Nothing beats a book at bedtime, and when it comes to little ones, you’re going to spend a lot of time reading the same books again and again. While The Gruffalo is a given, here are ten other wonders - all best-sellers and time-served classics.
No matter how many books you have for your child, some you will reach for again, as firm family favourites. Here are ten books that will serve you well now - and be keepers you won’t want to give away.
Peck Peck Peck - Lucy Cousins - Walker Books [age range 1-3 years]
It will take a long while before your little one gets bored of this board book. It’s full of life, colour, humour and filled with beautiful illustrations. As you follow the adventures of Little Woodpecker, pecking the hat and the mat, and the jacket and the tennis racket, you can explore all the little tactile holes in the pages. Ideal for the very earliest of read together sessions this book is a (w)hole lot of fun.
Where’s Spot? - Eric Hill - Penguin [age range: 2-3 years]
Full of fun text and lift-the-flap fun as the search for Spot goes on. This is the perfect first book for little ones - and the hardback cover and resilient flaps should withstand the rigours of repeated flap-wrestling. A simple story, but one that can be read again, again and again with the youngest of toddlers as you rediscover the ‘surprises’ on every page.
Where The Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak - Red Fox [age range: 2-3 years]
A stone-cold classic from the sixties, the story of mischievous Max who is sent to bed without any supper. He soon ‘sets off’ on his own imaginative adventures, through the forest and sailing away - to the land where the Wild Things are. Encapsulating concepts of naughtiness and control, adventure and safety, and with beautifully grotesque illustrations - clearly an inspiration for The Gruffalo - this is a must you can trust.
Frog is a Hero - Max Velthuijs - Andersen Press [age range 3-5 years]
When the rains come and the river bursts its banks, Frog, Duck, Pig and Hare are stranded. Frog becomes a hero when he risks his life to help his friends. One of a series of Frog adventures by this internationally renowned Dutch artist, and a reminder of how in times of crisis we can get by with a little help from our friends. Discussions about climate change based on this tale, are entirely down to you, dear reader!
The Tiger Who Came To Tea - Judith Kerr - Collins [age range: 3-5 years]
A cross-generational favourite - the tale of Sophie and her mum and the hungry tiger who rings the doorbell. He’s far too elegant a guest to eat his hosts, but he does eat them out of house and home before disappearing; never to be seen again. This story has delighted children for more than fifty years, and is a timeless classic - despite the fact that in today’s world, mum would probably be at work, Sophie at the childminders, and the voracious visitor would be vetted and vetoed via a video doorbell.
It’s a Busy, Busy, World - Richard Scarry - Golden Books [age range: 3-7 years]
Another book with more than fifty years on the clock, this is a wonderful compendium of very short stories. From Rome to Rio, the Alps to Africa, we meet a wide range of anthropomorphic locals getting into all kinds of scrapes and adventures. Scarry’s amazingly detailed and expressive artwork fills the pages with something new to discover and delight time and again. This book is ideal for bedtimes, particularly because when you’re begged to read ‘just one more’ story (again) it won’t take too long - and will be an absolute joy.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt - Michael Rosen & Helen Oxbury - Walker Books [age range: 3-7 years]
A much-loved classic - the comic tale of a dad, his children and their dog and their search for a bear. It’s full of comforting repetition and dramatic opportunity as they seek to overcome the sequential perils of wavy grass, a cold river, oozy mud and a dark forest. As the family soon learn, you must be careful what you look for, because you might just find it, and the story completes as they beat a retreat and enjoy a cosy bedtime.
Gordon’s Got a Snookie - Lisa Shanahan - Allen & Unwin [age range: 3-7 years]
He’s big, he’s strong, he’s hairy...but what’s in his hand? It’s a comforter, it’s a security blanket...it’s a snookie! Meet Gordon the Gorilla, a new arrival at the zoo who quickly becomes a laughing stock - especially with the hyena. But Gordon and snookie soon save the day in this lovely story with brilliant illustrations that addresses important themes such as being teased, feeling lonely - and ultimately being true to yourself.
Horton Hatches the Egg - Dr Seuss - Collins [age range: 4-7 years]
A classic book which tells the tale of Horton, the bright-eyed and loyal elephant who is tricked by a fickle bird into sitting precariously atop a tree, keeping her nest-egg warm. Despite the hours, turning into days, weeks and months, Horton sticks to his mantra: “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant...an elephant's faithful, one hundred per cent.” Lovers of a happy ending will rejoice at how he is eventually redeemed.
The Velveteen Rabbit - Margery Williams - Various [age range: 4-8 years]
This tale of how a boy’s love transforms a toy velveteen rabbit into a real one is one that has resonated in the hearts of children for decades - and is probably the inspiration for the Toy Story movies. This classic book can be found in a range of editions and brought to life by different illustrators, but whichever you find the story will live long in your child’s imagination. It’s perfect for any child that cherishes their special stuffed toy, believes in magic and knows that all you need is love.