Children’s Book Recommendations - May 2021

5 Classics To Treasure

My parents first introduced (most of) these stories to me when I was about 3. Then I ‘read and reread’ the pictures, well before the text. Even now, they still charm me. Probably because they combine memorable characters, absorbing plots, grown-up language and touchingly evocative illustrations.


The Squirrel, the Hare and the Little Grey Rabbit by Alison Uttley, Illus. Margaret Tempest (1929) 3+

I always preferred ‘Little Grey Rabbit’ (over 30 titles) to Beatrix Potter’s animal series — I found the animals more human and certainly more endearing. We follow the characterful woodland characters in their everyday adventures, and learn from their tribulations. But it is Margaret Tempest’s illustrations that I love most: the beauty of the changing seasons and the wonders of the night have rarely been so beautifully rendered.*


Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illus. Lillian Hoban (1964) 3+

The perfect (part-rhyming) story for fussy eaters! Frances’s parents come up with a perfect solution to their daughter’s pickiness. There is something endearing about this contented family of very human seeming badgers and their ordered life.


Babar the King by Jean de Brunhoff (1931) 3+

A young child (the intended reader) would say this particular book was about the building of Celesteville (Babar’s kingdom) by the elephants and their friends. It’s not without drama or humour: elephants dress up, do (what looks like) Pilates, travel in lifts etc. Even their names are ridiculous. And we could all learn a lot from their work ethic, their work-life balance and their values. N.B. Some editions are written in cursive script.


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964) 4+

This is the most touching profound fable I know. It is not situated in any particular time or place and the two characters (the boy and the tree) are nameless. So we must focus on the tale itself and what it teaches us. The black and white illustrations are like the story: simple, yet effective.


Tim All Alone by Edward Ardizzone (1956) 5+

The ‘Little Tim’ series is perfect for adventurous, independent-minded children. This book was the winner of the inaugural Kate Greenaway Medal and is perhaps the best known of Ardizzone’s imaginative masterpieces.

Tim arrives home to find his parents have gone away. So he embarks on a sea-faring adventure, which is full of comic incident. The illustrations are of unusually high quality and the odd old-fashioned word will only extend your child’s vocabulary!

If you can’t find brand new copies, do consider the many ethical (second-hand) options, such as ‘World of Books’ and ‘Better World Books’. Pristine copies can often be found at a fraction of the price.