Best Ever Children’s books
There is a very good list in Junior Magazine, chosen by children:
This is Michael Rosen’s Early Years list, as it appeared in the Telegraph in 2008:
The Twits, by Roald Dahl
Mr and Mrs Twit pass the time playing nasty tricks on one another. They’re both horrid. In his hairy beard, Mr Twit “was always able to find a tasty morsel to nibble on”.
Burglar Bill, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
“I’ll ‘ave that,” is the catchphrase of the rogue who stars in this engaging and beautifully illustrated tale. When Bill accidentally burglarises a baby, it turns out to be a blessing in a stolen basket. “Runfrit, Boglaboll!”
The Tiger Who Came To Tea, by Judith Kerr
Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis has a theory that this book is an allegory about sex. Most children understand it as the story of a tiger that eats its hosts out of house and home. Debate continues.
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
When Max engages in mischief, he is sent to bed without his supper. That’s just the start. Sendak’s paintings sing, and the text is a joy.
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter
Tom Kitten learnt nothing from his parents about the consequences of curiosity. Abducted by a psychotic rat, he comes within a whisker of being turned into a pudding. Nightmares guaranteed.
Yertle the Turtle, by Dr Seuss
Theodor Geisel’s response to Hitler was more oblique than Stauffenberg’s, but as effective. Yertle, king of the pond, commands all the turtles to stack themselves up so he can be top of the heap. Someone’s riding for a fall.
Fungus the Bogeyman, by Raymond Briggs
What boy won’t thrill to the world of the Bogeymen, all snot, armpits and boils? This gave Raymond Briggs’s green crayon the workout of its life.
The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business, by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch
Someone’s dropping lands on poor mole’s head. Who’s the culprit? A farmyard investigation is conducted with Germanic seriousness. Mole’s revenge is sweet.
Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson
Punchier than The Gruffalo, this has children chanting along as a witch and her animal friends see off a dragon in search of “witch and chips”.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
“In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf…” so begins this classic board book, its pages drilled with holes as the caterpillar eats his way through the week.
The Cat in the Hat, by Dr Seuss
“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!” The cat’s a big show-off, but he knows how to have fun, and his chaotic antics delight.
Charlotte’s Web, by EB White
White’s 1952 masterpiece describes the friendship between a lonely pig and a talented spider. This poignant tale teaches lessons about love, death and differing life expectancies.
The Story of Babar, by Jean de Brunhoff
When Babar sees his mother shot he reacts as any modern child might: a few tears, then off on a shopping spree. Nice green suit, though.
Winnie-the-Pooh, by AA Milne, illustrated by EH Shepard
Visit Hundred Acre Wood, and meet Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin, based on AA Milne’s son. This classic story hasn’t aged, and EH Shepard’s understated illustrations remain the best.
For Michael Rosen’s choices for older children, go to the Daily Telegraph website.
Shirley Hughes’s Top Ten Illustrated children’s books
From The Guardian 3 March 2010
1. Fungus the Bogeyman – Raymond Briggs
Fungus is one of Briggs’s most inventive picture books. Adults as well as children will be gleefully sucked down into that world deep in the slime, a place of blocked drains, dubious smells and infestations, where the Bogey family thrive.
2. The Bear with Sticky Paws – Clara Vulliamy
When The Bear with Sticky Paws arrives at Pearl’s house, chaos of one kind or another ensues. Clara Vulliamy can draw real children as convincingly as she can invent anthropomorphic animals, a rare quality in contemporary picture books. (I have to declare an interest here, as she is my daughter!) These stories explore Pearl’s changing reactions to the engagingly maverick bear, who tears through the action with delicious abandon.
3. Ginger – Charlotte Voake
The relaxed simplicity of this kind of illustration is the hallmark of a true professional. Many small people will strangely identify with Ginger the cat’s irritation when a kitten arrives to ruffle his life. The pictures sprawl nonchalantly across the page but nevertheless express a great deal of emotion.
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
One of the simplest and most brilliant ideas for a picture book ever. The caterpillar literally worms his way through the story holes punched in the pages. Even the youngest child can follow his progress with her fingers to the glorious dénouement when he emerges as a beautiful butterfly.
5. Olivia – Ian Falconer
Olivia’s jaunty piggy personality is expressed with the true economy of line we expect from a New Yorker cover designer. She is, of course, really an irrepressible preschooler, bouncily engaged in dressing up, taking a bath, reluctant to go to bed and very good at wearing people out. Along the way she also stars as an opera diva, prima ballerina and a talented abstract painter.
6. Katie Morag – Mairi Hedderwick
Although anthropomorphic animals abound in picture books there are not so many convincingly real child characters. Katie Morag lives on a Scottish island and the details of her life there, all the neighbours and bustling activity of a seagoing life, are the kind you can linger over and return to again with increasing pleasure.
7. Captain Haddock – Hergé
Hergé has been described as the Homer of strip cartoon. His impeccable draughtsmanship matches his soaring inspiration as a storyteller. Tintin and Snowy are great heroes, but Captain Haddock steals the show – short tempered, fond of drink, but an intrepidly loyal friend in a tight spot. His exclamations alone – “billions of blue blistering barnacles!” – are a claim to immortality.
8. Little Tim – Edward Ardizzone
Part of Little Tim’s enduring appeal is that with his friend Ginger he can take off, go to sea and have all kinds of exciting adventures without grown-ups tagging along. Ardizzone’s style both as a storyteller and an artist are in the great English tradition. He uses line and wash with the relaxed eloquence of a true master.
9. Babar the Elephant – Jean de Brunhoff
“Babar” is perhaps my most favourite of all picture book characters. This wonderfully illustrated saga opens when his mother is shot by a cruel hunter. Luckily, on the very next page a kind old lady gives him her purse. He goes on not only to acquire a smart outfit of new clothes and win a devoted wife and family, but to become King of the Elephants and have many breathtaking adventures.
10. Moomin – Tove Jansson
The Moomins are another great saga that every child should experience. Tove Jansson’s deceptively simple strip cartoon format creates a whole readily inhabitable world. Moominpappa and mamma and their children are irrepressible optimists, though many tiresome villains cross their paths. The dialogue is superb.