Top Ten Picture Books of 2013

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Choosing our top ten has been tough this year: I don't think that we've ever seen so many really great picture books. We've chosen books from authors you'll know and quite a few who will be new to you. There are books for every age from a board book for the youngest reader, books for bedtime, an alphabet book for those just thinking about reading and a lot of books which are just about having the most fun you can have without making a mess.

My Zoo by Rod Campbell


My children have always been drawn to Rod Campbell's simple but appealing illustrations, so I was delighted to have a chance to review this book, even though my boys are now older than the expected age range. This is a very simple book. There are fifteen large die cut animals on a pastel coloured background. The illustrations have a unique quality to them that I can only describe as Rod Campbell. The animals all have friendly appearance, and a kind of gentleness to them. The front view of each animal has only the animal's name in bold black print. When you turn the page, there is a single sentence about the animal in smaller print. With a very young baby, the parent can read only the animals name, perhaps adding the sound for each animal. As the child grows older, the parents can begin reading the extra line on each animal. The fact the animals are larger than usual in these pictures, and on sturdy pages that are perfect for little hands, means this book would be ideal for babies as young as six months. I feel this would make a lovely first book for young child. As much as we loved Dear Zoo, I feel this book is even better for infants. Full review...

I Am Not Sleepy And I Will Not Go To Bed by Lauren Child


Like many children, Lola does not particularly like going to bed. She likes staying up colouring, scribbling, sticking and most of all chattering. When she is told that it is time for bed, she always has an answer as to why she should not go: she never gets tired; she can’t clean her teeth because somebody is eating her toothpaste; and the whales are swimming in the bath. The list is endless especially where the highly imaginative Lola is concerned. However, older brother Charlie knows Lola so well; if anyone can persuade her to get into bed, it’s him. Full review...

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton


Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are two dogs with half baked idea for what they think will be the perfect crime - despite their previous failures. The dogs prepare a wonderful feast to lure their intended victims out, making cupcakes, pies, buns and every sort of baked treat you can imagine. They have a wonderful time baking, but all the while they are planning to rob all of their guests when the party is in full swing. The feast is a huge success, but the robbery is another disaster. A small act of kindness and a heart-felt apology results in forgiveness, and a wonderful idea for a new career. Full review...

The Toucan Brothers by Tor Freeman


I hate to mention illustrations before mentioning the story with a children's book, but the illustrations are clearly the first thing you will notice with the book. My children, drawn by the illustrations, had this pulled out of the box of books it came in and were sitting down reading it before I could even sort through the rest. As soon as I saw this, I thought of Richard Scarry. The illustrations are highly reminiscent of Scarry's work, but if anything these are bolder, brighter and busier. If you have a child who is a visual learner, or who needs plenty of visual cues when reading, this book is definitely one you want to take a closer look at. The expressions on the characters faces are perfect and each page literally seems to come to life with so many activities going on. Full review...

What can you Stack on the Back of a Yak? by Alison Green and Adam Stower


You might be wondering why anyone would want to stack anything on the back of a yak, but the answer is simple. In this adorable tale, Captain Quack and the Yak (you’ve guessed it, this is a rhyming one) deliver post to the top of a mountain. Along the way the Yak likes to play, and, well, deviate from the track, and no matter how hard he tries, Captain Quack cannot control him. Uh oh. One day, the Yak ends up with a rather more interesting load than his usual parcels and boxes and sacks. Full review...

Wild by Emily Hughes


Wild is the story of a girl who has grown up in the forest with only the animals to care for her, but this is where she belongs and she is happy. All of the animals love her and she loves them. She learns how to speak from the birds, what to eat from the bears, how to play from the foxes, and the deer and the rabbit keep her company as she sleeps. She has no clothing, nor does she need it, Her long mane of unruly green hair covers the important bits and gives her the appearance of something that has sprung to life from the forest itself. She is creature of pure innocence. Full review...

Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite! by Nicola O'Byrne and Nick Bromley


A croc is lurking in these pages but we can outwit him. A book with bags of humour, a cunning story and an unexpected way out. For children from 3 to grown up. It's another brilliant picture book from Nosy Crow. If you haven't already heard of them, these newish publishers are ones to watch. They seem to be nurturing artists and writers with an ability to think outside the box, in a children's field already replete with creative talent. Full review...

Ding Dong Gorilla by Michelle Robinson and Leonie Lord


We never learn the name of the main character in Ding Dong Gorilla. This book is told in the first person, from the point of view of a very young child and addressed to his parent. This works quite well in this story, because most children will be able to identify very easily with the protagonist and most parents will identify with the unseen mother whom this story is directed to. The story begins with a sheepish looking wee boy reminding his mother how they had ordered a huge pizza. Unfortunately, he has a bit of bad news to break first. Full review...

ABC and Do by Lee Singh and Karen Wall


Being able to recognise letters is an essential aspect of emergent literacy. I know so many parents and children who feel that being able to sing their ABC's is the same as knowing the alphabet. It isn't. A child must be able to recognise the letter forms, in upper and lower cases, identify them by name and understand the sound or phoneme made by each. Learning the alphabet is something that most children will need some help with at home. No matter how good the school your child attends, it is impossible for a teacher to give each child the individual attention required to master this subject easily, and failure to do so often leads to lifelong difficulties in literacy. Full review...

Bang by Leo Timmers


It all starts with a deer in a bright yellow car. He has a stack of books tied to the back of his car, but couldn't resist reading one while he drives. It might have been OK if a bin had not fallen from the lorry in front of him, but engrossed in his book he never notices until with a very loud bang he comes crashing to a stop. This sets off a chain reaction resulting in a ten-car pile up as every car but one comes crashing into the car in front of it. The quick thinking of Mr Gecko means he is able to stop just in time with a screech of the brakes, but Mr Penguin in the ice cream van is not so lucky, crashing into the gecko and his truck load of multi coloured paint and forcing the Gecko forward to smash into the last car in the pile up. Full review...


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Jean P Webster said:

A really useful list.

Pleased to know that I had bought some of them, too.

Best wishes,

Jean P Webster