Some of My Favourite Picture Books

Inspired by the recent Guardian post about Daniel Hahn’s top 10 underrated or forgotten children’s classics I thought I would make a blog post about some of my favourite picture books as well. I’ve tried to mix up some of my old favourites with some newer books. It was hard to not just jump back to books that I enjoyed when I was younger, children’s books (whether that’s picture books or not) still give me a warm feeling in my chest – like you’re cuddling up to the fire on a rainy winter afternoon. And that’s doubley the case for the books I loved when I was a child.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

So we’ve started off with an absolute classic. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t be able to sing along to We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (We’re going to catch a big one… we’re not scared!). The illustrations are gorgeous and I think capture the spirit and joy of the story.

And in case you haven’t seen it, I think it’s very important you watch this video of Michael Rosen reading the book! It was recorded by Walker Books as part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations:

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Bryne

This book came out relatively recently but one of the reasons that I loved, not only that the illustrations were vibrant and colourful, but it also uses the form of the page as part of the narrative and part of the punchline. I know what you’re thinking; “Why Alex, surely the page is always part of the narrative!?” Well I say to you that not like this!

As the characters walk across the break in the page where the spine sits, that little dip eats them! It’s a wonderful use of the book itself to tell the story (again, sounds obvious I know) and also adds in later a great interactive bit too!

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish by Michael Foreman 

This one did appear in the post by Daniel Hahn, but I loved this as a child as well (which is not just because it has lots of dinosaurs in the book). It’s a wonderfully illustrated book about dinosaurs coming back after everyone else has left and having fun in the interim. With a relevant message about all this rubbish we insist on leaving everywhere it’s a great book for all ages with a lesson to teach.

Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake

I don’t think that any list about favourite books would be complete without Roald Dahl, especially when we include pictures and that means we have Quentin Blake to contend with as well. I picked Dirty Beasts because it’s got loads of poems every single one is fantastic, full to the brim with the character, charm, and irreverence that can only be delivered by Roald Dahl and brought to life so beautifully by Quentin Blake.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

A sort-of-sequel to I Want My Hat Back, it’s a story about a fish who has a hat that isn’t theirs. Jon Klassen is a multiple award winning author and with this book you can see why. It’s a quirky story, the art style is bold, and it’s very funny. Both of the Hat books are great reads but I think that This Is Not My Hat squeezes out in front as my favourite.

So there you have it! Some of my favourite picture books! I hope that you check them out because they’re all brilliant and well, well worth the time!

Review: The Lost Castle (The Chronicles of Krangor)

I love a good fantasy book, and I love dinosaurs. So what’s not to love when you mix them together? 

That’s why I picked up The Lost Castle the first in a series called The Chronicles of Krangor written by Michael Pryor, which is a fantasy novel where all the characters are dinosaurs of one sort or another (bet you didn’t see that coming?).

It is a children’s book, so I wasn’t expecting it to be super duper complicated and just really a bit of fun to break up the weeping muddy explosion that is the Malazan universe. 

The story centers around three young saurs who uncover the evil Queen’s diabolical plan to rule the world using magic. Awesome. We’ve got dinosaurs, an evil queen, and world domination goin’ on. Mainly we follow Adalon (on the cover, I assume) a young noble and promises to exact justice on the Queen for the death of his father. 

The cover for The Lost Caste
Look at him, being all knight-y and prehistoric.

One thing that always surprises me about children’s books (although it says more about the kinds of books I read, I suspect, than children’s books) is how quickly the plot progresses. We are immediately thrown into the thick of things and the plot progresses at a compelling pace. 

However, I do think that this sacrifices something of the prose as a rather inordinate amount of the time (not all the time, but just enough that I noticed it) we are being told what is happening more often than not rather than being shown. I understand that this is also partly to do with tailoring to the audience, as much as I like to imagine I’m still a kid at heart, I know that I have grown up. (Damn you Peter Pan!)

One thing that I did find a bit odd was the description of the saurs themselves. The details were never thoroughly detailed and we are only offered snippets of the saurs in any one paragraph. I guess that a reason for this is that Michael Pryor has devised a world where the dinosaurs have evolved and moved away from the petty classification of us mere humans. Instead of (what I assumed to be a descendant of the iguanadon) we are told they are ‘Clawed Ones’, or instead of some sort of Tyrannosaurus Rex we hear of the ‘Toothed One’. At its face I think this is a good way to try and show what the characters are without bogging the young readership down with too many details. But I did also find that it left a lot to the imagination, which sometimes left me thinking “Oh, maybe they don’t look like I thought they did…”. Although I should qualify this that I was a massive dinosaur nerd when I was a kid (who am I kidding, ‘was’?) so maybe I shouldn’t wait for Pryor to tell me if a character is a Stegasaurus or a Kentrosaurus….

But moving past that and my own geekery, the characters are interesting and there is danger abound and not just the danger of the Queen’s guards that have been set on those she wants eliminated. The three friends we follow (each a different kind of saur) all have their own personalities and Pryor does well to bring them out and show the value of friendship and teamwork throughout. 

So if you like dinosaurs and fantastical stories and you fancy a quick read, or you know a suitable youngling (no, I don’t know why I phrased it like that either) then I would recommend this book. The world is ripe for the picking and Pryor sets himself up for an adventurous romp over the trilogy.