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We have gathered together a selection of books especially chosen to introduce toddlers and young children to the world, through colours, shapes, numbers, letters and more.
It's never too early to read to children and this selection of picture books are a great introduction to first concepts, perfect for even the youngest babies.
Through colour, touch, sound and shapes young children start to make sense of the world around them and these are our very favourite recently published books plus some old gems that every nursery bookshelf should have.
Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay
Shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize 2020 | | Kate Read uses bold colours, composition and collage to tell the story of one famished fox’s encounter with some angry hens, making this counting book a real thriller. The Klaus Flugge judges said: ‘Visually stunning. There’s real drama here and the way the story is told is joyous. She’s done a very clever thing and created a counting book while keeping within the beats of a story.’
This witty, stylish counting book will catch the attention of adults as well as the imagination of the very young. A rhythmic, rhyming text and eye-catching illustrations present us with one fox in socks, then two gorillas looking in mirrors, followed by three jolly llamas in pyjamas, right up to the twenty birds who have the last words. Along the way we also meet five goats wearing coats, the goats labelled and clearly identifiable under their coats (Nubian, mountain, angora…). Other favourite spreads include the one featuring sixteen chickens reading (and clearly enjoying) Dickens! A wonderfully original counting book that is as handsome as it is effective.
What fun to discover colours with Elmer, everyone’s favourite patchwork elephant! Each colourful page in this new book shows off a different colour and is packed too with Elmer’s friends and the his distinctive jungle flora. There are so many things to spot and count including eight bright little teddy bears. There’s no-one quite like Elmer and this is a lovely first-learning book.
Two little friends take a tour of the city in this bright and engaging book. What amazing things will they see – and what can we spot too as we follow them on their way? Each colourful double page spread is full of life and movement with lots for children to find in the pictures. Some things – train driver, camera, ice-cream van – are neatly labelled, and on each page readers are posed a little challenge testing counting skills, memory or comprehension. The illustrations are very appealing indeed, and with its combination of fun story and find, name and count element, this is a great book to share with young children.
Clive Gifford is renowned for the quality and accuracy of his non-fiction books and has been nominated for, and won, many awards for his books. The illustrations are bright and child friendly making this a great book to dip into or to pore over. The point is made in the book that comparing things is a great way to learn about them, as well as being useful it’s also fun. It’s not often you can see the biggest, tallest and longest creatures on the earth in one double page spread, or how fast different creatures run. It’s no wonder you can never catch your pet cat – they run faster than humans! Still on cats, I had no idea they contained less water in their bodies than dogs! Subjects covered range from changing seasons, to flying high, mighty machines and tiny creatures plus many more. A book I am sure many youngsters will get a great deal of pleasure from, as well as learning lots along the way.
Join Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs Tittlemouse and lots of other animal friends inside. Peter Rabbit 123 is accompanied by Peter Rabbit ABC and is published by Frederick Warne & Co., publishers of Beatrix Potter's Original Peter Rabbit books.
This absolutely stunning book turns the alphabet into a wild exploration of the animal world as readers are presented with 26 different creatures across colourful pages, all featuring pop ups or peep through cut outs to make this unforgettable. Questions to readers, as well as its ingenious layout, make it a superb interactive reading experience – ‘Who is prettier than an ant?’ asks the text: ‘A butterfly’ is the answer. ‘Who has more legs than a butterfly?’ a caterpillar, and so on. Some of the questions are delightfully quirky: ‘Who is more wobbly than an iguana?’ (Can you guess?), but each one, combined with the striking artwork will draw the reader into the wonderful world of the Animalphabet.
Award-winning author and illustrator Debi Gliori obviously loves the Hebrides and shows readers just what is so special about these rugged islands in this beautiful picture book. In the guise of an alphabet book she takes readers exploring in the company of a girl, a boy and their dog. The three play by burns, tramp through fields of cotton grass, sit by the kyle until the sun slips into the sea. All sorts of birds and wildlife are spotted, all at home in the stunning scenery which is represented in glowing watercolour illustrations. Children and adults alike will love poring over the pictures, soaking up the atmosphere and spotting details. A book to treasure, it should prove a huge boost to the Hebdridean tourist industry too!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2018 | Count from 1 to 10 with the Enormous Crocodile! With one big flap and an ENORMOUS surprise, this sturdy board book is perfect for little hands. A brilliant introduction to the world of Roald Dahl. Commissioning editor Carmen McCullough said: "We are thrilled to be launching Roald Dahl publishing for pre-school readers for the very first time in 2018. The Enormous Crocodile is the perfect character to introduce Dahl to a younger audience: bringing just the right amount of humour and mischief to these core first concept titles, which promise to entertain parents too. We already know Quentin Blake's unmistakeable and expressive illustrations have huge appeal to younger readers, and are confident this exciting expansion will help create a whole new generation of Roald Dahl fans."
100 First Words covers all the familiar things little ones are interested in, from my body and my food, to animals, things that go, and bedtime. Crystal-clear photos show the wonder of the real world, while engaging illustrations tell simple stories that foster learning, from penguins playing in the snow and ice, to a mouse climbing a ladder to reach the height of a very tall giraffe! Word labels encourage pointing, naming, and talking while building vocabulary and language. Cleverly designed to inform and entertain, 100 First Words is the start of your baby's learning adventure - the world is amazing, beautiful, fascinating, and fun!
Who better than friendly, lovable Elmer to introduce the very young to first concepts. Learning colours is lots of fun with Elmer, who is himself of course an irresistible patchwork and so vibrant that just looking at him gladdens the heart. Here he shows off all your favourite colours, balancing yellow and orange citrus fruits on his trunk, enjoying a pink lolly at the beach, running over green grass under a blue sky. Chunky tabs make it especially good for little hands, and each different scene is full of first learning opportunities. ~ Andrea Reece
A real treat for fans of Shirley Hughes, and a lovely counting book. One is Katie, cheerily ‘all by myself’, two is Katie and Olly, her baby brother, three is company when Norah comes to play, and so on, each number explained through scenes and activities all little children will recognise. Shirley Hughes captures ordinary life with an unerring eye, the children in her books are particularly beautifully observed and there’s love and joy in every little gesture and facial expression. ~ Andrea Reece
Taking us through a toddler’s day, from waking up and breakfast to dinner time and bedtime, this lively book is full of essential words illustrated in jolly and cosy scenes that the very young will instantly recognise. Books like this are a perfect way to practise vocabulary and to help little children develop word-picture association. It’s also a lovely, easy book to share, each page providing heaps of things to look at and talk about. ~ Andrea Reece
Families come in all shapes and sizes and from all sorts of backgrounds. They speak various languages, eat different sorts of food, live in different kinds of homes and celebrate special occasions in a variety of ways. A celebration of family differences, this is a busy book full of all-embracing illustrations of every kind of family imaginable that are fun to look at time and time again. Beyond just giving pleasure, All About Family is also designed to ensure every child feels that their kind of family is just one of many and not anything unusual. The short accompanying words to each picture briefly and helpfully explain technical terms such a as adoption and fostering.
July 2018 Book of the Month | | Buy a book by Oliver Jeffers and you become owner of a complete and perfect work of art. A Little Alphabet is so much more than an alphabet book. Each page features one object, one letter, one word, yet each is a story in itself and will prompt readers to fill in the background to these characters and things, or imagine what is going to happen to them next. Jeffers’s scribbly line fills each with movement – no jelly for example could be wobblier than the one that illustrates J. Characterisation is created through dots for eyes, just a line or blob for a mouth, and this is a triumph of simplicity and sophistication. A book for readers of all and every age.
March 2020 Book of the Month | ‘Colours are great, let’s celebrate!’ is the message of this big, quirky and really rather gorgeous book. Otto a little cat and his friend Leon the chameleon guide us through colour themed pages – grey, black, yellow, orange, red, pink, blue, green and brown – all of which are packed with objects and characters, all in the relevant shade. You’d be hard pushed to find more eclectic collections: yellow submarines juxtaposed with cheese, emojis, pots of Tandoori and fishermen in yellow oilskins. Everywhere you look there’s something unusual and surprising, as well as intriguing facts and lots of jokes too. Children will spend hours poring over the pages and still find something new, while grown ups will be fascinated too.
Everything is better with a little sparkle, even farm animals! Lift the sturdy flaps in this attractive board book to discover which animal is making the noise on the opposite page. You’ll find a horse, a chicken, a cow and a sheep, all of them together on the last page. Manes, hooves, ears are picked out in foil making the pictures even more appealing. A good book to enjoy with the very young and a fun way to develop hand eye co-ordination and teach colours and first words.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2019 | October 2019 Book of the Month | There’s huge fun to be had in this gloriously interactive book which is a spur to imaginative play as well as a great introduction to familiar colours and shapes. A singing button, a tickle button and many more. All young readers will be delighted by the invitation to press each one. Once they have done so many possibilities open up as they head off into whatever invention they choose to imagine. Sally Nicholls uses her word carefully and with pleasing simplicity and Beth Woollvin’s illustrations add special details of their own.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2018 Day and Night, Big and Small, Hungry and Full - learn your opposites with the Enormous Crocodile! With lots of flaps for busy little hands, this sturdy board book is the perfect introduction to the world of Roald Dahl. Lovereading Comment to follow. Commissioning editor Carmen McCullough said: "We are thrilled to be launching Roald Dahl publishing for pre-school readers for the very first time in 2018. The Enormous Crocodile is the perfect character to introduce Dahl to a younger audience: bringing just the right amount of humour and mischief to these core first concept titles, which promise to entertain parents too. We already know Quentin Blake's unmistakeable and expressive illustrations have huge appeal to younger readers, and are confident this exciting expansion will help create a whole new generation of Roald Dahl fans." Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month for June 2018: Mariella, Queen of the Skies by Eoin Colfer Opposites by Roald Dahl 1, 2, 3 by Roald Dahl The Day War Came by Nicola Davies The Hippo at the End of the Hall by Helen Cooper The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman
These art charts by bold Finnish artist Aino-Maija Metsola feature 10 first words posters that little ones can remove and post on their wall. Each has a different theme introducing concepts such as Colours, Counting, Shapes, Opposites, The Four Seasons, Sea Creatures, Woodland Animals, African Animals, Pets, and Transport along with first words. The posters are full of bright, engaging illustrations that will encourage exploration and discussion. Also with an activity book at the rear.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month February 2019 | A fun way of looking at prejudice that quickly makes it clear that even if someone is different to you the two of you can still be friends. Here, the Reds, who are round and eat red apples, are happy to be red. And the Yellows, who are square and eat bananas, love being yellow. How can the two groups ever get to like each other? And then there are the Blues who wear blue bow ties and are shaped like triangles and love being blue. They are different again and no one likes them at all. The arguments between the groups get sillier and sillier as they squabble over everything and make a lot of daft rules. Will they ever get to like one another? Then A Different comes along. Where will he fit in? Suddenly difference seems fine and what colour you are doesn’t seem to matter so much. Lots to think about as the expressive colour block characters work out how to live together.
This is a much-loved classic but as relevant today as it was when first published in 1969! The vivid and colourful illustrations and cut back and die-cut pages, together with some very simple text, provide a wonderful story that is immensely satisfying for parents and children alike. It’s a book that’s more threadbare than most in the nursery in my house.
February 2020 Book of the Month | Small person in the family with a fondness for vehicles? They will love this book! Though there’s no real story as such, it’s action-packed, every page crammed with brightly coloured vehicles going about their business on equally bright backgrounds, a friendly animal character at the wheel. ‘Which bus would you catch?’ asks the first spread, which presents us with ten different buses to admire; ‘which truck would you drive?’ comes a bit further on. Trains, trucks, tractors, bicycles, boats, diggers, rockets, cars and emergency vehicles all get their moment in the spotlight, with questions and challenges on each page as well as speech bubbles, jokes and descriptions to read out. Bright, busy and so much fun, this will keep littles ones absorbed for hours. Fans of this will also enjoy William Bee’s equally bright and distinctive Wonderful World of series.
A tale of sausages and their fight for freedom, this rollicking picture book will have everyone laughing. We begin with ten sausages, of course, but as their friends go pop and bang, some of them decide to hop out of the pan, with varying degrees of success. Poor sausage number two ends up down the drain, while there’s an even worse fate for sausage number four – the liquidizer. Sausage number eight is eaten by the cat but the silliest sausages of all are numbers nine and ten, who hide themselves in the hot dog roll! Michelle Robinson’s energetic storytelling creates something funny or surprising on every page, and it’s great fun to read aloud. Tor Freeman gives each sausage its own personality, no mean feat, and makes us sympathise with them even while we’re laughing.
Shirley Hughes works magic into simple scenes of everyday family life, and that is certainly the case here: episodes and objects that all little children will recognise are used to illustrate the letters of the alphabet. I particularly like ‘E is for everyone’, the illustration featuring bleary-eyed dad, still in bed, two little children bouncing on top of him, mum in the doorway with two cups of tea. There’s so much to look at and talk about in these warm, detailed pictures and this is ideal for sharing with pre-schoolers and the youngest readers. ~ Andrea Reece
Counting is particular fun when across the page streams a line of animals depicted in luminously beautiful artwork by the one and only Eric Carle. They are arranged in height order and the line begins with one stately giraffe, followed by an ever lengthening parade of creatures – elephant, bear, hippo, dog, and finally – tenth in line - Carle’s most famous character, that Very Hungry Caterpillar. Even the numbers are beautiful in Carle’s bold, textured artwork, a line of colour-co-ordinated spots above them demanding to be counted too. ~ Andrea Reece Each year on 20 March, the first day of Spring, Very Hungry Caterpillar Day is celebrated! Why not celebrate too?! Click here to find a Very Hungry Caterpillar Activity Pack to help you get the most out of the day.
The celebrated French author and illustrator has put together a brilliant collection of infographics that are designed to make children think about the world in a new way. Each colourful and distinctive page shows something that happens in our world every second. Every fact quoted is backed up by an impressive list of up to date sources at the end of the book. This introduces in an accessible way for young children the concept of statistics and what can be gained by collecting and analysing data. For example, the presentation on opposing pages of the £700 invested in humanitarian aid and the £46,760 spent on arms and weapons makes us all stop and think. However ,in the current circumstances that the world finds itself I,n there is another way in which the book can be of value, as the whole discussion of “ do you think this is still happening every second?” will inevitably occur. The stark 2 deaths every second may very sadly be a larger number and the 600,000 kilometres travelled by car every second may well be considerably smaller. Other things will not be changed. The fascinating 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools of water evaporating from the oceans every second (and we are also told that an Olympic sized pool holds 3,000,000 litres of water) and the 5,235 kilograms of sand, carried by the wind that leave the Sahara desert. Every page could be the basis of a very useful lesson in a different curricular area. Beautifully produced, this unusual book will really earn its keep in the classroom.
This robust, beautifully illustrated board book is a great way to teach young children about nature, and will also boost their vocabulary. Themed under headings such as gardens and parks; feathers, eggs and nests; and rocks and gems, the pages feature an array of birds, animals, insects and plants, all clearly illustrated and labelled. Many will be familiar to UK children, the little wren for example, branch of ivy, or dandelion clock, while others are more exotic – the Baobab tree, or Arctic fox. Each page, each object is lovely to look at and provides so much to spot and discuss. ~ Andrea Reece
This large format board book with its clever round tabs is a great first book to share with pre-school age children. Ten spreads take us to various locations – city, farm, airport and more. In each picture there are bright objects to spot and name and particularly cheery animal characters going about their daily business, waiting at the bus stop, driving a combine harvester, checking in at the airport. Everything is clearly labelled and while there’s no narrative there’s lots of action and the opportunity to talk about what’s going on. Questions challenge the reader to find and count specific items. Vehicles and machines have a starring role in the illustrations too and this will particularly appeal to youngsters with a passion for modes of transport. There's a companion title, Amazing Machines First Numbers too!
Counting from one to ten is great fun with this jolly, carefully thought-out board book. There’s just one line of text on each page, short but interesting with some nicely onomatopoeic language (tractors chugging, fire trucks rumbling). This describes the scene and numbers the vehicles. Readers are also asked questions and given extra things to count and find, a good way to keep and hold their attention. The illustrations are bright and attractive, lots of fun to look at, and the machines each carry smiling animal characters – stories in waiting there. A round tab on each page reinforces number recognition and makes it easy for little hands to turn the pages. ~ Andrea Reece There's a companion title, Amazing Machines First Words too!
Baby's brother is getting ready to take a basket of bananas all the way to Baba's bungalow in the next village. He will have to go along the bumpy road, past the baobab trees, birds and butterflies, and all the way over the bridge. What he doesn't realize is that his cute, very curious baby sister is secretly coming along for the amazing bicycle ride, too!