I was at the Exclusive Books warehouse sale on Friday – which really is one of my favourite bargain hunting events of the year. You pay R50 per kilogram of books and there are some real gems to be found.
When I enter the warehouse I do so with purpose because I’m only there for the children’s books and I know exactly what I want. It helps that in my previous incarnation I worked in book publishing, most recently for Penguin. I’ve seen which books children love and which ones continue to sell, year after year.
Anyway, this got me thinking about the most popular books in our house, so I’ve compiled a list below. It’s difficult to put a suggested age bracket on this selection because children read at different levels, but bear in mind that my daughter is currently three years old.
- The Gruffalo : No list of favourite kids books is complete without this classic by Julia Donaldson. Children love reciting the rhyming words and they also get a kick out of being a little scared of the mythical beast who lives in the woods. This book has great longevity – kids won’t grow tired of it quickly.
- Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell: Rachel liked this from an early age (18 months?) and still continues to ask for it. Lift-the-flaps are such fun for younger readers and toddlers love learning which animals are hiding on which pages.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: Another classic! Kids enjoy reciting all the things the caterpillar eats and there is always such excitement when he turns into a beautiful butterfly at the end.
- The Monkey Puzzle (by Julia Donaldson + Axel Scheffler): A monkey has lost his Mum and tries to find her in the forest. Children love learning about all the other animals in the forest and also feel a sense of relief when the monkey is united with his Mum at the end of the book.
- Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins: I hadn’t heard of this book before (a friend gave it to us) but now I’m going to buy it as a gift for any toddlers that I know. The illustrations are such a joy and it teaches kids basic concepts such as fat & thin, spotty & stripy etc. Such a winner!
- Sharing a Shell (Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks): The version we have has glitter all over it, which makes it very popular with little girls! As the blurb says “The verse sparkles as much as the pictures” and its basic message about sharing is very important for kids entering school for the first time.
- One Little Mermaid (Lucy Barnard): This is a very unassuming little book but perennially popular with my girl. The appeal lies with the three mermaid friends, who all have necklaces to match their tails and get up to adventures under the sea.
- The Cat in the Hat (Dr Seuss): We loved these books as kids and our children love them too. All Dr Seuss titles are excellent but this is still our favourite one. Children adore the zany illustrations and the clever rhymes and adults love reading them too.
- The Snail and the Whale (by Julia Donaldson + Axel Scheffler): I know this list is crowded with Julia Donaldson titles but she really is a master story teller for little ones. Another favourite about a tiny snail, a gigantic whale, their friendship and the adventure they go on together.
- My First series (Dorling Kindersley): We have a lot of DK books in our house and they’ve been great educational tools. Rachel loves identifying new objects and will sit for ages going through the pages and pointing at the pictures, as she learns new things.
Books really do make the best gifts because you’re giving kids more than just a physical object that will sit on a shelf – you’re giving them knowledge and imagination, and what can be better than that?
[Which children’s books are favourites in your house? Let me know, as I’m always looking for new reading inspiration.]