It’s been a long time since we’ve published a Top Ten Book List, but it is still a series we really love and we will try to bring you more book lists in the coming months. Today we have a list from Joanna Skipwith, author of the Silver Jungle books (pictured above) which we’ve mentioned here before. Joanna’s latest book, One Timid Babbler, is a counting book featuring loads of beautiful birds, and is just as catchy as her others. We are delighted to share her book list featuring her family’s favourites (with photos of her very own copies, below!).
Only 10, how difficult. I have chosen books that have been enjoyed by at least two generations of my family (sometimes 4) and ones that were fun to read with my boys before Horrid Henry, Torak and Alex Rider took them off into their own realms. I have photographed our copies: battered, bruised, very well-thumbed, some no longer in print.
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, illustrated by E.H. Shepard, 1926
The edition I grew up with was printed in 1936. It says ‘Sixteenth Edition (Cheap form)’. The first volume is my favourite because it contains the cunning plan to catch a Heffalump.
… but there was just one other thing that had to be thought about, and it was this. Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit? Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on …
The Lorax by Dr Seuss, 1971
Janet and John at school, Green Eggs and Ham at home. I certainly preferred learning to read with Dr Seuss and enjoyed the process all over again with my sons. The way he combines rhyme, colour, layout and humour … bold, spontaneous genius, or so it appears to me. The Lorax is also a poignant warning about consumerism and the despoiling of our planet. There it was, forty years ago. It is a melancholy tale but full of humour and a GREAT pleasure to read:
At the far end of town
where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows …
Edmund DulacS Picture Book For The French Red Cross, 1915!
I loved this collection of fairy tales, handed down from my grandmother. After a diet of bears and bunnies, it was probably my introduction to princes and princesses, but exotic ones from Persia, China and Carthage. Dulac’s exquisite images were ‘tipped in’ (pasted in by hand, along one edge), so I had to take great care turning the pages.
Red Rackham’s Treasure by Hergé, 1944
I remember the thrill of a new Tintin book and the suspense if my brother was allowed to read it first. As a child I was caught up in the plot and the characters, now I appreciate the graphics even more. Red Rackham’s Treasure was my favourite, perhaps because Calculus makes his debut. His shark submarine is a beauty and his deafness provokes many a ‘blistering barnacle’ from the captain.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, 1999
I think you might have read this one already! We all loved it and read it so often that the boys knew it by heart very quickly. I’m a little disappointed that we have moved on … and will sneak down to the library to read … The Highway Rat.
Mother Goose, Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Brian Wildsmith, 1964
These nursery rhymes and Brian Wildsmith must have crept into my machinery at an early age. I soaked up his rich velvety colours, and the rhymes now seem to be creeping out whether I want them to (Diddle, diddle,) or not (dumpling). His ABC influenced the format of the Tiger and Rhino books I produced. I took a copy with me to the first design meeting.
Fidgit by Dale Maxey,1965.
This was one of my favourites, the large format so much larger then. It is a very friendly tale of a ‘fidgit’, who helps the other animals at the zoo. They take him for granted until an accident proves how much they love him. I have included it partly because I loved it but also because there is so little about this illustrator on the internet.
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Tomi Ungerer, 1964
Deadpan humour and just enough words to make you smile. Stanley’s predicament is met with British stoicism and a bit of sibling ‘pique’, which is very amusing. Stanley, on the whole, remains cheerful throughout his ordeal. ‘Can I eat my sandwich now?’ he asks from his envelope as he is airmailed off to California.
Nicholas by René Goscinny, illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé, 1959
The boys still ask me to read this to them and I try to with as few pauses as possible, like an overexcited child. As with Milne and Shepard, the illustrations suit the story perfectly. Nicholas and his friends are delightful trouble-makers, innocently undermining the best-laid plans. My sons enjoy the gleeful punch-ups. I, meanwhile, empathise with the collateral damage, especially the exhausted parents. It is written as if by Nicholas:
‘Our teacher was very cross and she gave Eddie lines to do – I must not refuse to change places with a friend who has dropped a piece of bread and jam on his shirt.’
Cockatoos by Quentin Blake, 1992
We spent many happy evenings counting up naughty cockatoos. They belong to Professor Dupont and decide to disrupt his daily ritual by hiding throughout the house. Like Dupont, my children enjoyed the same old routine and were quite happy to count up cockatoos even when they knew exactly how many there were and where to find them. The hiding places are often comical and sometimes difficult to spot among the rampant lines and theatrical flourishes of colour.
I’ve mentioned Karin Littlewood before in my review of her book, Immi (which we still really love!). Karin lives and works in London and has illustrated more than 40 children’s books published in the UK and worldwide. I got in touch with her after discovering her books and have since discovered she is not only a talented artist, but also a really lovely person. She kindly took the time to compile her top ten list of children’s books for us and I was SO excited to receive a list with not one single familiar book on it. This means I can add ten new books to my Amazon wish-list! Her descriptions and reasons for loving each book are so compelling — don’t you just want to read every single one? Here is her list (divided into two sections: books from her childhood and newer books).
I have so many books on my shelves from my childhood , and they still make me feel the same when I look at them now as they did then. It was just too hard to choose only ten as there are plenty more I would love to share with you !
1. Joba and the Wild Boar — ‘Joba und das Wildschwein’ by Gaby Baldner, illustrated by Gerhardt Oberlander (a dual language English/German book)
Loose, scratchy, quite abstract black and white line drawings combined with strong blocks of colour. Looking at it now it feels so modern. I love the fact that it’s not cute and cuddly, but you love the little stripy wild boar piglet all the more for that. Set in the middle of the Black Forest it’s a lost, found, lost and found again story. Definitely something that would never happen in the Yorkshire town I was brought up in, although I really wanted it to! I loved my mum reading it to me, fascinated by her switching from English to her native German.
2. Little hedgehog by Gina Ruck-Pauquet , illustrated by Marianne Richter
Another German translation , and again a very bold use of black and white and alternate colour spreads. Lots of texture with hints of collage. Very different again in style from the English books on the bookshelf. I must have always been aware of the power of illustration, and how different each book made you feel. A naughty little hedgehog is brought home from the woods by a little girl and gets up to lots of tricks, especially with the cat!
3. The Useful dragon of Sam Ling Toy by Glen Dines
This is set in Chinatown, San Francisco, although I didn’t know it at the time! I just knew that it was ’somewhere else’, which is what books are all about aren’t they? Sam Ling Toy has a wonderful pet shop, and the little lizard he finds grows and grows and grows …. into a dragon with one red eye and one green eye, so you can imagine what happens to the traffic when he goes out. But come Chinese New Year, all’s well that ends well! The illustrations are done in coloured crayon, and it’s like opening a magical sketchbook. I felt like I’d jumped into the book and was one of those kids that had befriended him.
4. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Very, very simple 2 colour illustrations and the joy of this story is this …. Harold draws his way through the book: a pie when he’s hungry, an air balloon to stop him from falling, a home when he’s lost and a bed when he’s tired. This has been reissued, although I like my falling-to-pieces one best!
5. Algernon by Charlotte Hough
Wonderful evocative sketchy drawings … set in a thatched-cottage-filled village, but managing to steer clear of the twee, where vegetables are still delivered by donkey and cart. But Algernon the donkey can read, which comes in handy when a burglar comes to town! Some pages are two colour, some full colour, ….The old printing restrictions still proving how great a book with these limitations.
6. The Silver Donkey Sonya Hartnett , illustrated by Laura Carlin
This is an illustrated book for older children and I know its also the favourite of many illustrators. A beautiful, beautiful book and so good to see illustrations used in a book for older children. I love this one…. Hartnett has such a special way of writing… simple and deep, evocative and beautifully descriptive. A perfect combination with Laura Carlin’s illustrations. I could write too much about this book, but I think you should discover it for yourself! Get the hardback version if you can as it’s wonderful to hold! Also see Laura Carlin’s work in Ted Hughes’ “The Iron Man”.
7. Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen , illustrated by Kevin Waldron
One of the the best things about working in a studio is that you get to share with wonderful creative illustrators who just make some of the best books ever! Kevin now lives in New York — he was busy drawing animals here and he still is there …and what animals! A stunningly designed book, his bold and graphic illustrations fill the page and Michael Rosen’s simple rhythms and rhymes roll over from one page to the next.
8. Halibut Jackson by David Lucas
Another ex-studio pal who has created an absolute classic story — and what a title! How can you not want to find out about Halibut Jackson, although he’s not always that easy to find! This was David’s first book, but as soon as I read it I felt as if it had been around forever. I think there’s a little bit of Halibut in us all — so why don’t you take a look for yourself.
9. When Martha’s Away by Bruce Ingman
You don’t have to be a cat lover to love this book. You definitely don’t have to be a cat owner either, but if you are you’ll never feel quite the same when you leave the house in the morning! It’s not a cutesy cat book at all. I’ve had this clever, funny, sort of observational book for ages and it still makes me laugh. Brilliant, stylised illustrations.
10. The Bremen Town Musicians illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Lisbeth Zwerger is an Austrian illustrator and I know of no-one who draws quite like her. Timeless, beautiful, subtle, traditional and very modern at the same time. Look closely at her drawings and get a sense of how quietly clever she is at placing her characters on the page. She has illustrated so many classic titles I found it hard to choose one for you. I have them all at home so I don’t have to have that problem!
PS – Karin is taking part in the Pop-Up Festival of Stories event happening on the 9th and 10th of July in Coram’s Fields. Check out the site for more info.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Serena and Lily Moses Basket
• Sweet for Baby: Bonnie Baby Vintage Fun Collection
• Celebrating all things BABY!
At the recent school book fair, I bought a book for each of my children. I bought Helen Stephens’ The Night Iceberg for my daughter because she loves penguins and because I was drawn to the sweet illustrations… and it turned out to be the most successful book we bought. Having read it now numerous times, I have become a huge fan of Helen Stephens. Her illustrations are very endearing, appealing to both kids and adults. And her stories are imaginative and engaging. Helen recently left London after 15 years and now lives on the seaside in Northumberland where she spends her days drawing and dreaming up book ideas. Her next book, The Big Adventure of the Smalls, is due out this summer. And here is her very inspiring book list:
1. Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever
This treasure chest of stories and rhymes was always around when I was growing up. I still have my well worn 35-year-old copy, and am still finding new treasures.
2. When Martha’s Away by Bruce Ingman
One day, a couple of years after graduating from art school, I was floating around, still unsure about what I was going to do for a living, when I came across ‘When Martha’s Away’. I decided there and then that I would become a children’s book illustrator. The combination of rich colour and loose, simple and sophisticated line drawings blew me away.
3. Momoko’s Birthday by Chihiro Iwasaki
I found this book in a bargain bookshop where I worked during college holidays. Chihiro Iwasaki’s illustrations are beautifully fluid and gentle.
4. L’école de Léon by Serge Bloch
I can’t actually read this book properly, but using my school girl French, and looking at the fantastic pictures, I pick my way through. I love it. It is about a boy, Leon, and his first day at school. The pictures are funny, tender, sad and playful. My favourite page is where the parents say goodbye to their children and the whole class starts to cry while a kindly teacher looks on. But their day soon gets better and they have lots of fun, (between fights which involve some painful looking nose pinching and anxious looking visits to the tiny school toilets).
5. Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans
That cover is wonderful. The green and the red together, and that jet black horse with it’s jewel-like circus riders… If it is possible to have a favourite cover of all time, this is it. And inside is gorgeous too. I love the mixture of sophistication and naivety, graphic shapes and painterly marks.
6. Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
I enjoyed the slightly creepy animations as a child, then discovered the books as an adult. They are wonderful. (Tove’s books of short stories, The Summer Book and Winter Book are amongst my favourites too)
7. All About the Giant Alexander by Herrman and Him
I came across this in a charity shop, and have found it so inspiring. There are some lovely pictures of 1950’s English farms and towns, it has a real sense of place. The colour illustrations remind me a little of Ravilious, maybe Ravilious mixed with Sempé. (I’m a big Jean-Jacques Sempé fan.)
8. Harry The Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham
I love the minimal colour palette, and those gorgeous 1950’s line drawings.
9. The Happy Lion by Louise Fatia and Roger Duvoisin
I found this gem in a charity shop when I was a student. I find I like it more and more as the years go by. It has a minimal colour palette and lovely scratchy line drawings.
10. Sixes and Sevens by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake
This is one I was read as a child, and I still know the rhyming text off by heart now. I met Quentin years later and he signed my ancient well loved, well worn copy.
(Have I picked 10 already? On no, can I add Towser and the Water Rats by Tony Ross? I love those wonderfully animated drawings and the use of the word ‘doingnothingmuchedness.’)
*To read other book lists, click here.
Nina Wisnia is a very dear friend of mine. She is also an incredibly talented artist and children’s book illustrator/author. She has illustrated four books, all of them in French. Her most recent book, Gargouillis, is a funny-but-true description of the digestive system of animals and humans. All of her books share the same quirky but cool element to them — also check out Rêves d’animaux, La maison de Loup, and Trolls de dents (about silly trolls who come to live on your teeth if you don’t keep them clean!).
You might also recognize Nina (and her house) from her feature in the most recent edition of Milk Déco (and also on the Milk website). She is one inspiring mother and friend, and it is a pleasure to share her Top Ten list of children’s books with you, many of them in Swedish so they are new to me. And I just love her reasons for choosing each book — I want to run out and buy every one!
In all these books, the illustrations attract me a lot. And that, together with a good story makes them excellent! All of them are also very loved by my children, otherwise I couldn’t really think they are excellent. It’s a shared experience! So this is my (very difficult to choose) choice of 10 favourite books.
1.) Elephant by Petr Horacek
This book is a very charming story of a ‘pretend’ friend, and what they do. I think children recognise themselves a lot with this story. The love of an animal or a toy becomes alive.
2.) T. Rex by Vivian French
I love this book because my children love the story. All T-rex lovers will enjoy it. The repetetive pattern is great, and the suggestion for children to be curious to know more about dinosaurs themselves. The illustrations are quite grotesque which fits well with the animals…
3.) I skogen by Eva Lindström
A wonderful and poetic story about children and a forest, that teaches us somewhere, to be kind to nature, and not take everything for granted…
4.) Bonsoir Lune (English: Goodnight Moon) by Margaret Wise Brown
I love the repetition. The ’silence’ that the pictures create in the book is great. And the looking for the little mouse on every page. Sweet goodnight story.
5.) En liten skär och alla ruskigt rysliga brokiga by Stina wirsen
Very very funny and a little bit scary. The monsters are fabulous! The little girl takes control and kisses the monsters goodnight in the end…
6.) Fisksaga by Pernilla Stalfeldt
A book where we can learn about size — the smallest fish to the biggest fish appears and eat eachother. Very funny. The many small Pirayas eat the big fish in the end (so being smalll, after all, is not so bad…)!
7.) Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
This book is about the friendship, and how important it is to have someone to love and be with. Very charmingly illustrated.
8.) Adjö, herr Muffin by Ulf Nilsson and Anna-Clara Tidholm
The hamster, Herr Muffin, is old and dying. Sad very touching story that teaches children to feel empathy. A good story that talks about death. Beautiful and sensitive illustrations.
9.) Matildas katter by Jan Lööf
Is it a dream or is it real? Small domestic cats that are lion and tiger! I love the big cats and how Matilda takes care of them like normal cats.
10.)Grosse colere by Mireille d’ Allancé
Brilliantly illustrated book about anger. The angryness is a red monster –something that is hard to control, but that you can manage in the end…
(Top image courtesy of Milk Magazine)
*To read other book lists, click here.
Marc Boutavant’s Mouk is one of those children’s books that simply must grace your bookshelves. The illustration is so brilliantly vibrant and engaging. Often compared to Richard Scarry, so it is interesting to see a Scarry book in his Top Ten list of children’s books.
Marc is not only a children’s book illustrator but also an illustrator for comics and he kindly sent pictures of some of his favourites which feature in his list. I find this list particularly exciting as all of Marc’s books are French (we have listed the English as well where possible) and so there are lots of new ones to me ….
Trois Tours de Renard — Paul Francois & M. Beuville
From Beuville — such a great painter/drawer, such an elegant guy.
Archilbald Razmott et Sinistroreur, in comic book ‘Journal de Micky’ – Leo Baxendale (English: Eagle Eye Junior Spy which appeared in comic book Wham!)
I was crazy about Archilbald Razmott et Sinistroreur!
La Foret — Alain Gree (English: I think this might be ‘Keith & Sally in the Woods’, which is out of print)
As a child there was always something illustrated by Alain Grée around me. I remember it didn’t speak to me as a little boy but his splendid work obviously fed my own work.
M Le Magicien — Massimo Mattioli (From comic book Pif Gadget)
This fascinated me even or especially because of nonsense. But through his strange stories his art clearly spoke to me.
Joachim a des Ennuis — Rene Goscinny & Jean-Jacques Sempé (English: This book was the start of the Nicholas stories)
I’ll always have a kind of regret for not having grown up with the books of a fantastic man, Jean-Jacques Sempé.
As an adult reader I discovered masterpieces, the unforgettable text flavour from Toon Tellegen, and lovely illustrations, the first one was:
Lettres de L’écureuil a la Fourmi — illustrated by Axel Scheffler (English: Letters to Anyone and Everyone)
And closer to me, as friends and life and work mix every day and it appears in what I do, there are a few books I’d recommend for children :
La Faim des Sept Ours Nains — Emile Bravo (English: This book doesn’t seem to be in English but you can see Emilie’s work with Goldilocks and The Seven Squat Bears)
Le Diner Surprise — Pauline Martine and Astrid Desbordes (English: Again can’t find this one in English but Reflections of a Solitary Hamster and Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster are by the same authors).
Hortense au Plafond — Aurore Callias
*To read other book lists, click here.
Today is World Book Day! And so we give you another top ten book list… Louise Yates is an author/illustrator who lives in London. Her second book, Dog Loves Books — a beautifully illustrated and outrageous book about a dog who loves books, won the 2010 Roal Dahl Funny Prize. Her most recent book, Frank and Teddy Make Friends is a story about friendship and is equally as charming. Louise studied English at Oxford University and currently attends the Prince’s Drawing School. We are thrilled she took some time out of her busy schedule to give us her top ten children’s books. Here they are:
1.) Ameliaranne at the Circus, by Margaret Gilmour, illustrated by S.B. Pearse
This was my first picture book – or the first one I can remember. My Grandmother gave it to me (it was hers when she was a child and was given to her in 1933). I learned the story off by heart and knew exactly when to turn the page, so it appeared that I knew how to read. I think I got so much praise and attention for this precocious trick that it encouraged me to learn to read properly!
I was enchanted by the idea that I might find an elephant with a damaged trunk at the end of the garden and become a heroine to younger brothers and sisters as Ameliaranne does in the story – though as the youngest of two with an easily unimpressed older brother, this was the stuff that dreams (and picture books!) were made of.
2.) Eloise, by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hilary Knight
I love the way Eloise’s character is written – this is a brilliantly self-centred, first-person narrative! The illustrations are a complete delight and the page compositions perfectly compliment Eloise’s erratic enthusiasms. In the same glance they give both the child’s and the adults’ impressions of her anarchic antics in the fabulous adventure playground that is The Plaza Hotel!
3.) Clown, by Quentin Blake
Clown is ‘silent’ – there is no text – and Quentin Blake’s amazing ability to describe emotion through facial and physical expression shows that illustration itself can be a form of mime. Clown’s story is full of ups and downs, and the book subtly celebrates the comic and tragic nature of life – conjuring the essential spirit of the delightful and heart-warming Clown.
4.) Jacko, by John S. Goodall
I remember Jacko, the stow-away monkey and his parrot from childhood. I’ve just had to re-order it, as it’s a vague but extremely fond memory! This book also has no words. It is quite small and a landscape format. Its pages alternate between half pages and full pages and when you flap the half pages back and fourth against the larger ones, they complete the story in different ways. It’s a very ingenious design – allowing children to ‘spot the difference’ and to see alternative outcomes (and near misses!) within a single scenario. I find this book, with its detailed description of life aboard ship and Jacko’s mischievous evasion of authority completely transporting.
5.) A Long Piece of String, by William Wondriska
I like the pared down red and white pallet, the simplicity of the concept, the surreal use of scale and the twist at the end!
6.) Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel
The best of friends – to each other and to anyone lucky enough to have read these books! I like them just as much now as I did as a child and their struggles seem just as relevant to me now as they did then! Arnold Lobel is also brilliant at illustrating weather. You really feel the wind blow and the sun shine in these books.
7.) It’s a Secret!, by John Burningham
I love John Burningham’s books. I find it hard to choose one that I like above the others, but at the moment it is between ‘Oi! Get Off our Train’ and his latest book: ‘It’s A Secret!’. His artwork is always very original and conceptually interesting. He uses different media with what appears to be both great abandon and great care – not an easy thing to do! His stories seem to have a rarefied quality to them – a delicious element of secrecy and anarchy; and his characters often have gumption and pluck, mingled with a quiet sensitivity, eccentricity and intelligence: I love spending time with them.
8.) The Cat That Lived a Million Times, by Yoko Sano
I found this book in a Japanese shop in London, I bought it because I fell in love with the illustrations – the text was in Japanese. The cat has such an intelligent, worldly and defiant gaze. The colours are beautiful – subtle ink washes, loose and free. There is a sort of flattened perspective and a naiveté to the style that is very endearing and interesting. I became very curious to know the story and found a translation on the Internet. It is a sort of parable about the search for happiness. This completed my impression of what is, I think, a very, very beautiful book.
9.) Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by E.H. Shepard
I have always loved this story about the friendship between Ratty, Mole, Badger and Mr Toad. E.H. Shepard’s illustrations for Winnie the Pooh are equally wonderful, but I thought that readers are less likely to be aware that he also illustrated a version of The Wind in the Willows. One of my favourite images is that of Toad in the dock. The scale of the little creature in front of a huge and comically menacing policeman, expresses so perfectly the indignity with which poor Toad has fallen.
10.) Jitterbug Jam, by Barbara Jean Hicks, Illustrated by Alexis Deacon
I might have also chosen Beegu, or Slow Loris, or While You Were Sleeping, here – books that Alexis Deacon wrote as well as illustrated. I think he is a virtuoso illustrator. There is a tenderness in his drawings that I find very moving. His work combines a vulnerability, a degree of darkness and a vivid, joyful technicolour quality, that to me describe the stuff of childhood itself.
To read other top ten book lists, click here.
When my daughter was born Courtney bought my son a present (she’s so good like that!). It was a book illustrated by English artist, Alison Jay (I Took the Moon for a Walk). It was my first introduction to Alison’s work and (just as Courtney told me I would) I fell in love with her illustrations. They have a sort of old-fashioned charm about them, which is partly because they often have a cracked varnish look to them (she works in a quick drying oil paint which sometimes gives this effect). I also love how she often ‘hides’ details in the pictures so each time you read the book, you feel like you are finding new things. My children particularly love that. (Also check out her Alphabet and Counting books — beautiful details on every page!) We’re thrilled that she took some time out to give us her top ten children’s books…
1. The Children’s Wonder Book
This book belonged to my dad or even my granny — it is a huge book stuffed with classic fairy tales, poems, adventures stories, and amazing illustrations by many different illustrators of the past. I loved this book — it has some very atmospheric and almost menacing illustrations. The illustrators include, Edmond Dulac, John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham . Also in the book are the limericks and illustrations by Edward Lear which I love, and a poem about a poor boy who died because he wouldn’t eat his soup. (Take note)
2. The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher — Beatrix Potter
I loved the Beatrix Potter illustrations as a child and still do. I especially love seeing inside the animals’ houses and shops. I have chosen Jeremy Fisher as my favorite as I grew up with frogs — my dad had a very soft spot for them and got furious with the cat for chasing them. Again, I really like seeing inside Mr Fisher’s house with the snails– I must have been a nosey child, now a nosey adult.
3.Dwindling Party — Edward Gorey
This is a pop-up book, now out of print, I found a copy at a boot sale. It is wonderfully dark but funny! The illustrations are fantastic, and I also love Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies — I think children love creepy, scary things (I know I did).
4. The Cat in the Hat — Dr Seuss
I loved this book as a child and also “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back”. I was always a bit worried about the mess the cats made and felt really sorry for the goldfish.
5. The Hidden House — Martin Waddell & Angela Barrett
I adore this book — it is quite sad but has a happy ending, and the illustrations are beautiful with tiny details. I like to put details into my pictures and sometimes little stories or events within the main story– it is amazing how children spot everything.
6.The Great Dog Bottom Swap — Peter Bently & Mei Matsuoka
This book is mad but hilarious! The illustrations are perfect for the text– I love quirky things and this is high on the quirky-o-meter.
7. Maths Curse — Lane Smith Jon Scieszka
I think Lane Smith is such a fantastic illustrator; his imaginative compositions are incredible. I love all Lane Smiths books but as I had such a problem with maths as a child I have chosen this one. The Stinky Cheese man is wonderful too.
8. James and the Giant Peach — Roald Dhal
My Brother was given the second edition for Christmas one year and my Mum read it to us over a few days. I love the cover illustration by Michael Simeons — it shows Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge’s house high in a hill.
9. Haunted House — Jan Peinkowski
My mum was a school teacher and she used to lend our books to take to school for her class, often they never came back or were damaged. Luckily, my copy of this book survived! I think this book again appeals to my sense of humor. I really like pop-up books as they give another dimension — I am hoping to illustrate one quite soon.
10. Ant and Bee and the Doctor — Angela Banner
I really like the simple drawings of these books and that the scale is so weird — I think Bee was almost as big as the Doctor. I like painting insects as characters when the opportunity arises and strangely, weird scale.
(Photo of Alison, aged 5)
To see other top ten book lists, click here.
I was introduced to Camilla via a friend who just knew we’d get on with each other, both being enthusiastic kid’s book lovers. We met for coffee and tried to narrow down our favourites — it was a hard task which lead to her rather brilliant suggestion that we should do top ten lists on Babyccino — so you have Camilla to thank for this series!
Camilla has been a children’s book editor for 17 years and has written a number of books, including Lulu’s Shoes and The Littlest Dinosaur and the Naughty Rock and is currently working with Axel Scheffler (of The Gruffalo fame) on a new series of books for toddlers. Last year she teamed up with an ex-collegue to launch Nosy Crow, a new publisher of children’s books and apps – watch out for some very exciting launches from them soon (I was lucky enough to see one of their forthcoming apps in development and it looks SO SO SO exciting – more on that soon!). Camilla lives in London and has 2 daughters, aged 5 and 3. Here is her list (which she has narrowed down to ‘baby books’ – hmmmm! that might be cheating Camilla!):
1.) Peekabooks: Peekaboo Farm — Emily Bolam
Just ideal for very small babies. Dead simple, a small board book with gatefold flaps, ending in a mirror. I read this again and again with my children and it saw us through many a mealtime. My own copy is now encrusted with food!
2.) Goodnight Moon — Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd
First published in the ’40s and has now become a classic. With a gentle rhyming text and a tiny mouse to spot on every spread, it’s just a lovely book to wind down with before bed.
3.) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? — Eric Carle
Colours and Eric Carle’s beautiful animals: this is one that children learn very quickly and love reciting with you.
4.) Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy — Lynley Dodd
With its simple, very linear narrative and fun, ’scary’ moment, this is just great for toddlers who want a bit of story but can’t actually follow a complicated plot.
5.) Busy Railway — Rebecca Finn
Sturdy little board book with sliders to move – one of the books that my girls would constantly get off the shelf to be read.
6.) Good Night, Gorilla — Peggy Rathmann
So simple, so charming, with almost no text, this is the story of a zoo keeper trying to get his animals to go to bed, with very little success. Makes me feel better about my own failures in the sleep-training department.
7.) The Tiger Who Came to Tea — Judith Kerr
Possibly my favourite young picture book, it is just perfection – could read it till the cows come home.
8.) Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball — Vicki Churchill & Charles Fuge
A delightful, exuberant text about the sheer joy of being alive.
9.) You Choose! — Pippa Goodhart & Nick Sharratt
This is one of my girls’ favourites still, even though they’re a bit older. It has huge, busy scenes to look at and its very much something parent and child can enjoy together.
10.) The Very Hungry Caterpillar — Eric Carle
Quite simply the best novelty book ever. Genius.
To see other book lists, click here.
Mellany Robinson lives on the South Coast with her two children. Having worked in the creative industries (advertising, photography) and with various museums including the V&A and The National Gallery she decided to set up a children’s publishing company with her childhood friend Annabel Bennetts. By Parents For Children encourages parents to make the stories they tell their children a reality just as Mellany and Annabel (pictured above) have done with their first book Millie’s Mayday part of a new series of stories from Haven Harbour.
Here is her list of favourite children’s books …
I have compiled a list for you (in no particular order) of inspirational books. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it — it brought back some lovely memories!
Happy Owls by Celestino Piatti
I bought this for my son’s first birthday and I hope he will keep it always. It has really strong, bold illustrations typical of Piatti’s work. Also, the story is one with a pure and beautiful message: that we have the ability to live in peace together, if we choose to.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
This one I picked up as an eight year old at my school jumble sale. I was attracted by the illustration of the man on the cover and wasn’t dissapointed. This story has a a strange undercurrent running through it and completely caught me up in a world where past, present and future meet. Alan Garner is an overlooked writer and I would urge anyone with an interest in the unusual to seek him out. His other stories, such as The Owl Service and Red Shift are classics too.
Ratsmagic – Wayne Anderson
Sublime imagery — very gothic and executed with extraordinary attention to detail, and all pre-computers!
The Tyger Voyage by Nicola Bayley
Again, whisks you off to a different world (as all good books should!). I got lost in its pages as a child and the illustrations served as starting points for my own imagination. They were all painted with frames around them and I liked to imagine what was beyond their boundaries…
The House at Pooh Corner by A A Milne
I remember my Mum reading this to me at bedtime. The language in the Winnie-the-Pooh books is so playful and inventive and my own children really appreciate the singular humour too. E H Shephard’s illustrations are masterful, I love studying the tiny illustrations and wonder at his draughtsmanship.
Masquerade by Kit Williams
This is such an innovative book that caused a real craze when it was published. Truly interactive in its blending of fantasy and reality – I really believed that I would discover the golden hare buried by the author and spent happy times trying to work out the riddles in the book with my parents. The illustrations are wonderfully decadent.
La Corona and the Tin Frog by Russell Hoban and Nicola Bayley
I liked the cleverness of this as a child. The story is based around a tin frog who falls in love with a princess in a book and manages to squeeze through the printed pixels to join her in the story.With more wonderful illustrations from Nicola Bayley.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A really poetic book which creates a magical world. Although very much of its time, with some antiquated views, it is brilliantly imagined and the characters are very well realised.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
I was absolutely mad on this (I also loved the film and ‘Bright Eyes’ by Art Garfunkel – they had me hook, line and sinker!) Quite complex in its description of the different characters and with a lovely, mythical element woven through.
anything by Richard Scarry
I used to spend hours looking at these and marvelling at their detail. I still seek them out as gifts for children now: the best books really do span the generations!
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Salmonella and other reasons why I am afraid to eat anything ever again….
• Sparkle and Spin
Leo Timmers was born in 1970, in Belgium and still lives in Brussels with his wife and two daughters. Trained as a graphic designer he soon began to illustrate children’s books. In 2000 he wrote his first story Happy with Me which won a Bookfeather Award for illustration. He has also won the annual Children’s and Youth Jury Award in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 (wow!).
There isn’t a Leo Timmers book in our house that doesn’t have VERY well-worn pages — I think Derek the Deep-sea Doctor is my son’s favourite but my daughter loves Look What I Can Do! and I love our newest addition Crow. We love and have them all — we’re huge fans. So it gives me great pleasure to present his top ten children’s books.
Almost all these books are written and illustrated by the same artist. I think that they have a perfect balance between text and illustration. They are made by brilliant visual storytellers. Stories written with images is what picture books should be for me, and that’s what I try to do. It was really difficult to choose just ten — there are so many more books I wanted to include but I tried to find a mix between classic and contemporary books.
Frog is Frightened – Max Velthuijs
I love all the frog strories, but this one is just so perfect. I can read it over and over again.
Where The Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
A classic and a work of genius although not so popular with my kids.
The Three Robbers – Tomi Ungerer
Great story and artwork in blue and black.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems
I think its a modern classic. Very original and funny idea. Simple but effective drawings.
Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren
Pipi is the absolute hero of our 5-year-old daughter. She wants to be just like her! I love her too.
Fish Is Fish – Leo Lionni
I love many books by Lionni, but this one is his best I think. This message is very dear to me : we are what we are — don’t try to change yourself.
Duck, Death and Tulip – Wolf Erlbruch
Elbruch’s drawings are always masterful, just think of ‘the little mole who went…’
He also wrote this story and it’s about a duck who encounters death in person. So moving… for me it’s a masterpiece.
In the Town All Year ‘Round – Suzanne Rotraut Berner.
The ultimate look-and-search book!
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
No words, impressive imaginative pictures and a beautiful heartbreaking story. A real tour de force!
To see other book lists, click here.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Tess, a tasteful stool
I love this new series on Babyccino Kids (I hope you do too!) and every time I write up someone’s book-list I think through what would be on mine … it is SUCH a difficult task and almost impossible to narrow down to just 10 books but I’m absoutely sure (no shadow of a doubt) that Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty would be in my top ten — and so I feel like Christmas is here again as she shares with us her top ten favourites.
Andrea was raised in a small southern Illinois town, where her family ran a tiny grocery store. When she wasn’t roaming the nearby fields with her brothers and sisters, she was reading Nancy Drew mysteries up in the branches of a maple tree. Andrea now lives outside Chicago with her family. She is the author of When Giants Come to Play illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, and Iggy Peck, Architect illustrated by David Roberts. She is also the author of Doctor Ted illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre.
Here are her top ten Children’s Books ….
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss
My favorite of all the Seuss books. I read it year around. The rhyme is unbeatable and I love a villain with a heart – especially one that’s two sizes too small.
Where The Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
Shows that there is space in the universe for imagination, silliness, anger, friendship, loneliness, and love. I never really appreciated the language of this book until I started writing.
17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore – Jenny Offill
The art and the text are perfectly matched and the main character is true to herself. She makes me laugh out loud. One of my very favorite funny books ever.
Miss Spider’s Tea Party – David Kirk
I love the rhyme and the tender story. This was my favorite book to read to my kids when they were young.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems
I would let the pigeon drive the bus just to see what happens when the cops catch him. I’m bad like that.
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel – Virginia Lee Burton
The language is very musical. A perfect read aloud book.
Go, Dog. Go! – P.D. Eastman
This was absolutely my favorite picture book as a kid. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent looking at that dog party in the tree and wishing I was there!
The Tale Of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
This was a staple of my childhood. I adore the illustrations and always imagined myself exploring an English garden when I read this.
The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg
The text is warm and lyrical and the illustrations are mysterious and full of anticipation. I love that there is nothing saccharine about this story or the illustrations. Simply beautiful.
Weslandia – Paul Fleischman
I love stories about kids who do their own thing (like Iggy Peck and Doctor Ted) and who change the world instead of being changed by it. Brilliant text by Paul Fleischman and equally brilliant illustrations by Kevin Hawkes. (Side note: Not long after I discovered Weslandia, I learned that Kevin was chosen to illustrate my first book, When Giants Come to Play. Thrilling!)
(To see other Top Ten lists, click here.)
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• 10 things to do in Paris with children
Matthew Porter is a children’s book illustrator and writer living and working in Seattle. He has published five books including the much loved (in our household) Count the Birdies. He is currently working on his next book which will feature an engine driving monkey! When not in his studio painting Matthew enjoys going on trips to the zoo with his wife Andrea and their newborn son. There is inspiration in every trip!
Presenting Matthew’s top ten favourite children’s books …
Meg on the Moon – Helen Nicoll, Illustrated by Jan Pienkowski
This is the only book I can remember picking out of the book catalogue at primary school. I recently found it at my parents’ house and it still brings a smile to my face.
The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling, Illustrated by Maurice and Edward Detmold
Kipling’s home is close to where I grew up and in one of the rooms hang some prints by the Detmold brothers. It was seeing these prints that really got me interested in illustration.
The Animal Fair — Alice and Martin Provensen
I found this book at a thrift store soon after I moved to Seattle and fell in love with it immediately. It’s full of stories and poems and lively illustrations.
The Color Kittens – Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen
This time a single story written by Margaret Wise Brown who also wrote Goodnight Moon.
Cautionary Tales for Children — Hilaire Belloc
Mischievous poems for mischievous minds.
I Can Fly – Ruth Krauss, Illustrated by Mary Blair
Bright and playful illustrations that look fresh and modern even though they were produced over 60 years ago.
Up and Down New York – Jonathan Adler, Illustrated by Tony Sarg
Imagine that you are a bird flying around New York in the 1920s. I don’t know how he managed to capture the city so well from above. He must have had a very tall ladder.
Charley Harper’s ABC’s – Charley Harper
I first became aware of Charley Harper when we were both in a top ten list in a magazine. I have since checked out his work and it’s really lovely. Elegant and graceful. Modern and ancient.
A Children’s Treasury of Milligan – Spike Milligan
Stories and poems by Spike Milligan. I love listening to old radio shows when I’m painting and the Goon Show has long been a favorite. This book is stuffed full of silly words and pictures.
I Am a Bunny – Ole Risom, Illustrated by Richard Scarry
The pictures in this book are beautiful and make you feel like everything in life is lovely even though it’s raining on the front cover. Reading this book will make you want to curl up for a snooze.
To kick start our new feature we couldn’t think of a more perfect person to ask than the lady who compiled 1001 Children’s Books: You Must Read Before You Grow Up, Julia Eccleshare. Julia is a writer, broadcaster and lecturer as well as Children’s Books Editor of the Guardian newspaper and Co-director of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. She won the Eleanor Farjeon Award 2000 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to children’s books.
Julia has probably read every children’s book out there, so I’m particularly excited to present her top ten ….
The Baby’s Catalogue — Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Close observations of beautifully drawn babies sleeping, dressing, eating and playing make this a wonderful insight into the world of the very young. With only a few words of text, the pictures say everything eloquently and affectionately.
Mister Magnolia — Quentin Blake
Exuberant humour infuses this sublimely anarchic story about the cheerful Mr Magnolia who seems to mind little that he has only one boot. Quentin Blake’s rhyming text and his vigorous illustrations make this book memorable.
Mr Gumpy’s Outing — John Burningham
Elegant illustrations in soothing greens and creams capture the watery landscape of this delightful story as it builds to its satisfying climax. The bad behave of the animals who cause the boat to tip is fun and the resolution of a comforting tea is delightful.
Ug : Boy Genius Of The Stone Age – Raymond Briggs
A reflective picture book which celebrates Ug, a boy living in the stone age who wants to live a better and more comfortable life. Ug yearns for soft trousers, a soft football, to give flowers to his mother and many other things we take for granted. Ug’s enquiry is both entertaining and thought provoking.
Where The Wild Things Are — Maurice Sendak
How Max, sent to his room because of his bad behaviour, joins the Wild Things for a ‘rumpus’ is a wonderful adventure which, without spelling it out, also captures the dynamics of a child’s temper tantrum and how it tests a parent. Glorious illustrations allow Max to explore his feelings with only a minimum of description.
The Shrinking of Treehorn — Florence Parry Heide
Treehorn knows he is shrinking but his parents think he is making it up. The result is a wonderfully funny story in which readers, siding entirely with Treehorn, believe him while the parents have a very different story of their own.
Charlotte’s Web — E.B White
How a spider leads a campaign to save the life of Wilbur the pig is a touching story of friendship. E. B. White captures the spirit of the farmyard while also giving his animals the power of speech and the ability to make good decisions.
Tom’s Midnight Garden– Philippa Pearce
How Tom, living nowadays, meets up with Hatty, a little girl who lived in the house many years earlier, is a beautiful story about friendship and play in childhood which makes the point that growing up is a good too.
Warrior Scarlet — Rosemary Sutcliff
Rosemary Sutcliff had an exceptional ability to bring the past to life; in Warrior Scarlet it is the Bronze Age. Drem needs to kill a wolf to become a man of the tribe. How he first fails and then succeeds in doing so despite his withered arm is a moving story about overcoming adversity.
Northern Lights (His Dark Materials) — Philip Pullman
It is impossible not to be inspired by Philip Pullman’s rich cast of characters Lyra, Will, Mrs Coulter, Lord Asriel and the armoured bear Iorek Byrnison as they play their various roles in this mighty story about good and evil and the search for understanding of the mysterious Dust.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Beautiful bunting for babies
One of the many things Courtney and I bonded over when we first met was our love of children’s books. Whenever we went round to each other’s houses we would scour the bookshelves for any new ideas to read. Recently I was chatting with another fellow kids book lover over a coffee and we got onto the question — what would be your top ten? We found it really difficult to choose. For me it was clear The Happy Lion would be in my Top Ten but I equally love the stories The Happy Lioness and The Happy Lion’s Rabbits – but I couldn’t take up 3 spots with one series, there just wasn’t space! As you can imagine the conversation was a long one and we even took it back up on e-mail later that day.
I find it so interesting hearing other people’s lists and so we, here at Babyccino, decided to put the question out to people from the world of kid’s books to find out which books would make the grade for them. Each week we will be publishing a top ten list from a children’s book author, illustrator, publisher or reviewer. I can’t tell you how exciting I find this and hope you enjoy them too.