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Thursday Next

Books for pre-school children

Any favourite picture books for pre-school children?

Just bought Paddington and Owl Babies from The Works as part of a 4 for 5 deal, pretty good bargain. I take Friday (3) and Saturday (1) to the library quite frequently, but it's nice to have some favourite books on the shelf to keep and read whenever you want.

Some of our favourites:
The Gruffalo
Monkey Puzzle
Charlie Cook's Favourite Book
I Want My Dinner
Handa's Surprise
And Tango Makes Three
You Choose
Where the Wild Things Are
One Bear At Bedtime
I Know a Rhino
Dig Dig Digging

Saturday also loves all the 'That's Not My...' books and getting Friday to read anything that isn't Thomas the Tank Engine is always an achievement...

Any favourites/ recommendations?

Owl Babies is lovely, isn't it? I didn't have it when I was a little boy, but my brothers did. Where the Wild Things Are is also a joy.

If I could only recommend one title for your list, it would be Patrick by Quentin Blake. He's written so many great picture books (Mister Magnolia springs to mind, which I'm sure you know), but for me Patrick is the best of the lot. I've never seen such vibrant illustrations, and the story is lovely, about two children going on a journey and collecting all sorts of people on their way. It's out of print at the moment, but you can get it very cheaply second-hand and there is a new edition of it due out later in the year, and not before time.

I'm very fond of The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. It is an relatively old book but very appealing in a half scary sort of way. My children also liked The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont - what a great name! My youngest also loved the Spot books where you open doors and find bits of the story.

Also a bit scary is Not Now, Bernard by the wonderful David McKee - great for any child who feels their parents don't pay them enough attention...


I've just reserved a book for my son George at the library called Morris the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae. It was read on CBeebies recently, and though he wasn't really following it at the time, it struck me as the sort of thing that might appeal to him. He's not 3 yet but already has a well-developed sense of toilet humour, so a monster that takes a bath in sewage should be right up his street.

Since George has an autistic spectrum disorder, he is a bit behind when it comes to following narratives, so he tends to favour very simple stories or factual books with clear pictures. He does have a well-developed sense of humour, especially for slapstick, and one book that he loves that ticks this box is Bertie and the Big Balloon by Sue Graves.

Evie wrote:
Also a bit scary is Not Now, Bernard by the wonderful David McKee - great for any child who feels their parents don't pay them enough attention...

That is one of my favourites, and 'Each Peach Pear Plum', but Janet & Allan Albergh.
Thursday Next

We have Not Now Bernard, but I've always thought it aimed more at neglectful parents than at children!

Each Peach Pear Plum is good. Also The Jolly Postman, which I think is by the same people iirc (but we keep it on the shelf to read when Saturday is asleep or he'd chew the letters).

I have said before that we used to have to read repeatedly Not Now Bernard to my youngest son.  He was only mildly neglected!  When I ask now what its appeal was he is unable to tell me.  Fortunately it is a book that appeals to parents - even after the 1000th time of reading.

My eldest son on the other hand was one of those apparently rare kids who never wanted a book read a second time at a sitting.  (The first time he asked for one was Where the Wild Things Are - interesting since I think it is considered the best picture book ever.)  The result of that though was that we had to have many books since he was happy, not to say insistent that he be read to for hours at a time.  (I can't make that sentence in its present form make grammatical sense - how do you do those sentences that have two verb forms ending in a preposition?)

So books we liked.  The Cow Who Fell in the Canal.  Hairy McLarey.  The Berenstein Bear books.  Gumdrop.  Hippo, Potto and Mouse.  Several Beatrix Potters.  The Giant Jam Sandwich. Meg and Mog. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Who sank the Boat. Rosie's Walk.

These are all older books, as my children are now all nearing or past 30.  I think there are some fantastic picture books being written now, but I am not very familiar with many of them.  A great NZ one is The Bantam and the Soldier about a young soldier in WWI France who adopts a bantam which lays him a daily egg and becomes a symbol for hope and peace during the war.  

Cheers, Caro.

PS I don't remember picture books from my childhood - were there none or was I deprived (or forgetful)?

My god-daughter likes 'Roar!'- I don't know who it is by. It has a very sweet little cub in it.   Also the Shirley Hughes books, of which there are many. Alfie and Annie-Rose are great.

There was a lovely book by Posy Simmonds about a cat called Fred who leads a double life, only discovered when he dies and his funeral is like the memorial service of  a famous person. I think I enjoyed this one more than my children did. And 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'.

Caro wrote:

PS I don't remember picture books from my childhood - were there none or was I deprived (or forgetful)?

Me neither, now that you mention it, Caro. Not big colourful books, anyway. The children's books we had at home tended to be for older children, and mostly text with occasional black and white, rather scratchy type of line drawings. I loved Just William and the earlier drawings for these books were quite small but very full of  character. But we had the Ernest Shepherd drawings for the Pooh stories and poems. And the small-format Noddy books, which were all colour. Little Grey Rabbit, smallish books with gentle pictures and a nice square colour plate on the front; same with Beatrix Potter books, which have always been beautifully produced.  I think it was her own idea to have them made as small books for small hands. I adore the illustrations for the 'Tailor of Gloucester'. But all of these are as important for their stories as for the drawings. Maybe no one made solely picture books then (1950s, 1960s)?

I started to buy children's books as a young adult, long before I had children myself, mainly for the illustrations. I wanted to build up a collection but sadly this fell by the wayside as things like the mortgage etc called on my funds. I have a very nice large-format Wind In The Willows, and some Arthur Rackham-illustrated fairy tales. The other contemporary picture books went into my children's collection - hopefully the best of them are still in the attic. Some I bought just for their unusual style or decorative reasons, and were not very popular with my actual children.

There was someone called Michael ??? in the 1980s who painted beautiful dreamlike pictures in almost translucent or stained-glass colours, often gorgeous shades of blue. I can't recall his name or any book titles and am not aware that he is still making books. Any ideas who this was or is?

I like Nick Sharratt pictures, and Eric Carle, though I don't know what children make of his rather abstract style. Still, he hasn't done badly, has he??

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic, and Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett is wonderful.

My favourites as a child were the ones by Brian Wildsmith, especially The Rich Man and the Shoemaker, though it was a bit scary.  I still love his pictures.  

I also remember one called Buy Me a China Doll - and have just discovered it on amazon, though it's now out of print - lovely pictures:

And my brother had another one about a boy who goes to the seaside and has a rubber seahorse, and dreams about it becoming a real seahorse - I have never been able to find it again, but it was another one that was slightly scary in a haunting sort of way, with gorgeous watercolour pictures.[/img]

I had one where a boy discovers the jungle scene of his wallpaper becomes real at night, and he wanders off into it (as you do). That one was quite scary!

Edit: A quick google suggests it was probably The Magic Wallpaper by Frank Francis

I have bought a picture book for our youngest grandchild's birthday which is illustrated with the most marvellous paintings, it has a gap in one page to allow the back view of a farmer, turn the page and you see the front view and other pages fold out to give a wide view of the action. I don't think these are unique to a chldren's book - it's just that The Moon and Farmer McPhee has won the NZ Post book of the year award. The author is Margaret Mahyand she tells a story about the effect of the Moon on the farmer and his animals.

The artist, David Elliott, also won an award for the best picture book. I am not surprised - the pictures are stunning with what the judges called a luminous quality. I felt they were almost in 3D the way the animals were shown.
Green Jay

That sounds lovely. Must look it up.

Hi  GJ. I have a feeling it will take about three months to appear in UK shops because that is how long books take to reach us!

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