Whatever your age, change is difficult to deal with. Children’s books on change address many aspects of life, from new starts (first days of school, welcoming new siblings) to profound adjustments (like dealing with illness, or saying goodbye to a loved one). Sandcastle, a lovely story about one boy and his grandad, looks at change from a brand new angle — it’s smart, gentle, and full of wonder.
In Sandcastle, we follow a little boy as he plays on the beach. His sandcastle starts as a small bucketful... and then his grandad helps him to add towers to it, and then turrets, and then a moat! It is magnificent — but when the tide comes, it slowly disappears. As the little boy becomes upset, his grandad tells him not to worry — ‘The sandcastle may be gone,’ he says, ‘but everything that made it is still here, and always will be.’ Sandcastle is simple yet beautiful — it reminds us that while change is often tinged with sadness, it is also an extraordinary (and necessary) part of life. •
Author & Illustrator: Philip Bunting
Peer pressure: it’s a powerful thing. Whether you’re 3 or 103, it’s all too easy to give in to a silly idea, activity or haircut just because ‘your friends are doing it’! Without the sort of hindsight that life experience brings, children can be particularly prone to groupthink — but they can also be amazingly resilient, strong-willed and self-assured.
Boost this confident attitude with the hilarious Don’t Leap Larry, a story about one little lemming who can’t help but stand out from the crowd. Larry the lemming is unique: while the other lemmings eat moss, he prefers pepperoni pizza, and while the other lemmings make squeaking noises, he plays on his bongos. He even looks different, in a woolly hat and a trendy pair of glasses… so when the other lemmings get dangerously close to a cliff edge, it has to be Larry who saves the day! Don’t Leap Larry is impossible not to love — and it’ll reassure young readers that it’s always best to think for yourself.
Title: Don’t Leap, Larry!
Author & Illustrator: John Briggs & Nicola Slater
When you’re young, it can be hard to find something that YOU are especially good at. It’s easy to feel outshone by a friend who is really good at football, or a cousin who is really good at drawing, or a sibling who is really good at spotting bugs on the street! Children often worry about being special, especially when everyone around them seems sorted — but as the brilliant story Antoinette shows, all you need is the determination to try again and again.
In Antoinette, we follow a lovely little dog who is overshadowed by her talented bulldog brothers. One is fast, one is clever, and one is strong — but when a puppy goes missing in the park, it is the persistence of Antoinette (combined with her super sniffing skills) that eventually saves the day. The book is beautifully illustrated, and the message is gently reassuring — at the end of the day, all that matters is that our doggy heroine ‘could not - and would not - give up!’ 🐩🐕🐩🐕🐩
Author & Illustrator: Kelly DiPucchio & Christian Robinson
Year on year, books for children are becoming more diverse, inclusive and representative. At one time, it might have been tricky to find characters who can’t easily jump in puddles and clamber up trees, but - thankfully - different sorts of stories are appearing more and more on our bookshelves. Baby Bird is one such story to look out for.
The tale follows a little bird whose wings don’t work quite as well as his brothers’ and sisters’. He tries and tries to fly, but has trouble staying in the air - until one day when he meets a cheerful coot who takes him along for a ride. Baby Bird works on many different levels: it’s an animal adventure, a celebration of friendship, and a gentle analogy for living with disability. I loved in particular the little bird’s determination - sometimes he feels sad about his wings, but he never gives up on his goal and eventually makes it into the skies 🐤🐦🐧☀️
In lots of picture books, grandmothers, nanas and grannys appear as bright & colourful figures - taking children to school, playing games, giving out sweeties, advice and hugs. These representations are full of affection, but what makes Simona Ciraolo’s The Lines on Nana’s Face so unique is the way in which it explores - in depth - the life of one special grandma.
The story follows a little girl at her Nana’s birthday party - why, she wonders, does Nana have so many wrinkles? As her Nana explains, it’s in her lines that she keeps all of her memories. We see a young Nana taking care of her pet cat, laughing with her friends at the beach, on a rollercoaster ride with a young Grandpa. We see her sleepy at work, moving house and getting married. The Lines on Nana’s Face looks at older family members in a way that other books rarely do - as young characters themselves. It’s beautiful - a poignant and thoughtfully drawn read on familial love 💛🌸🌻
2018 is a great time for young & curious minds. This year has already seen so, so many beautiful books being published on every subject under the sun: history, geography, science, biography, cookery - and now, trees! For an in-depth, child-friendly exploration of trees from around the world, look no further than Iris Volant and Cynthia Alonso’s gorgeous Under the Canopy.
You can always count on Flying Eye Books for stunning new reads, and Under the Canopy is no exception… learn all about the coconut trees of the Pacific Islands, the baobabs of Madagascar and the cherry blossoms of Japan. This book is particularly brilliant at mixing facts about nature with little pieces of culture & history - I loved the parts about Van Gogh’s cypress trees, and Anne Frank’s description of the horse chestnut tree by her window. Check it out - it’s a real springtime gem 🌱🌳🌳🌲🌻
If you ask a child about their favourite things to do, it could be that maths won’t feature high up on that list! Thankfully, there are plenty of reads out there that can turn aversions to maths around - fun books, bright books and books jam-packed with character.
The best of these combine basic skills with stories that everyone (young or old) can get on board with - enter Susie Ghahremani’s impossible-not-to-love Stack the Cats. Everything about this book is on point: it has lots of counting practice (check), a vibrant colour palette (check) and adorable cat drawings (double check). A winner for all math-averse, cat-loving little readers - early learning purr-fection! 😻😺😸
The last few years have been unbeatable for picture book biographies, and this joyful love letter to famous chef Julia Child is one of the best out there. Brilliantly named Julia, Child (top marks to whoever came up with that one!), the story features Julia as a young girl discovering French food for the very first time.
The main theme of the book is a passion for cooking - wooden spoons and strawberries decorate the front cover, while ‘a cup of words and a dash of ideas’ are listed as ‘Ingredients’ on the back. On one page, a cheerfully scribbled note proclaims that ‘you can never use too much butter!’ - now that is my kind of book! Julia, Child is a delicious read, perfect for food lovers of all ages 👌🥐🥗🍭
I’m a big fan of giving babies books that they can grow into as they grow up. It’s a gift that has lasting impact: a young child can be read to, and then - when they are a little older - they’ll look through the pictures themselves, until one day when they are finally able to make sense of the words. Held in Love, a book all about one mother’s hopes for her newborn baby, is a great pick for any new arrivals.
The story is told as a poem - it rhymes in a gentle sort of way, and follows the imagined future of a child growing from a toddler to a teenager. The illustrations are lovely too, the family painted into a landscape of cosy cottages and snowy mountains. With soft colours and carefully chosen lines, Held in Love has a lullaby-like quality... it’s the perfect read for bedtimes as the years go by🌜🌘🌗🌔🌛
Conflict, immigration, the refugee crisis - often, children see & hear things on the news (or in the playground) that they worry about but don’t fully understand. For young readers who are concerned & confused about issues affecting the world at large, there are some great picture books out there that explore these subjects in an accessible way. On the topic of migration & war, one excellent pick is @frencisan ‘s The Journey.
The Journey tells the story of a happy family forced to move from their home as ‘bad things’ start happening all around them. The family travels far - hidden in a bright food truck full of pumpkins and oranges, tucked into a bike trailer and flying along with the birds. Their journey is difficult and scary - guards loom like monsters, and the war appears as a huge pair of black claws - but the family hold on to one another tight. It really is a beautiful book - powerful, moving and presented in a child-friendly way. No bookshelf, classroom or library should be without it 🕊🌿❤️
In honour of yesterday’s International Children’s Book Day, it only seems right to prescribe a book all about books 📚 @oliverjeffers and @samwinston_’s beautiful A Child of Books has popped up previously on my feed - in celebration of the equally fantastic World Book Day - but I thought that I should include it one more time as it is just that good! A Child of Books is all about encouraging a love of reading, with the characters exploring a dreamlike world full of stories and adventure. They hide behind bookish trees, doze on clouds made of text and and sail across seas filled up with words - the concept is simple, but hugely effective. And, if you look a little closer, the words that form each illustration are in fact lines from children’s classics - challenge children to spot parts of Little Women, Treasure Island and The Wonderful WIzard of Oz! 👏📚❤️
I hope that everyone is having a lovely #eastersunday ! As a time of hope & renewal, I thought it might be nice to prescribe a book all about the promise of new life. The Little Gardener by @plaidemily is a brilliant read, full of nature, perseverance and growth. The story follows a tiny little gardener as he tends to his plants. Being very small, he sometimes struggles with all that he has to do, but he keeps on at it and finally ends up with something beautiful. Like the Borrowers and Thumbelina before him, the little gardener is small in size but big in character - and his carefully tended garden is a testament to the fact that hard work and a bit of love can produce miracles! 🌳🌷🍁🌸🎍🌱🌴
At certain points in life, everybody feels blue. Sometimes for an hour or two, sometimes for a day, and sometimes longer. For children, it can be difficult to understand & recover from the sorts of feelings that take over without warning. To help with blue moods, there are some fantastic picture books to look out for - one great pick is Shaun Tan’s beautiful The Red Tree. In this story, we follow a little girl who wakes up one day with dark leaves drifting through her bedroom. Walking through an imaginary landscape, she encounters strange creatures and places ... the brilliance of the book lies in its ability to convey emotions too complex for words. At the end of the story, the girl wakes up with a bright red tree growing in her room and hope finally appears. The Red Tree should be on everyone’s shelf, young or old - an essential read on the overwhelming nature of feelings & looking for bright spots in the darkness 🍂🍂🍂
Now that spring has finally sprung (fingers crossed!), it’s the perfect time to get out and about. For young children, a simple stroll down the road can be full of excitement & interest - lots of things to see, people to visit and places to explore. With this in mind, I would highly recommend Alice Melvin’s lovely book The High Street 🏡⛪️🕌 Here we follow Sally, a little girl on the lookout for ten items that she needs to buy. Beautifully detailed illustrations reveal a bright bakery, a delicately drawn florists, a well-stocked sweet shop and more - each place is made cosy & inviting, so much so that you’ll feel like jumping right into the story! There is also a lot to spot on every page, and for this The High Street merits rereading again & again. A brilliant pick for turning everyday walks around town into adventures — I loved in particular Sally’s eclectic shopping list (Persian rugs, stripy jugs and cherry tarts, anyone?!) 🍭🍰⛪️🏡❤️
For children worried about being different or fitting in, a brilliant pick to address these concerns is Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Colin and Lee - they are as charming as vegetables can be! Colin is a carrot, and Lee is a pea - all of Lee’s friends are also peas, and Colin sometimes can’t join in with their pea games (like bouncing and hide and seek) 🙈🥕😐 However, he’s still a great friend to have around, as his long orangey shape makes a good bridge and an excellent slide! Both the illustrations and the message behind this lovely story are bold and simple: everyone is different, and everyone should be valued for those differences. Colin and Lee will make you laugh & brighten your day... if this little carrot and pea can get along, can’t we all?!? 🥕💚🥕💚🥕💚🥕
For children who enjoy quiet moments & daydreams, you might like to try JiHyeon Lee’s wordless picture book Pool. It is totally stunning, nothing short of a work of art - if you ever need to convince someone as to the magic of picture books, just show them Pool!! The story opens with a small, shy boy sitting at the water’s edge, when - all of a sudden - he dives under the surface. Swimming deep, he meets a young girl and together they explore the surreal beauty beneath. Strange and full of wonder, Pool is perfect for working on imaginative & interpretive skills - looking at what the images might mean, trying to guess what is going on between the two young characters etc. A brilliant addition to any shelf! 🐙🐳🐟🦈🐋
For children with little brothers or sisters, there are some great books out there that totally get the frustrations & joys of this experience! One of my favourites is the bright & hilarious Alphonse, That is Not OK to Do!, a story all about the highs and lows of navigating life with a tiny, naughty, loving sibling by your side. Natalie is Alphonse’s big sister, and there are lots of things that they like doing together: drawing, bouncing on their beds, naming pigeons 🐦 However, Alphonse can sometimes be a bit of a monster, and one day Natalie comes home to find him eating one of her best books...! The way in which their sibling squabble eventually resolves itself is very well done: no parents are involved, and lots of fun is had. Natalie & Alphonse are a great representation of the messy give & take involved in family relationships, perfect for introducing into little lives ❤️🎨😛
One of the many, many reasons that I love picture books has to be their ability to tackle complex or adult subjects with a light touch. Sometimes a book does this so beautifully that you can’t help but marvel at how it has been put together - for me, The Day I Became A Bird is a small wonder. The story centres on a little boy who falls in love on his first day of school. The object of his affections is a bird-loving girl, and so to win her over he fashions his very own birdy costume to wear. Love might seem like quite a grown up topic for a children’s book, but The Day I Became a Bird handles it brilliantly. A lovely read for teaching children about feelings & relationships, with stunning illustrations as well. Highly recommended! ❤️🐤🐦❤️