1. The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
In The Gruffalo, a wily woodland mouse manages to escape being eaten by predators by telling them that an imaginary monster is going to appear at any minute. Of course, the mouse doesn’t really expect the monster to appear, and when it does, he has to use his wits to make the Gruffalo believe that he is so scary himself that the warty beast would be making a really, big mistake if he tried to eat him!
Donaldson’s use of repeated narrative and rhymes soon has little readers chanting the story, while Axel Scheffler’s distinctive, crazy-eyed creatures stylishly underline the humour.
2. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
American author Maurice Sendak won immediate acclaim for Where The Wild Things Are when it was first published, yet its storyline is far from being a sweet little bedtime story.
Max is a naughty young boy whose mother declares him a ‘wild thing’ and sends him to his bedroom without any supper. But Max creates a wild and monster-populated fantasy world where he is dubbed King of the Wild Things because, with just one look, he is more fierce than the other monsters. After a while, he decides that it’s a bit lonely so far from home and returns to his bedroom to find his supper waiting for him.
3. Winnie-The-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
Although the language and turns of phrase are from a bygone era, the Winnie-The-Pooh books continue to be hugely popular. The tales were inspired by Milne’s own son (immortalised as Christopher Robin) and his cuddly toys. However, the image of Pooh that we have come to know and love was based on the favoured toy bear of illustrator Ernest Shepard’s son.
In the tales about life with Edward Bear (Winnie to you and me), the first collection of stories establishes Pooh’s world with Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit and Kanga, and their many life-learning adventures in 100 Acre Wood.
4. I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato, by Lauren Child
In I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato, Lola is a cheeky preschool madam who always has a smart excuse to justify getting her own way. However, older brother Charlie appeals to her sense of fantasy to overcome common childhood issues – such as fussy eating. Great fun, and useful if you know a fussy eater who doesn’t like tomatoes, or eggs, or peas…
5. The Jolly Postman, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
In The Jolly Postman, makes his deliveries around a storyland populated by famous fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. Adventures abound as each communication offers more intrigue. The envelopes are ingeniously built into the pages and each letter is cleverly designed to delight young readers. So beloved is this book, you’ll rarely find a well-thumbed edition where any of the letters have been lost.
6. A Magic Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton
The Magic Faraway Tree is the second in the series about a tree in an enchanted wood which reaches up to the clouds and other magical lands. Jo, Bessie, Fanny and cousin Dick go exploring and get into all kinds of adventures. A gentle form of children’s fantasy for those not quite ready for Dahl’s dark humour or Rowling’s Potter tomes.
7. No Matter What, by Debi Gliori
When Gliori got divorced, the experience she saw her own daughter go through inspired No Matter What. A parent fox called Large promises Small, her cub, that whatever happens, she will always be there filling their life with love and cuddles. Small asks lots of questions, but Large is consistent in her reassuring replies. The fluffy illustrative style is appealing to young readers, whether the separation is only temporary at bedtime, or for a more prolonged period of a parent being away.
8. Green Eggs And Ham, by Dr Seuss
Not only is Green Eggs And Ham one of Dr Suess’s finest adventures into the joy of language, with its nonsense poetry and chugging rhythms, but it’s also a great way to persuade young children that they may actually like a new food! Sam-I-Am is desperate to get his chum to try green eggs and ham and suggests all kinds of scenarios that might make the dish appeal - eating them with a fox, in a box, in the dark, in the rain, and so on.
9. Dogger, by Shirley Hughes
Hughes’s ability to capture something precious and important to young children from their own lives, makes her works enduring favourites decades after they were written. Dogger is a toy dog whose owner Dave takes him everywhere. Dave and his family’s life of school, treats and bathtime provide a comforting backdrop to a story in which Dave actually loses Dogger. Both must go through hard times before a happy reunion brings the story to a comforting close for readers.
10. Mog The Forgetful Cat, by Judith Kerr
If family cats are independent creatures who wander off and do their own thing, Mog is no different. Often the moggy is daydreaming her way into a series of adventures, and in this book, the first ever Mog story, she forgets she can’t fly when she chases birds and forgets that she has a basket when she sleeps in front of Mr Thomas’s view of the television. Like any naughty toddler she is told off for everyday misdemeanours, so the books translate beautifully.