Today for Blogmas I’m teaming up with Amy from Lost In A Good Book to talk about our top five favourite picture books. Amy runs an awesome book blog (so make sure you check it out) talking about a wide range of books across almost every genre and age group. Amy is also a qualified librarian and has written a really good introduction about the importance of picture books, so read on more to learn about picture books and our all time favourite picture books.
It is easy to claim that picture books are only for children and that they can be silly, frivolous, and unimportant stories, but picture books also are a fantastic medium to bring stories that have great heart, great humour, and can tell stories that appeal to children and adults alike.
While “picture book” isn’t a genre per se, the format of the picture book encapsulates so many different types of stories that can amuse, intrigue, cause giggles and tears, move the reader and the listener and become a fabulous platform for learning about anything and everything.
I had such a hard time choosing which books to include on my list because so many books are my favourite for different reasons. Some have made me cry, some have made me laugh so much I’ve ended up crying anyway, some are incredibly sweet and adorable, while others are stunning visual stories that are divine experiences.
There were so many books I could have chosen to add to my Top Five but the ones I have chosen have stayed with me. Looking at the list I’ve realised they are all ones filled with humour – but a surreal, absurd, dark humour which probably speaks volumes about my own tastes, but it is also a great indicator about how picture books can be so much more than plain, moralistic or lesson filled stories for kids to consume; they can be fun, quirky, absurd and filled with characters that are not without fault and are cheeky, naughty, and may or may not accidentally rip a hole in the fabric of the universe.
Part of the ever popular Pigeon series by Mo Willems, Duckling Gets A Cookie is hilarious from the first page to the very end. You do not have to be familiar with the Pigeon books to find the humour in this story. Pigeon makes an appearance but it is the interactions between Duckling and Pigeon that are brilliant. Willems uses the characters personalities so well and plays with the formatting to highlight different aspects of the story. The illustrations work with the dialogue and the simplicity of the conversations, as well as the exaggerations that Pigeon brings to everything are hilarious. This could be a lesson about manners, but it is more fun to see it as a fun story where Pigeon has a minor meltdown over a duckling and honestly that should be enough.
I have already read this book three times and I never tire of it. It’s unexpected, it’s a fairly fast read which works wonderfully for the style Stutzman has gone for in his writing, and the humour is constant. I love Llama and everything he represents. Stutzman has found the sweet spot where humour and story combine and has the right combination of proper narrative, and whatever makes things a hundred times funnier when said with a touch of absurd, surreal nonsense.
This one was hard because I could have easily picked both the first and second books in this series. This is part of a trilogy and each story is unique but has the same humour throughout where animals and hats have tantalising adventures. The narrative is told entirely through dialogue as Bear tries to find out who took his hat and it is ideal to be read aloud or to yourself. There is something magical about Klassen’s work that makes the entire experience delightful; this is true for the entire series which follows a similar theme but with a different story again.
I don’t know if I will ever get over how much I love this book. The narrative, the illustrations, the personality of this penguin is simply too wonderful. The pure essence of the penguin is everything in this book. This is a book perfect for reading aloud, perfect for reading to yourself, and perfect to marvel at how a few words and some simple illustrations can be so adorably fantastic. Smith’s illustrations are simple but they convey so much meaning at the same time and combined with Jory’s words it is absolutely fabulous. It’s funny, the humour comes from the unexpected and it’s one kids and adults can laugh about.
I’d like to think I’m not automatically biased towards books with lions since they are my favourite animal, and I have read bad lion picture books before but this is not one of them. This is one of the best examples of how picture books can be just as compelling, suspenseful, mysterious and surprising as any other medium. It manages to subvert your expectations in about four different ways in the space of 36 pages. You think you know what will happen but your ideas are turned on their end, and then when you think you’re correct again they change once more. Cummins has been extraordinarily clever with this book. The language is funny, it is repetitive in a good way, silly, and a tad absurd. Coupled with her cute rough looking drawings it sets the scene and adds to the delight of reading. I loved this book so much because just when you think you know what is going to happen, you realise you have no idea.
Much like Amy, I had trouble narrowing my collection down to just five of my all time favourite picture books. As you can see from my list, the ones I choose are books I either have an emotional connection with, or ones that resonated strongly with me. I’m a mood reader, and I’ve found that hard hitting topics and emotional stories are the ones that stick with my across all genres, styles and age classifications.
What Do People Do All Day by Richard Scary.
So this is pretty much a classic and one of my childhood staples. So much that this one became legendary in my family as I asked for it to be read non-stop. Years later, I still love this book, albeit my copy has certainly seen better days.
What Do People Do All Day is a collection of short stories about the inhabitants of Busytown. As the title suggests, the stories cover the everyday lives of the townsfolk as they go about their day working and looking after their families. I absolutely adore this book as the stories are not only entertaining, but educational, giving young readers a chance to explore different careers paths in a fun way. Scary’s illustrations are small, and show multiple scenes throughout any given page.
The Wrong Book by Nick Bland
While What Do People Do All Day is a personal choice stacked with nostalgia and memories, The Wrong Book by Nick Bland is perhaps my all time favourite picture book, but I read it as an adult. The Wrong Book is about Nicholas Ickle, a young boy who is ready to tell an amazing story, if only he would stop being rudely interrupted by characters from other books.
I adore everything about this book. The story is simple, but hilarious, and the illustrations are stark but emotive and full of personality. Nicholas is interrupted by everything from pirates to Queens and monsters galore, and you can’t help but feel for his frustrated little self as we have all been there (having our big moment interrupted).
The Jacket by Sue-Ellen Pashley and illustrated by Thea Baker
This is another picture book that instantly sprang to mind when I started to think of my all time favourite picture books. This book instantly fills me with joy and makes me think of a comforting hub before bedtime. The story is about a much loved coat that is passed down from Amelia to Lily, to Lilly’s Dolls, her cat and kittens and finally reimagined as a bear for Lily’s baby brother. It’s heartwarming, clever, artistically beautiful and narratively brilliant and just an overall fantastic book to behold.
Dear Grandpa by Kate Simpson and illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh.
Dear Grandpa is a love letter to the relationship kids share with their Grandparents. It’s heartwarming story made of facts and from love, as a Grandpa and his Grandson talk through letters about how much they miss each other and the clever ways they could read each other. It’s simplicity is beautiful, creative and just so damn good. I was teary by the time I made it through the entire thing; it truly is such a delight to read.
The Boy Who Spoke to Earth by Chris Burkard and illustrated by David McClellan.
This picture book is one of the most stunning books I own. I helped crowd fund this book back in 2015 and I honestly can say it’s one of my most prized picture books. The narrative is simple – a young boy asks Earth to show him happiness and together the pair explore the world. There is minimal text, as the full page illustrations tell this tale and its seriously stunning. If you can track down a copy of this book, you will not be disappointed.
Leave a comment letting us know if you’ve read any of these books or if you have recommendations you think we should check out.