My Top 5 Favourite Picture Books

Sunday 28 September 2014 by


The Paper Bag Princess, Book, Picture book, Robert Munsch

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

This has been a favourite of mine since childhood and if I actually sat down to think about it, would probably be in my top 10 favourite books. Published in 1980 it tells the story of Princess Elizabeth who is due to marry a prince named Ronald until a dragon comes along and burns down her castle, destroying everything she owns, and kidnaps Ronald. Not being your typical damsel in distress, Elizabeth sets off after the dragon to get Ronald back.

If you haven’t read it, I don’t want to spoil it too much, but this is so much better than your average princess-rescue story; Elizabeth is sharp, clever and strong minded, and the book has a wonderful message for children that it’s just fine to be yourself. It’s such a fabulous, uplifting read that by the end, like Elizabeth, you will also want to skip off into the sunshine.

Stanley & Rhoda, Rosemary Wells, Book, Picture book,

Stanley & Rhoda by Rosemary Wells

I strongly suspect my mother lost count of the times I asked her to read this one to me before bed, I just couldn’t get enough of it and still love it now.

Stanley & Rhoda, Rosemary Wells, Book, Picture book,

The book holds three separate stories centring on siblings Stanley and his younger sister Rhoda. There’s ‘Bunny Berries’ about tidying up, ‘Don’t Touch It, Don’t Look At It’ about playing outside and ‘Henry’ about a night with a babysitter. Each tale is a wonderful note on the dynamics of the elder-younger sibling relationship in childhood, from worming out of chores to nipping drama in the bud. It’s filled with lovely humour, both in the prose and the pictures, and is just as joyful to read as an adult. Something I noticed as I read it again as an adult was just how much of the story is actually told through the illustrations. Recalling it from my childhood, I was so convinced that more details had been in the prose that I had to go back and read it again. Looking back, I was able to see just how wonderfully detailed and expressive Wells’ illustrations are; you can so clearly see all of the characters’ thoughts and feelings, it is so skilled and makes for an enveloping and interactive experience that gets children engaged with the relationship between the words and pictures.

Tusk Tusk, David McKee, Book, Picture book

Tusk Tusk by David McKee

As far as I’m concerned this is one of the greatest children’s books out there, teaching about difference and tolerance without ever being condescending or heavy handed. In the book, there are black elephants and white elephants who just can’t get along, fighting each other every day and eventually deciding to kill one another. Those who don’t like to fight hide deep in jungle while the others fight until they fall “asleep” and no elephants are seen again, but then, from deep inside the jungle, come the grey elephants descended from those who hid.

This may seem like an awfully serious subject matter for a children’s picture book but it is handled sensitively with appropriate, implicated language. I’m not sure how old I was when it was first read to me but it was read to me and by me many times, and I never found it frightening. In fact, I clearly remember sitting in med with my mum saying it’s sad that they can’t get along but nice that the grey elephants come and are happy. It got me thinking, and that’s a great thing. It’s a hopeful ending that always said to me that we are all equal and the same really, no matter what we look like.

I Hate my Teddy Bear, David McKee, Book, Picture book

I Hate My Teddy Bear by David McKee

This one is just fabulous, and the humorous conclusion is one of my favourites. In it, two children are trying to one-up each other over whose teddy is better than the other. It’s a near on perfect look at the way children interact with each other and is so much fun. McKee’s illustrations are just fantastic, each one packed full of detail, humour and character that fill out this little world. There’s so much going on that the children miss due to being so wrapped up in their playful bickering. It’s such a great little read that you can’t help but giggle to, especially when the teddies express to each other how impressed they are by their newly revealed skills, highly recommended.

Whatever Next, The Jolly Postman, Jill Murphy, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Book, Picture book

Whatever Next by Jill Murphy / The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This one has to be a tie as it’s just too hard for me to pick one of the two (Top 6 doesn’t quite have the same ring to it).

Whatever Next, The Jolly Postman, Jill Murphy, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Book, Picture book

Whatever Next is a wonderful little tale about a baby bear who wants to go to the moon before bath time, and of just what we can do with our imaginations with one of the sweetest, most endearing characters around. Murphy wonderfully captures the way children can turn something into anything they wish, and the lovely matter-of-fact way in which they talk – turns out the moon is a little boring.

Whatever Next, The Jolly Postman, Jill Murphy, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Book, Picture book

The Jolly Postman, what can I even say about this one? It’s just fantastic. Filled with lovely, rhyming prose, easily recognisable characters that will fill children with glee when they see what they are up to, and all those fun letters and postcards to open up and read! I’d say it’s the best, most inventive interactive book for children, and a great way to get them involved and show them the fun of reading and diving into a story.

Picture books, The Jolly Postman, The Paper Bag Princess, I Hate my Teddy Bear

Nerissa is a writer, mummy and rather proud geek living in the countryside. In between playtime, cuddles and fun times she loves to read, knit, bake and write Young Adult and children’s fiction.

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