From my bookshelf

2012 is the National Year of Reading, so it's an even better time than usual to share a book with your kids!
2012 is the National Year of Reading, so it's an even better time than usual to share a book with your kids! 

If there wasn’t the threat of suffocation combined with the pressure on our old house stumps, I’d line every wall with books.

A love of books is something I’ve harboured since childhood. Losing myself in a story of magical imagination, or just stunning illustration was a fantastic escape and most likely where my adoration of literature and language was born.

For every birthday my children have celebrated, when asked for a gift suggestion, my standard response is to just get them a book. I don’t believe you can ever have too many books. That being said, I've read my fair share of kids’ books and amongst the electrifying beauty of many, there exists some dismal crud. I don't know how some of the pages justify publication, nor a purchase price.

With this in mind, I've compiled a list of a few of the books I’d love my children to love, starting with the trusty classics:

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
An oldie but a goodie. It has everything you could ever want in a book: colour, counting, days of the week, fruit, vivid illustrations, fun through treats, little holes that little fingers can poke ... and, of course, the word "POP" which for some reason makes my children laugh. Not to mention educating about life cycles, as well as a gorgeous double-page butterfly. I still enjoy this book and never tire of reading it to my children.

2. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
This has actually grown to be my favourite as I’ve matured. It's a story that has so much more than the basic plot, things I’ve identified as an adult that passed me by as a child. It's rhythmic, making it easy for parents to read, and there are endless discoveries through the illustrations that expand with the adventure.

3. Green Eggs & Ham, Dr Seuss
Although long for a children’s book, you can whip through this in no time with the trademark craziness and rhyming genius of Dr Seuss. Not to mention that it helps encourage my children to try new and interesting foods placed in front of them at the dinner table…

4. There’s a Hippo on our Roof Eating Cake, Hazel Edwards
For no other reason than it is funny and ridiculous! Who doesn’t love a hippo? And cake?

In more recent years, I’ve also discovered or been introduced to:

  • The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson: A gorgeous and intelligent story which most of us would know by now, about the clever little mouse who outwits his predators and the Gruffalo.
  • Stanley Paste, Aaron Blabey: A recent gift for my daughter that has engaging illustrations and a fantastic story for any child, short or tall.
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen: Another book with great pace and repetition that the little ones love.
  • Where is the Green Sheep?, Mem Fox: This is a book we probably all think we could have written because it seems so simple, but it apparently took Mem Fox two years to write. It's the first book my eldest child knew by heart and could “read” at three.
  • Blueberry Girl, Neil Gaiman: A book all women should read, and one we should all read to our daughters. It's a book I wish I'd written. Just gorgeous.
  • We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey through Tanzania, Laurie Krebs: This is a really interesting counting book with animals. It also introduces children to the plains of Africa, as well as some Swahili words!
  • The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business, Wolf Erlbruch: How can you go past a story about poo? Great illustrations and some informative details about the makeup of various animal poo.
  • Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary series, particularly the one with Zachary Quack (mainly because my son loved hearing his name in a book).
  • Anything by Quentin Blake is quirky and bright - a particular favourite in our house is Mr Magnolia.

And as we move into the digital age of books, although I resisted being usurped by a screen, I've come to adore a book my husband downloaded on the iPad, called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It's an interactive and beautiful iBook.

What are your 'must-have' children’s books? Have your say, and see what books other people have suggested, in the Essential Baby forum.