Children’s Picture Books You Will Love Reading Out Loud

My kids love reading

My kids love reading

I love reading to my children, it’s one of the few interactions that I’m willing to engage in. I’ll tolerate puzzles and board games, get reasonably engaged with playdoh, craft, football, tennis or trampolining. I’ll actively avoid hide and seek or ‘play with me, mummy’ and I dread the words, ‘can you make up a game, please…’

But reading, how could I not love that?

Except there is definitely a hierarchy of books. I’m not good with voices so, whilst my son loves books like, Squash and a Squeeze, I find it terribly repetitive. I can do voices in Peppa Pig books because I mimic the TV show, but there is such a thing as too much Peppa. At bedtime I can’t read anything on a dark blue background because I can’t see the words, which rules out many pirate and Mike the Knight books, and I hate TV-based books without a story (yes, you, Mr Bloom’s Nursery and Baby Jake).

I also have a pet hate for badly rhymed books, where words are forced against their natural rhythm (I used to know the technical term for that, but it’s buried under fifty-seven readings of Dear Zoo.)

So, when I come across a book that’s an absolute delight to read out loud, I rejoice. I also tend to make sure it’s near the top of the pile. Books that have clever integral rhyming (if that’s the right term – again I can’t quite remember: when the rhymes are also within the lines, not just at the end), books with poetic alliteration or just brilliant tactile words like squelch or tingly.

These are my top ten great-to-read-out-loud books, in no particular order. I’m sure there are more – we have over three hundred books for under fives in our house, not to mention the hundreds that come home from school, preschool and the library every week. But these stand out.

Lovely pace

Lovely pace

Billy and the Bargleboggle by Lindsay Camp, Peter Utton
(About the new baby) “Billy couldn’t understand why everyone was so excited about it. He thought it was a funny colour and its skin didn’t seem to fit properly. And Dad said it wasn’t big enough to ride on Billy’s skateboard.”

Farmer Duck, by Martin Waddell, Helen Oxenbury
“They lifted his bed and he started to shout, and they banged and they bounced the old farmer about and about and about, right out of the bed… and he fled with the cow and the sheep and the hens mooing and baaing and clucking around him.”

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs, by Giles Andreae, Russell Ayto
“I’m going to cut you up into little pirate sausages. Then I’m going to put you on the barbecue and EAT YOU UP with much too much tomato ketchup!”

Fantastic cadence

Fantastic cadence

The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm, by Paul Bright, Jane Chapman
“How the thunder crashed! It boomed and crackled so the house shuddered and the windows rattled. It grumbled and rumbled and echoed and faded, only to boom and crash again.”

Snail and the Whale, by Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler
“And she gazed at the sky, the sea, the land, The waves and the caves and the golden sand, She gazed and gazed, amazed by it all, And she said to the whale, ‘I feel so small’.”

The Bear with Sticky Paws, by Clara Vulliamy
“There’s a girl called Pearl and she’s being very grumpy, stamping her little feet and slamming the door.”

Could be my dad

Could be my dad

Grandad, Rachel Elliot, Katie Pamment
“Grandad’s old bike rattles when it goes down the hill to the beach. Our teeth rattle too! ‘My poor old bones!’ Says Grandad.” (This book reminds me so much of my own dad.)

Smelly Bill, by Daniel Postgate
“Bill the dog loved smelly things, Like muddy ponds and rubbish bins. Disgusting stuff he’d stick his snout in, Sniff and snort and roll about in.”

Poetic and hypnotic

Poetic and hypnotic

William and The Night Train, Mij Kelly, Alison Jay
“In the carriages people sit nodding in rows. They slumber and doze. They’re not wearing pyjamas; they’re still in their clothes! ‘Everyone sleeps on the night-train,’ explains the writer. But William’s too busy squishing his nose. He’s too busy standing on tippity toes. He’s too wide awake. All he knows is that he can’t wait for the train to go. ‘When will we get to Tomorrow?'”

Arthur’s Tractor, by Pippa Goodhart, Colin Paine
“That must be the sprocket spring sprigget needing a twist and an oil.”

(Lovely article about Arthur’s Tractor by the author here.)

"No! No! No!"

“No! No! No!”

"Bathie-wathie time for you!"

“Bathie-wathie time for you!”

"Too much ketchup!"

“Too much ketchup!”

"I feel so small"

“I feel so small”

"Before the darn thing brangles free"

“Before the darn thing brangles free”

"How goes the work?"

“How goes the work?”

Fun Farm Animals: 2013 365 Challenge #134

Meeting Charlie the cockerel at a Kid's Birthday Party

Meeting Charlie the cockerel at a Kid’s Birthday Party

Aaron took a picture of him holding a cockerel into nursery today. It was taken at the birthday party he went to on Sunday and he’s very proud of it, though quick to tell you the bird’s talons hurt his arm.

It was a great party. The parents had booked this Ark thing, where a bunch of farmyard animals are brought in and penned in the garden for the children to stroke.

It was lovely for Aaron to get into the enclosure with the animals and have unlimited access instead of trying to reach them through a barrier, as he normally has to do at the Farm.

Meeting Esme and Pig

Meeting Esme and Pig

It was the kind of thing I would love to do as a business if I had the motivation, space, money, expertise. Letting children learn about animals and not be afraid of them. It’s hard to be afraid of a pygmy goat called Esme, in a red halter, standing on the back of a sleeping pig, then snuggling up against her to keep warm in the rain.

It was a good reminder of the intelligence of pigs, too, as the pig only woke to move under the gazebo out of the rain. It’s not hard to see why so many children’s books are written about farm animals. They have such a repertoire of personalities and a diverse range of looks and mannerisms but they all live together mostly harmoniously. They’re not trying to eat each other and only the horned ones (sheep and goats) seems to get grumpy and physical.

Giving the dog a cuddle

Giving the dog a cuddle

Seeing the dynamic between the bantam chickens that kept escaping into the flower bed, the friendly but hungry pony, the sleepy pig and snuggly goat, it was a children’s book waiting to be penned.

Picture books have fascinated me since I started reading a dozen or two a week to the kids. The difference between the awful and the great is hard to define and the opinion seems to differ between adult and child!

I’ve long wanted to have a go doing one, both the words and the illustrations. It’s on the list of projects!

If I do write a picture book about farm animals it might have to include the grumpy man in charge and his two brow-beaten, terrified-looking children. I will write them a happy ending. Something like in Farmer Duck! (One of mine and the kids’ favourite books).


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Claire folded her cleaned and ironed clothes and stuffed them deep into her rucksack, hoping her mother didn’t notice. I can’t believe Mum did all this for me. She hasn’t washed my stuff since I was about twelve. If the Boarding School didn’t do it, then I had to do it myself.

Looking round her old room, Claire shivered at an unexpected wave of nostalgia. It had felt like old times, with her and Robert both staying in their parents’ house for the weekend.

Claire had spent the first few days of Ruth’s hospital stay in her sister’s house, caring for Sky. Once the doctors had given the all clear for Ruth to return home, Claire had agreed to stay at her parents’ house to keep an eye on her brother and father, while their mother resumed her care of Sky and Ruth.

The idea of returning to her hostelling journey felt wrong. Promoting an outdoorsy lifestyle had been odd from the beginning, but now – with her sister fighting cancer – it felt utterly pointless.

Whatever you try and do in life, there is always something that can knock you flat. Look at Ruth: ever since she had Sky she’s been a health freak, eating broccoli and giving up the ciggies and wine. Fat lot of good it did her.

“Claire, I’m about to leave.”

Robert’s voice called up the stairs, echoing round the empty hallway. Another strange sensation twisted in Claire’s stomach. I’ve spent more time with Robert this past week than I have in a decade.

Not that there had been much chance to chat. Robert had locked himself in the dining room with his laptop, when he wasn’t visiting the hospital or speaking to the doctors. Claire had been glad of his presence for that reason alone, as he managed the intimidating people responsible for Ruth’s care much better than she felt she would have done.

An image of Josh floated into her mind. I wonder if he becomes super-scary when he dons a white coat? I can’t imagine it. Maybe doctors that care for children are more approachable.

She’d tried to talk to Robert over dinner the previous night, the first time they had eaten together all week. The nagging feeling that all wasn’t right between him and Francesca still haunted her, but – despite increasingly unsubtle questioning – Robert had refused to give anything away.

It had become a game, watching his face close up whenever the subject of marriage, family or children arose. He would either deflect the question back to Claire and her perpetually single and childless state, or he would frown and change the subject completely. Through it all their father sat silent, chewing his food and gazing at the salt pot.

Claire pulled the rucksack closed and propped it against the wall. Galloping down the stairs, she arrived just as Robert was about to call again.

“I have to go,” he said, his tone defensive despite Claire’s silence. “My flight is in a couple of hours and I have to get the hire car back to the airport.”

Biting back a retort, Claire smiled and gave her brother a brief hug. “I know. Give my love to Francesca and the boys. I really will come out for a visit.” She watched his face, trying to gauge his response. He merely nodded.

He probably knows there’s as much chance of me staying with them in Geneva as there is Mum and Dad taking up salsa. Maybe if they lived near a beach or something.

Robert shook hands with his father. “Say goodbye to Mum for me, and let me know if anything changes with Ruth.”

He raised a hand in farewell and gathered up his briefcase and wheeled bag. Claire watched him go, shirt and tie in place, clean shaven and spotless, and wondered what had happened to the brother she remembered from old. The one who came home with blood pouring from a grazed knee, or built rocket ships out of cereal boxes.

I wonder what his boys are like. Maybe I will go and visit. I do need to work at being a better Auntie. Besides, then I can suss the gossip for myself.