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Favourite Children's Books: Part 1 - Picture Books

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Favourite children’s books are made through memories: Picture Books

By Hana Whaanga

To celebrate Children’s Book Day coming up on April 2nd , we are sharing our favourite children’s books through a small series, told in parts. These are books that may be from our own childhoods, our kid’s childhoods or more recent publications, and some may still be in print and even in our libraries! Some may be more recent publications that have become classics as well. Either way, enjoy taking this trip down memory lane and please do share with us your favourites on our Facebook page.

In compiling my own list, I found that books I was recalling had a memory attached to them.
Do you have a treasured memory of a children’s book from your childhood? Did you have an olfactory recollection of a book read to you as a child?

Here the library staff of Hastings District Libraries share recollections of some of their favourite children’s picture books:
A Summery Saturday Morning by Margaret Mahy (originally published 1998). Albany says, “I still recall my parents reading this to me. My parents still recall my delight at the mud being described as ‘guggliwugs’. A Kiwi classic.” 

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (originally published 1939). 
Albany says, “The book that made me hyper-aware of my appendix, and also of my desire to visit Paris. I had the book, I had the DVD, I had the doll, I had the French lessons. Merci, Ludwig.”

Tell me something happy before I go to sleep by Joyce Dunbar and Debi Gliori (originally published 1998)
Albany says, “A perennial favourite for the anxious child. I loved the long-eared rabbits Willa and Willoughby, and I was jealous of their bunk beds and Willa’s vegetable-patterned pyjamas (and still am).”

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Amy says, “When someone asks what your favourite children's book, most people have a few that pop into their mind. Mine were Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd or basically anything by Dr. Seuss. But, after a think, I realised there were so many more gems. The times I remember reading the most was with my nana at our weekly ‘sleepovers’. My brother and I would sit on the couch, cat curled up in one of our laps and I would read him stories.

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Amy also remembers The Little Yellow Digger by Betty Gilderdale, My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton (illustrated by Lynley Dodd) and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. "These were amongst our favourites. After my Nana passed away, my favourite books migrated to the bookshelf in my room."

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Andrea says, “Looking back I remember the beautiful pictures in the following books: Debbie’s visit to the countryside by Marcel Marlier and Tinker Goes Skating (what’s not to love about a cat and dog going ice skating) by Lucienne Erville and Marcel Marlier. As an adult and an aunty I like to try and stay current with both current junior picture books and old classics. My favourites are: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – I love how children can ‘read’ the pictures and join in while seeing how the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.” Cheryl also shared this as one of her favourites to read to her children and says, “Best illustrations ever!”

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss: Andrea says, “Although a Junior picture book this book can be meaningful for adults and children of all ages.” Another favourite of Andrea's is Green Eggs and Ham also by Dr Seuss. Andrea says, “Fun fact: Seuss’s publisher challenged him to write a book with 50 words in it and this is it”. Hana says, “I read this once in a Preschool Storytime and didn’t realise how long and repetitive it was! I learnt a valuable lesson that day - always do a run through of your material beforehand!”

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Nicketty-Nacketty, Noo-Noo-Noo by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Tracey Moroney: Andrea says, “spoiler alert - watch out for the glue stew”.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea written and illustrated by Judith Kerr:  Andrea says, “I was an Early Childhood Teacher once and wonder if I used to enjoy this book more than the children”. Elizabeth says, “An audio version of this came out when my children were little, and I find myself humming the theme tune whenever I see the book. The narrator sounded just like my Mum. The tiger didn’t speak, but my children loved the sound he made when he discovered lemons. We rewound the tape way too many times.”

Frosty the Snowman retold by Carol North: Andrea says, “This book was given to me by an Aunty and Uncle so it was my favourite straight away. It’s been stored in a happy memories box and survived multiple house moves over the years." 

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Interrupting Chicken and The Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein: Andrea says, “This is an adorable story with fantastic illustrations.” 

Baa Baa Smart Sheep by Mark Sommerset: Andrea says, “My sister and I did the voices for the main characters and she kept breaking into laughter during her parts.” Editors note: This was also overall children’s choice winner at the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards in 2011

Alfie by Shirley Hughes: Elizabeth says, “Alfie’s family were just like mine.” 

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Animalia by Graeme Base. Jennie says, “This book came out when I was about 8 and I just loved it I would sit for hours looking at all the art work and finding new things.” 

‘Koko’s Kitten’ by Dr Francine Patterson: Jennie says, “Rather controversial nowadays, this book was about the famous Gorilla, Koko. The orphaned gorilla child who was taught to speak sign language and communicate with humans. This is the sweet, but heart breaking tale of Koko and her pet kitten.” 

Lara says, “I have always been an avid reader. We’re talking torch under the covers reading late into the night, attempting to read while walking, and reading in the car even though it made me feel sick. It’s clear that I was always an animal lover too, as when I think right back to picture books, it is Mog and Spot that come to mind.

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Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd (originally published in 1947): Hana says, “There’s something beautiful and so simple about this book, I also like that the colour pallet is indicative of the limitations in publishing at the time. I would read this book to my girls at bedtime, ever so slowly, and wait as my girls fell asleep.”

Richard Scarry’s busy busy farm by Richard Scarry. Everything Hastings District Libraries have by Richard Scarry can be found here. Lisa says, “I devoured anything by Richard Scarry. This one was my favourite, with all the different machines. I felt like I was on a farm!” Hana says, “We have Richard Scarry’s cars and trucks and things that go at home. My kids know where Goldbug is on every page. Of course.”

Arthur’s Star by David Elliot: Li says, “When I was a kid, my cousins and I would beg Nana and Poppa to read us stories. We had a lot of books, including a bunch of those ones that were like a compendium with lots of different stories, but the one we asked for the most, was Arthur’s Star. We’re not entirely sure what happened to the original copy, but my guess is that Nana (or Poppa, maybe), cursed the author’s name and burned it in a fit of pique. 25 years later, it’s out of print, but I still look for it whenever I go to a second hand book store - I would LOVE to give it to my Nana, so she can read it to the new generation of great-grandkids.”

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Li says, “These days, I have to say that my favourite children’s books haven’t really changed much! If I’m talking picture books, I always recommend Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake - because who doesn't like a book where the only thing a character can say is ‘Poo Bum'. If you’re my generation, you’ll appreciate the parallel between Poo Bum’s Simon and Ah-ha from Little Rascals… (‘I’ve always had a rather extensive vocabulary, not to mention a phenomenal grasp of grammar, and a superlative command of syntax…’).”

Li says, “From Poo Bum, we go back in time to the 1980’s, where a mouse dentist and his mouse wife outfox a fox who just wants his toothache to be gone…Oh, and a nice mouse snack on the side! Doctor De Soto by William Steig is a little dark, in parts, but overall a great story!”

All library staff have so many more recommendations, and could talk for hours about books. Please feel free to come see us anytime if you need a suggestion; we love to help!
While you’re here, why not try our Pick’n’Mix service? Just tell us your child’s interests and what they’ve enjoyed.
Let library staff members take the hassle out of searching - it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

24 March 2022

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