‘Mama, read it!’: A few of our favourite books

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Books keep them occupied on those busy mornings when I need to get ready for work.

We are big readers in our house and have an ever-growing collection of children’s books, some of which I really enjoy reading and others I’ve been tempted to hide (or burn). I loved Dr Suess as a child, but all those tongue twisters and nonsense words are pretty tedious as an adult. Given that we read an average of three books at bedtime, as well as various others throughout the day, it’s in our interest to ensure that we have a good selection of books that both appeal to the boys and aren’t torture for the parents. If you’re feeling a little bored by your book selection, here are a few suggestions that might make story time more exciting.

‘Grrrrr!’ By Rob Biddulph

‘Grrrrr!’ is about a bear named Fred who is very successful in the annual ‘Bears of the Wood’ competition, but doesn’t have any friends. On the morning of the competition, however, Fred wakes up to discover that he has lost his grrrrr. As you’d expect, Fred learns some important lessons about what’s really important in life. The rhyme is catchy and the illustrations are very clever. Look out for the loved-up rabbits and the deer with pants on his antlers.

‘The Bear and the Piano’ by David Litchfield

We are total suckers for beautiful illustrations, and ‘The Bear and the Piano’ certainly delivers. Litchfield creates an ombre effect in his delicate fields of flowers, and brilliantly captures the bear’s mournful expression as he thinks of the friends he left behind when he went off to the city to pursue his dream of playing the piano. Since we live so far from my parents, I really like using this book to prompt conversations about how distance doesn’t mean that we forget about the people we love.

‘Here We Are’ by Oliver Jeffers

Jeffers is well known for his vibrant illustrations and engaging books. ‘Here we Are’ is simply lovely and probably my favourite that we’ve encountered so far. He wrote it for his newborn son as a kind of ‘guide’ to the things he would need to know about life on Earth. I feel like it’s the kind of book that has the potential to grow with the boys. At the moment, they like pointing out the helicopters, aeroplanes, various animals and parts of the body, but as they get older I imagine they’ll become more interested in the page about space and other more nuanced images. One of my favourite details is a double page spread of lots of different people of all shapes and sizes, including two brides in a same sex wedding. I love the message of inclusivity.

‘Room on the Broom’ by Julia Donaldson

No round-up of children’s books would be complete without a nod to the Queen of Children’s Books, Julia Donaldson. It’s difficult to pick a favourite from her huge range. We have really enjoyed some of the work she has done with illustrators other than Axel Scheffler, such as ‘Paper Dolls’, a sweet book about loss and memories illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. However, ‘Room on the Broom’ is one of the most frequently requested reads in our house, so it’s the one I’ll include on this list. This tale of a witch with an increasingly crowded broom being pursued by a hungry dragon is exciting and entertaining. The rhyme and structure of the book is great for toddlers who can anticipate key lines. As they boys have got older they have interacted more and more with the text, and now we tend to deliver the witch’s lines in a chorus.

‘Press Here’ by Herve Tullet

‘Press Here’ is totally different from any of the preceding books. It has a simple concept, but has proved to be very engaging. Each page has simple instructions to follow, and the following page shows their effects. This book is great for teaching cause and effect, simple colour recognition and counting, but mostly the boys just think it’s really fun. They always end up laughing, clapping and shouting enthusiastically.