When I set out on this blog journey, the plan was to include some old classics, but perhaps not provide a full review for each, as most picture book fans will have all or at least one of these on their shelf already. However, I can’t omit them from our own journey of picture book discovery. These are as fresh as the first day they were published and are still an absolute joy to read again and again!
Picture Book Classics
I present to you our list of five picture book classics in numerical order but not in any order of preference! How could we decide between Eric Carle’s classic story of changing with Judith Kerr’s surreal and fantastical Tiger Who Came to Tea? They are all so wondrous and amazing in their own merit we had to limit our list to just five. Although we may choose another five in the future to cover more classics and as the Bairn’s taste changes.
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Written and illustrated way back in 1969 by Eric Carle, this book has grown legs (pun intended) and then soared high (pun intended again), like a butterfly itself! The pictures are timeless and there are so many versions of this story now for different age groups as children move from buggy to classroom.
I fondly remember this book as far back as my nursery class in 1983! Carle’s bright, bold and beautiful story of a caterpillar’s life cycle is as relevant today as when first published. His unique style and page design with the cut out holes of the nibbling caterpillar is such fun for me and the Bairn to read and it’s a go-to book most days.
The winner of countless awards and sold over 30 million copies, it has even made its way onto the stage in a fabulous theatre production full of imaginative puppets.
2. A Squash and A Squeeze
This was the first book published by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler back in 1993. Its tells the tale of an old lady who complains her house is too small. A wise old man helps her out by teaching her to appreciate what she has – recognising her glass is half full so to speak!
I first saw this on a CBeebies bedtime hour (again!) and loved it instantly. The rhyme is fabulous and who doesn’t like the phrases ‘A squash and a squeeze’ and ‘Frolics and Fiddle-de-dees’! We do in our house! I also find it’s even funnier if I emphasis e my Scottish accent on a lot of the words – Bairn loves it!
Another favourite asked for every bedtime just now.
3. The Gruffalo
The Gruffalo is really the beast (no pun intended this time!) of all picture books! This one has its own website, a film version, a theatre show, copious amounts of merchandise (see below) and now it’s own Theme Park Ride!! Not to mention the sequel books and film! This book is breaking down borders between all entertainment genres and proves how popular it still is after being published a good few years back in 1999.
The little mouse’s journey through the ‘Deep Dark Woods’ is now familiar to every child of the millennium with over 13 million copies sold. This was definitely the book that sky rocketed the careers of Donaldson and Scheffler as the picture book King and Queen.
However, this is a funny one for us. Every time I take it out to show the Bairn he seems unsure (maybe due to the cover with the beastly Gruffalo) but once I start reading it he absolutely LOVES all the rhyming couplets and he remembers how good it is.
Check out the website for lots of good activities to print out and do with your bairns.
4. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt
We just reread this one again tonight actually! Written in 1989 by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, this book is addictive in its repetitive structure, whimsical watercolours and pencil illustrations.
The descriptive words when the five children go through the river, the woods and the snow storm are all so atmospheric that the suspense really does build by the time they reach the cave. The Bear is quite scary and when the children are all running home and up the stairs to hide under the duvet the Bairn does get quite scared. I always show him the sad bear at the end and tell him he just wanted to play with the children! To be honest it probably is a bit too exciting for bedtime.
Again, this has been adapted for theatre and more recently at Christmas 2016 as a short animation, although I have heard they have padded it out with a rather sombre back story. Perhaps if anyone has seen it, is it worth us watching?
5. The Tiger who came to Tea
I am a huge fan of the Mog books, but for us when it comes to Judith Kerr, there is only one Top Cat! The Tiger who came to Tea (written in 1968) is a delightfully surreal classic picture book, which (again – there is a pattern here to having a successful picture book!) has even been turned into a sell out stage show.
We love reading how the tiger comes in and eats all the food in Sophie’s house but the family make the best of it and still go out for a lovely family meal. Kerr apparently came up with the story after several trips to the zoo with her three-year old daughter and eventually wrote it down. It is such a jokey Tiger that at no time as readers do we really feel any threat, which makes it different from The Gruffalo or indeed the Bear from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
So there we have our first five Picture Book Classics! I hope you enjoyed reading them and if by any chance you haven’t got round to reading any of these yourself yet (I doubt it lol)- let me know what ones in the comments below! Also tell me your favourite classics.