Thanks to a special request/suggestion, I’m sharing a bit about some of Polly’s favourite books. I’d love to hear your suggestions of your favourites, or your children’s favourites too.
Apologies in advance for how many times I try to tell you that a book “teaches” your child something like numbers or whatever. Clearly, it doesn’t at all, it just includes them, but you know what I mean. Teaching is your job, obviously, not the book’s!
I’m also not going to advise about an appropriate age for books. Stories are good stories at any age.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
A lovely interactive book with differently sized pages, and holes through to indicate where the caterpillar has eaten. Teaches numbers 1-5, days of the week, fruits and other foods, the lifecycle of a caterpillar, and that eating too much gives you a tummyache!
Also good from the same author is The Very Busy Spider which contains several animals and tactile spider silk, and Mister Seahorse, with fantastic see-through pages to learn about camouflage, featuring several different types of sea creature where the male parent is the primary (or only) caregiver.
Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
Interactive flaps and lots of different animals. Polly preemptively tells me what’s behind each one before she lifts it now, and points to the spilled crumbs next to Sally’s food bowl saying “oh no!” There are lots of Spot books in the series, although Where’s Spot? is still my favourite, there are bound to be several others you’ll enjoy or find relevant. Spot Goes to the Farm is particularly good – it teaches animal sounds, and one page is very amusing.
The Baby’s Catalogue by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
There is no story, just compelling pictures that babies love to explore. Somehow this book is still brilliant, but it definitely belongs to my generation – it features the highchair I had as a baby, and lots of toys I remember too (including a Duplo boat!) Even so, Polly loves flicking through the pages and telling me what she can see. There are plenty of babies, family scenes, toys, depictions of dinner time, bedtime, bathtime etc., and a whole page full of “oh no!” moments.
By the same author/artist pair, and also well loved, are some great books with actual stories as well as the fantastically engaging illustrations – Peepo! and Each Peach Pear Plum.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Why didn’t you know? Everyone loves the Gruffalo! Julia Donaldson’s post as Children’s Laureate is well deserved. The Gruffalo is one of those “unlikely hero wins through guile not brawn” stories, but it’s Donaldson’s imagination and charming rhymes and repetition that win it. Other books by Donaldson that Polly has enjoyed are: The Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom, Tiddler, and Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book – though there are loads we haven’t tried as well.
Letterland ABC by Lyn Wendon
This is technically too old for Polly – a phonics style method of teaching kids to read – but she loves looking at the pictures and pointing out everything she can see. Bright, colourful pictures with lots of things to spot. Of course, Polly will point out the puppy on page P as a dog, the wasp on page W as a bee and so on, but it’s still all good fun. It looks like there are several more in the series to teach digraphs and other letter sounds – I’m sure we’ll be getting those when it becomes marginally more appropriate.
That’s Not My Dinosaur… by Fiona Watt
There is a huge and varied series of these books – basically a little white mouse has lost its dinosaur/puppy/elephant/kitten/truck/penguin/lion/you name it, and each page depicts a slightly different dinosaur/whatever with the text “That’s not my x, its y is too z” – and the y in question is made of some form of tactile material to illustrate quality z. They are very interactive books, and Polly will spend ages feeling the ridges in the t-rex’s teeth, for example, which are “too bumpy”. Don’t worry though – in the end, the little mouse finds the missing dinosaur or what have you. This one is a stegosaurus with soft spines.
The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch
This princess story starts as many other does, introducing us to the beautiful Elizabeth and the prince she is going to marry. However, the ordeal she goes through when a dragon destroys her castle and kidnaps the prince does have a nice turn at the end. It’s a non-annoying subversion of the classic princess rescue story. Warning: someone is called a bum in it. I find this funny. You may not. You old frump.
The Little Book of Farmyard Tales by Heather Amery
An Usborne book with illustrations by Stephen Cartwright, it includes a little duck hiding somewhere on each page which I remember enjoying finding when I was little, so it’s lovely to see Polly doing the same! This is a nice little compilation of a few short stories, with two sets of writing which would be great for older kids to read as there are two difficulties of text available. One reason I particularly like these is that they are about a farmer and her kids. Not a farmer, his wife and their kids. I never understood why there were farmers and farmers’ wives – as if the wives didn’t actually work on the farm, just did wifely, non-farm related things at home.
In My Tree by Sara Gillingham
A lovely book with an owl finger puppet which pokes through all the pages, telling you about the different things it does in its tree. There are little creepy crawlies on each page to spot too, all of which appear again on the last page. There are LOADS of these books around with different featured animals in their homes, but I can only vouch for this one.
Why I Love My Mummy by Daniel Howarth
This was actually a mothers’ day gift to me from my mum and sister on my first mothers’ day. It’s really cute, with various animals (flocked, so they are soft to touch) depicting the baby animal giving various reasons why they love their mummy. You know, clean it, feed it, wipe it’s bum – that kind of mothering thing! It is a lovely gift to a mother, but I have been really touched recently as Polly has picked it to read at bedtime herself – pointing to herself and saying “mummy!” There is a daddy version too, Why I Love My Daddy, but I haven’t seen it in real life I’m afraid.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Polly seriously made me read this for her about five times in a row once. It’s a lovely book, with an exciting bit in the middle with no words where monsters howl at the moon, jump up and down, swing through the trees, and dance all night long. You must know the story.
Maisy’s Bedtime by Lucy Cousins
Maisy is a little mouse, and in this very exciting book, she…. goes to bed! The Maisy stories are nice and easy to sign along to. She has lots of friends – including a bird, crocodile and elephant. There is actually a really nice ten book set (I managed to get it for a tenner at Costco) including Doctor Maisy, Maisy’s Pool, Maisy Makes Gingerbread and others, but there are loads on various topics. Well worth a look.
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
Another lift-the-flap book featuring lots of animals. Polly played with this so much that a couple of the flaps came off (they’re not quite as robust as those in the Spot books I think) but superglue saved the day. Rod Campbell also wrote Buster Keeps Warm, which has different sized pages as Buster gets dressed, and is great for learning words or signs.
Princess Polly’s Potty by Andrea Pinnington
I know, I know, it’s pink and princessy. However, how could we resist a book about a Polly? I tend to read this without the princess references because they are completely superfluous – the equivalent potty training book for boys (Pirate Pete’s Potty) is apparently identical apart from the princess/pirate themes. It goes through who wears nappies and pants, what a potty is for, choosing your favourite potty and pants, and learning to wee and poo on the potty. There’s a sound effect button with a cheering sound – expect to hear it a lot.
The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont
This is not really my favourite book – I mean, what’s a bad baby? His only crime is not saying please, whereas the elephant rampages through town on a shoplifting spree. Plus, everyone storms into the baby’s house and his mother makes peace by cooking pancakes for tea. However, Polly loves it. When she was younger I had to skip pages of it, as it’s quite long. This is one of the books she acts out with her Duplo figures. There is pretty much always a baby stood on the back of one of the elephants.
Tucking In! Just like me! by Jess Stockham
Another interactive lift-the-flap book, this time themed on different animals (and babies) eating the same kind of foods. I particularly like this one, because the lamb drinks warm milk from the ewe, so the baby is having some mummy milk under the flap. There are several of these in the series – we got a set of four. Polly really enjoys lifting the flaps to find the babies, but this often means that she’ll refuse to tell me what the animal is on the main page, or what it’s doing – she’s too fixated on lifting the flap to reveal the baby!
We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog – with Sizzles toy – a Charlie & Lola book & toy
When Polly first got this, she was overwhelmed with hours of opening Christmas gifts. Her first reaction to the dog was to scream in terror, and it took literally months for her to properly make friends with him again (perhaps in part because her daddy kept deliberately scaring her with it!). However, we were in Waterstones this week, Polly found this box with Sizzles inside (“Didoo”), and insisted that we had to take him home. There were proper tantrum tears when I insisted we already had a Sizzles at home and didn’t need another one. Bless. The book is about Lola and Lotta’s insistence that they can look after Sizzles in the park for a while, so Charlie and Marv can play football. Of course, things don’t quite go to plan.