Monday, 21 May 2012


Baby's bookshelf is something which I'm massively excited about. I know that it seems a bit early to be stocking up on picture books, she wont be able to read for YEARS, but they're lovely things to own and look at, and we'll be reading bedtime stories from pretty early on for our own pleasure. I'm a HUGE fan of children's books, particularly picture books, and I'm fairly knowledgeable on the subject after a stint as a children's bookseller. Here are some of my favourites which I either already have or will be sure to buy soon...

It's an obvious one, but Eric Carle is wonderful. The Hungry Caterpillar is one of the many "classics" we'll have to get, but I like some of his other stories more...the bear books are really simple and his animal illustrations are so good in them...

My all time favourite children's author is Tove Jansson. Her magical world in the moomin stories is so whimsical and lovely, I really could never get tired of reading all the moomin stories aloud. And until baby is big enough for the tales from moominvalley we can introduce her to moomin loveliness with some of Jansson's illustrated books. There were some moomin books aimed at babies and toddlers brought out a couple of year's ago. They've got nothing on Jansson's original illustrations, but there is a story about buttons I don't know if I can resist...

A lot of my favourite pictures books are ABC books, because the illustrations are often amazing. I love these flashcards by Julie Morstead, but I think they've gone out of print so I might have to get some second hand. I remember putting some to one side at work years ago to buy, but I never got round to it, dammit! F is for Fort in this sweet collection of flashcards.

Another favourite ABC illustrator is Bruno Munari. I like his Zoo book too, but it's the ABC book I'll probably get for the baby's bookshelves. The colours and simple lines mean that it should be interesting to her even when she's too small to know her abc's.

I bought the Tilly and Friends set of Polly Dunbar books as soon as I knew we were having a girl. The stories are so so sweet, especially Where's Tumpty about an elephant playing hide-and-seek, and they're really nicely printed with a red and white polka dot pattern on the insides of the cover. I'm looking forward to using them for bedtime stories, and enjoying the traditional illustrations together. They are slightly grossly obvious in their heartwarming messages of friendship/sharing/etc, but I can't help but love them.

I love Dick Bruna. I know the Miffy stories are easy to snub, but I love his simple images and the colours he uses, and if nothing else I'll be framing a few images for the nursery. I'd love a print of one of his "zwarte beertjes" (black bear) designs for a German book publisher in the 1960's, but they're hundreds of pounds, so I'll probably settle for a few brightly coloured postcards of Miffy n crew. I did just find this poster though, it'd look cute in the nursery...

I've long been a big fan of Shaun Tan. His illustrations, and stories, are fairly dark, so I'm not sure that a tiny little child would really appreciate them, but I do already own a few so I look forward to baby being old enough for Tales from Outer Suburbia.

Emily Gravett has some great picture books, my favourite is the simple "Orange Pear Apple Bear", which uses those four words repeating throughout the book to help the little one learn through wordplay. The watercolour pictures are whimsical and should make baby smile, I might even get this one as a board book for her to hold and drool over in her first few years.

And finally, we've already been reading this one to the bump at bedtime, it's the hilarious "I want my hat back". Best children's picture book last year by a MILE, this book is beautifully printed and so darkly funny. I laugh every time.

Oh, following his recent death I will add Maurice Sendak to this list. He seemed like such a brilliant guy, I love that he was such a grumpy old man and have enjoyed reading his views on things, namely the art of writing stories for children, over the years. It saddened me that Julia Donaldson was a go-to for interviews following his death, she pretty much represents to me the exact opposite Sendak...commercial dummed down children's stories with a load of disney-like merchandise to secure her brand. Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are has stunning illustrations, but the best story is probably In the Night Kitchen, I'll have to add that to the "to buy" list.


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