Girl reading

Some of our favourite story books for the under threes

My daughter is already a bit of a book worm (one of the good ways she takes after me, unlike these less wonderful characteristics) and she refers to her favourite books throughout the day. Her little brother has a fat tummy “like a [very hungry] caterpillar”, she eats porridge for breakfast “like the bears” and her baby is often “fast asleep and dreaming” like the baby in Peepo!. When she ‘reads’ books to her brother, she has them down word for word.

Today it’s World Book Day (except in the UK, where it’s on the first Thursday in March so as not to fall in the Easter Holidays), Shakespeare’s birth and death day and Cervantes’s death day, and to celebrate, here are some of our favourite children’s books. Maybe in a few years’ time we’ll have reached Shakespeare and Cervantes, but not quite yet…

1. We’re going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

Or “Ba-ant stumble trip” as my daughter calls it.

This was one of my favourites when I was little and she loves it just as much. There’s just so much to enjoy! The adventure, the rhythm, the repetition, the fantastic onomatopoeia (swishy swishy, squelch squelch, splash splosh), the beautiful charcoal and watercolour illustrations…

*spoiler alert!!*

… and my favourite bit of the whole book is the final illustration, where the bear walks away, dejected and alone. All he wanted was a friend! It’s a nice way to make children think about judging others on looks alone.

As an aside, I am a huge Michael Rosen fan. A few years ago I went to a radio recording and I got to meet him and shake his hand at the end. I was completely star struck (this is the man who wrote the amazing book of poetry Quick! Let’s get out of here! – a legend) but my husband asked him for a photo and he agreed. 😍

2. Wibbly Pig has ten balloons, by Mick Inkpen

Although we’ve read it so many times it feels like he has at least 300.

This book is just so darned catchy. I have woken up with this going round in my head on more than one occasion. And of course, Mick Inkpen’s illustrations are always lovely. My daughter likes Kipper too – but Wibbly Pig and his balloons are definitely the favourite. The story is great as well, showing that sharing is good but also some people are mean and take advantage (I’m looking at you Big Pig’s Sister).

3. Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Again, great rhythm and rhyme. We like rhyming books, if you hadn’t noticed. I also enjoy voicing the dragon.

I’m (shockingly) not a massive fan of The Gruffalo – but I think that Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are geniuses and Room on the Broom is my favourite (although Tabby McTat is also wonderful).

Julia Donaldson has also done a few board books with Nick Sharratt which we enjoy, and Axel Scheffler illustrated the Bedtime Bear, which was one of my sister’s favourites.

4. Peepo! By Janet and Alan Ahlberg

One of the best books ever. I can recite this book in my sleep and, more usefully, in a dark room while trying to get my daughter to go to sleep. Apart from the repetition, rhythm and rhyme (again), there are the beautifully detailed illustrations that give so much to look at and talk about, and I love that father looks after the children for a bit in the afternoon so that mummy can have a doze. What a good idea.

I love all of Janet and Alan Ahlberg’s books. Each Peach Pear Plum is another brilliant rhyming story and I can’t wait for my daughter to be old enough to appreciate the Jolly Postman – and then Woof! and Please, Mrs Butler.

5. Hello Bear! By Jane Cabrera

I’ve discovered Jane Cabrera since having my daughter and she is a wonderful illustrator. Her board book Hello Bear was one of the first books that my daughter really engaged with – she would turn the pages and wave at each of the animals.

Her series of reimagined nursery rhymes are also great for kids (less so for the parents who will be obliged to sing the Wheels on the Bus or Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush 40 times a day).

6. Bedtime, by Tracey Blake and Nicola Lathey

Both of my children love this book. It follows a baby’s bedtime routine using simple language that you are encouraged to repeat, to help your baby start talking. I’m not sure whether it does do that, but it is engaging and the illustrations by Allie Busby are lovely – my son is very drawn to them, perhaps because the mummy is ginger, like his. I also found it gave opportunities to practise baby sign language, if you’re doing it. (We do and I think it’s fab.)

There are loads more that I could add to this list, but I’ll keep it short because the baby is sucking my hands and trying to type. We also love the Spot books by Eric Hill, Mog by Judith Kerr and my daughter likes Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. I don’t because I had to read it several times every Friday for seven months whilst working as an English language assistant in Nantes. It was seven years ago but I still haven’t recovered.

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