
Inspired by their own baby daughter’s love of shopping catalogues with nursery goods in them, the Ahlbergs created The Baby’s Catalogue, a lovely picture book of objects and scenes from a baby’s world to share with a child as a first book. Beautiful, pastel-shaded illustrations have made this a classic.
7. That’s Not My Dinosaur, Fiona Watt & Rachel Wells
A simple idea, That’s Not My Dinosaur has stretched to all kinds of themes. Chunky boardbooks with textured pages take a child through a simple narrative: “That’s not my dinosaur/teddy/dolly/tractor”. And on each page there’s a reason why not – like bumpy skin, shiny hair ties, squashy wheels, until eventually we arrive at the right item. As well as the touchy-feely experience, the basic vocabulary repetition is a valuable – and enjoyable – early learning tool.
8. Where’s Spot?, by Eric Hill
One of the great pioneers of the lift-the-flap novelty books for babies, Spot remains a timeless classic. Here, the honey-and-black puppy has gone missing at dinner time and mummy dog, Sally, must find him. Hill’s deceptively simple narrative and bright, bold illustrations make this a great choice with very young children. Hill has sold millions of books in the Spot series.
9. Is It bedtime Wiggly Pig?, by Mick Inkpen
Simple counting, vocabulary and exploration of emotions are all great pluses that the Wibbly Pig series bring to Inkpen’s sweet little picture books. In this story, a very familiar bedtime scenario is played out: Wibbly Pig wants to do everything but go to bed. Splashing in the bath, counting the stairs… what else can the little pig do to side-step sleep? Of course, eventually he has to give in to slumber – so a happy ending for all parents!
10. Peek-A-Boo, by Jan Ormerod
Peek-A-Boo! is a classic first boardbook for babies, combining their love for playing peek-a-boo with the fun of flaps to lift. On each page a baby hides behind a bib, bath towels or snugly bedclothes. Very young children respond to seeing other babies in the illustrations. In truth, you’ll be hard-pushed to find any family copy that hasn’t been very well-thumbed indeed.