I recently finished a very good book (this one), which helped me re-focus on the joy of reading aloud with the children, even when they are too young for stories, but can delight in the rhythms and cadences of words. Sarah Mackenzie points out that the most important thing is to help your child feel connected to you, and bonding through books is the best!
The only hiccough with very small children is that many books aimed for them are counting/colour/animal primers, and unless the illustrations are REALLY captivating, you will soon want to pull your eyes and ears out. But children also want to read them over and over again. Which is a problem.
So, ideally, what we need are books that can withstand 34909285687 readings in a row, and that's a pretty tall order. No adult book is ever submitted to that kind of scrutiny! But that is not even all! The other things you need are books that are short enough to keep the one year-old interested, with beautiful enough images to keep the 2 and 4 year-olds looking, and language that gives enough pleasure to the adult reader that s/he won't mind going straight back to the beginning at the end.
So, without further ado, I present to you, the ten books in our house which come closest to accomplishing this feat (in the order they appear on my shelves, so pretty random!):
1 - Whose Toes Are Those? - Jabari Asim
This is a very sweet book, completely delightful, and the images are gorgeous. It's in pretty constant demand in our house, and I don't mind one bit!
NB: It's an American book, so at one point, it talks about going "all the way to England", which is obviously not that impressive for us, but no-one batted an eyelid.
2 - Barnyard Dance - Sandra Boynton
I wouldn't say the illustrations are the most beautiful I have ever seen, but this book is pure fun, and I dare you to pretend like you don't want to join in the dance just a teensy bit!
3 - Peepo - Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Ahlbergs are fabulous at creating books that you just want to look at that little bit longer, because of all the sweet details in every image. This one actually encourages you to do just that, and it's a pretty good antidote to the 327594382 re-readings which WILL happen.
4 - Each Peach Pear Plum - Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Another Ahlberg masterpiece. Even the very small children with no knowledge of the fairy tales they refer to, love looking for the hidden characters, and it keeps the book delightful for the older ones when they suddenly "get" the references.
5 - Monkey And Me - Emily Gravett
I love Emily Gravett. She has the ability to tell stories in very few words, the drawings are absolutely delightful but also sparse. I don't know how she does it!
NB: As you can see from the title, the book is not perfectly grammatically correct - she's reproducing the language pattern of a child - but if that is enough to keep you from it, then it's your loss!
6 - Where's Bear - Emily Gravett
This was Jude's number one absolute favourite for the longest time. This is another example of Emily Gravett's genius, with even simpler language.
Her books are some of the ones I always seek out, because I know she will not disappoint. I would have added Matilda's Cat to this top 10, except we don't actually own it, we just borrow it from the library. A lot.
7 - Oi Frog - Kes Gray
Hilarious, lots of fun details, the kids will be reciting it along in no time. Plus, it draws attention to the mechanics of rhyming. What's not to love!
Actually, one thing: the author has since written 2 or 3 more on exactly the same pattern, and that is a bit annoying. But just get the original one and ignore the rest!
8 - Sheep in a Jeep - Nancy Shaw
I see a bit of a pattern here, because this is another example of a book with very simple language used beautifully and paired with lovely illustrations with lots of details that keep you looking. Also, I still chuckle a bit at the end, and that is no mean feat, because I have read this book A LOT.
9 - Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown
Of course. All children are completely and universally mesmerised by this book. And it IS lovely to read. But really, you need to read this analysis of it by Raquel D'Apice on The Ugly Volvo, and this book will become the official funniest thing you own. Trust me and go read her piece.
10 - Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See - Bill Martin Jr
This one is beautiful and will delight your children so much you won't mind re-reading again.
Bonus - Little Miss Austen: Pride And Prejudice - Jennifer Adams
My children aren't actually that interested in this one but I am, so I don't care, and I'll keep reading it. And that's saying a lot for a counting primer.
Here you go. Now you can go read to your babies.
Best picture books we own (in English)
Best picture books we own (in French)