I usually like to hit the library to see what I can find for these book reviews.
But this month I thought I’d share the Hawker family favourites. The gold you can find in our very own library, with not a dud in sight.
I was going to pick the top four. But I grabbed nine without even trying. So I rounded it up to ten. Which instantly became eleven.
And so it could have continued for a very long time. But I stopped at twelve. That’s restraint, right there. And here they are, in no particular order.
There’s Always Pooh and Me / A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard
This collection is one of the main reasons I love children’s poetry so much. The poems in There’s Always Pooh and Me capture the adventurous, exploring, dreamy, innocent imagination of childhood – yes, every single one. My favourites within the collection include The King’s Breakfast, Sneezles and the delightful Bad Sir Brian Botany with his battleaxe and boots. This book is one I read and think, ‘I wish I could write like that.’
Just like all of the books on this list. Let’s press on.
Mulga Bill’s Bicycle / A.B. Paterson and Kilmeny and Deborah Niland
Hands up if you grew up reading this one? As soon as I saw this title at the local newsagency, I was off and reciting it as if I’d read it every day of my life.”‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze…”
This is one of those stories that is fun to listen to and marvel at when you’re young, but that you appreciate on a whole new level when you’re older. The rhythm, the rhyme, the humour. Banjo Paterson is an Australian legend for a reason. Perfect.
Orange Pear Apple Bear / Emily Gravett
So simple. So. Simple. Why are the best ideas always so simple? But only AFTER you’ve seen the idea in motion?
Orange Pear Apple Bear is beautiful. The title contains 80% of the words you’ll find in this book (take that, Dr Seuss with your 50 words in Green Eggs and Ham!) which are artfully arranged and rearranged with wonderful illustrations. I loved reading this to Ashleigh when she was younger, and now she’s taken over in reading it to Mitchell.
The Wonky Donkey / Craig Smith and Katz Cowley
The Wonky Donkey started life as an APRA award-winning song, and it reads just as well as it sings. Kids will join in the hee-haws, and try to manage the tongue-twister the wonky donkey becomes as each new feature is revealed – and, if they’re anything like Ashleigh, probably even master it before you do!
Warning: if the idea of a stinky donkey offends you, don’t get this book. One review I read blasted the book for including a stinky donkey picture. One out of hundreds, but consider yourself warned.
And if you’re lucky enough to track down a copy with the CD included, you can try to sing it all as fast as Craig Smith does. Good luck!
Bertie and the Bear / Pamela Allen
It was tough to choose a favourite Pamela Allen title. We adore her books – in fact, my husband often jokes that we’ve single-handedly made her rich since we own every single title (and in some cases, more than one copy!).
(By the way, if you’re a fan of Pamela Allen, you can’t go past the book packs available at Australia Post outlets. For $12.99 you can get a pack that includes Bertie and the Bear, Who Sank the Boat?, I Wish I Had a Pirate Suit and A Lion in the Night, and there are other combinations available too. This is not at all a sponsored mention or a plug, I just can’t resist sharing a bargain.)
The Nickle Nackle Tree / Lynley Dodd
Lynley Dodd? So is this a Hairy Maclary/Slinky Malinki/Schnitzel von Krumm book?
No, it’s not. It’s better. The Nickle Nackle Tree is the first book I bought when I discovered I was pregnant with Ashleigh. It is so easy to read, and the alliteration makes it surprisingly easy to remember as well – it’s the book I recite to Ashleigh over the phone when we’re not together. How many birds will you find in the Nickle Nackle tree? You’ll be surprised!
Room on the Broom / Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Another author (and illustrator) that it was difficult to pick a favourite for. Well, it was for me, with The Snail and the Whale, A Squash and a Squeeze and, of course, The Gruffalo to compete with. But Room on the Broom is hands-down Ashleigh’s favourite Donaldson/Scheffler book. She has adapted the signature phrases and uses them all the time.
‘I am a frog, as clean as can be. Is there room on the broom for a frog like me?’ becomes, ‘I am an Ashleigh, as hungry as can be. Is there room at the table for an Ashleigh like me?’ Or perhaps, ‘I am an Ashleigh, as fun as can be. Is there room at the playground for an Ashleigh like me?’
This book is an absolute delight to read, with a lovely message as well.
Rudie Nudie / Emma Quay
If, like most children, yours ever ran around the house ‘rudie nudie’, then you will love this book as much as I do. Ashleigh’s nana bought it for the title alone, but there is much more to enjoy.
Emma Quay has perfectly captured that cheekiness exhibited by toddlers who love to get their gear off (or keep it off after the bath). We read this one at least once a week, and use the phrases within far more often.
Look at You! / Kathy Henderson and Paul Howard
Warning: this book is guaranteed to bring out the cutesy putesy language.
We first borrowed Look at You! from the library when Ashleigh was around six months old, and her reaction sent me straight online to purchase it. I don’t know if it was this book in particular, or if Ashleigh was simply ready to engage with books at that age and we just happened to have this one.
But she still loves it. And now Mitchell is starting to react to the faces in this book.
The illustrations in this book are DIVINE. Absolutely divine. The rhymes are cute too, and the everyday activities captured are lovely, but Paul Howard’s illustrations make this book what it is. Gooey. Smooshy. Full of roly-poly babies and their chubby-wubby cheeks. *raspberry*
Stuck / Oliver Jeffers
Oh, Oliver Jeffers. How I love your work. A friend bought Stuck for Ashleigh for her first birthday, and it instantly became a favourite of mine. She likes it too, of course, but this is one of those books that you read to yourself again when your little one has nodded off.
One of those books that you don’t mind reading for the second, third or even twentieth time.
Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree. So he throws his favourite shoe at it to knock it down, and that gets stuck too. And that’s just the beginning of the stuck fun.
I Want My Hat Back / Jon Klassen
Teehee. TEEHEE. I Want My Hat Back gets me every time. EVERY TIME.
Warning (and spoiler alert): a rabbit is (probably) eaten in the reading of this book. It is only alluded to, not seen or even described, but if you don’t want to explain to your child that bears sometimes eat rabbits, you may want to avoid this book.
If you’re not against explaining to your child the dietary requirements of bears, then you must get your hands on a copy of this book. It is absolutely hilarious.
Fox in Socks / Dr Seuss
Ah, here it is. I just couldn’t have a favourite children’s book list without my beloved Dr Seuss in it!
Fox in Socks is easily my favourite Dr Seuss book. It wins because it’s fun to read. It wins because it’s ridiculous. It wins because it was my favourite Dr Seuss book when I was a toddler and you can’t beat nostalgia.
It wins because I STILL can’t say the tongue twister about Bim and Ben and their broom-bending and broom-breaking. I have no problem with chicks, bricks and blocks. No problem with Sue’s socks and Slow Joe Crow. No problem with Luke Luck and his duck liking and licking lakes. But Bim and Ben get me every time.
And that’s twelve! I could have kept going. I ummed and aahed over Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, The Jolly Postman and The Eleventh Hour. I even had The BFG in my hand before deciding to focus on books for younger readers.
But I stopped at twelve. Twelve books we all read and enjoy. Twelve books I couldn’t imagine our library without.
I hope you found something new. If not, I hope you like this selection!
They’re the top twelve books in the Hawker household (this week, anyway). What are yours?
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