A recent study by academics at the University of Warwickshire found that 97% of children who are read to from an early age will go on to study in higher education, snort ecstasy and have an unfulfilling relationship with someone who works in arts administration. Not great news, but better than the remaining 3%, who work at Urban Outfitters.
If you like those odds, here are 5 great children’s books to start them off with…
Goodnight Moon (written by Margaret Wise Brown / illustrated by Clement Hurd)
Plot: A rabbit (with acute OCD) says goodnight. To everything.
Bedtime for babies is more about routine than choice of book. A calming bath, into their jammies and then it’s time for a story. You could read them American Psycho and they probably wouldn’t care, as long as you did it in a soft voice. Goodnight Moon is a great way to signal the start of snoozy-time (and it doesn’t contain a single graphic description of face-drilling); “Goodnight this. Goodnight that. Goodnight this. Goodnight that. Goodnight this. Goodnight that.” If you say goodnight enough times your little pipsqueak might stop humping bedtime teddy, calm down and go to sleep. Finish off with, “Goodnight light, Goodnight [insert name]” and back quietly out of the room.
Welcome to the Zoo (by Alison Jay)
Plot: Monkey steals camenbert. Poodle attacks Station Master. How to catch an emu with a butterfly net.
There are a million different stories, or none, depending on how much time you have.
This wordless wander through the zoological equivalent of an open prison is an absolute treat. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and affectionate, there are wonderful little narratives unfolding on every page (seriously, someone shoot that f*cking poodle) and if you like a little more structure to your cardboard books then there are various Where’s Wally style challenges laid out on the final pages. With more depth and humour than most adult fiction, this is a book that will entertain for years.
Lost and Found – Pop-up Edition (by Oliver Jeffers / paper engineering by Corinna Fletcher)
Plot: Even penguins get lonely.
If this isn’t the best pop-up book ever, then I‘ll be damned. It’s got more flaps, tabs and strange protrusions than a drunken night in Bangkok. Throw in the rich colours, wonderful illustrations and heart-warming narrative – all present in the original 2D version – and you’ve got one hell of a children’s book. Worth holding off with this until the child in question understands that pages are for turning, not tearing, as it’s such a beautiful object that a little piece of your heart will die each time it takes a hit.
Have you ever tickled a tiger? (by Betsy Snyder)
Plot: Seven acts of mild bestiality.
This improved version of the ever-popular ‘That’s not my Teddy/Puppy/Train/Dinosaur’ series, gives your little one the opportunity to tickle a tigers tummy, poke a penguin and fluff an ostrich, with the help of some neatly placed fabric swatches. With a rhyming couplet on each page, bright and colourful illustrations and durable textures, this touchy-feely tale is great before and after they’ve learnt to read.
Postman Bear (by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler)
Plot: Bear is having a party. Well, more of a get-together really. In fact, it’s only two or three of his closest friends,
so I wouldn’t be upset if you don’t get an invite.
Donaldson + Schaffer are the Torvil and Dean of children’s books, their perfect 6.0 being The Gruffalo, that friendly rip-off of Where The Wild Things Are. Postman Bear has all the essentials for an engaging read; a homely little narrative, cute pictures and, the icing on the cake, flaps on every page. I don’t know about you, but I love flaps!
If you’ve got a great book recommendation – or one that should be avoided at all costs – pop it in the
comments box below and I’ll add it to the next list…