As I’m coming to the end of my lists (1 to go) stepping back has made me realise that I have missed out so many brilliant books, authors and illustrators. I ended up with 12 here because I couldn’t leave out some of them. There are many others doing brilliant work, go and explore, find the books which work for you.
Hope the lists have started you looking.
Independent bookshops are amazing I find lots of the quirky and the interesting, hidden on their shelves,
I’m lucky I’ve got a few on my doorstep. Drake bookshop in Stockton, Book Corner in Saltburn, Whitby books, Guisborough books and White Rose books in Thirsk all are great helpful and knowledgeable. Go find your local bookshop… you never know what you will find.
1 Wild by Emily Hughes
“You cannot tame something so happily wild.”
In this beautiful picture book by Emily Hughes, we meet a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth—she was taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears, and to play by foxes. She is unashamedly, irrefutably, irrepressibly wild. That is, until she is snared by some very strange animals that look oddly like her, but they don’t talk right, eat right, or play correctly.
Stunning, wildly vivid visuals jump off the page. Inventive and quirky with the most expressive lead character. Just fabulous.
2) On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies
Two best friends enjoy playing games of their imaginations on a big hill using cardboard boxes; life is great. When another boy brings his box and joins in on the fun, there’s a rift in the original friendship.
A wonderful book about the complexities of friendship and how kindness can help us overcome the issues.
If you’ve not come across illustrator Benji Davies you are in for a real treat
3) Pattan’s Pumpkin by Chitra Soundar and Frane Lessac
When Pattan finds a yellow-flower vine wilting in his valley, he replants and cares for it, watching as a pumpkin appears and grows taller than the goats, taller than the elephants, as tall as the very mountains. When a terrible storm rages across the valley, Pattan wonders if perhaps his pumpkin can save the seeds and grains and saplings, the goats and birds and bison, and protect them all as the storm clouds burst and the waters rise.
Frane Lessac’s brilliantly vibrant artwork is a feast for the eyes, while Chitra Soundar’s thoughtful retelling is a fascinating example of the kinds of stories told the world over — and the differences that make each version unique.
4) Little Red Bethan Woolvin
Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf on her way through the woods to visit her sick grandmother. The wolf is hungry, and Red Riding Hood looks tasty, so he hatches a dastardly plan, gobbles up Grandma and lies in wait. So far, so familiar. But this Little Red Riding Hood is not easily fooled, and this big bad wolf better watch his back. In this defiant interpretation of the traditional tale, the cheeky, brave little girl seizes control of her own story (and the wolf gets rather more than he bargained for).
Minimal stylised artwork and retellings with a twist make these playful versions perfect.
5) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
One night Max puts on his wolf suit and makes mischief of one kind and another, so his mother calls him ‘Wild Thing’ and sends him to bed without his supper. That night a forest begins to grow in Max’s room and an ocean rushes by with a boat to take Max to the place where the wild things are. Max tames the wild things and crowns himself as their king, and then the wild rumpus begins. But when Max has sent the monsters to bed, and everything is quiet, he starts to feel lonely and realises it is time to sail home to the place where someone loves him best of all.
A classic what more needs to be said. We are all a little bit Max.
6) Lion and The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Brilliant wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap.
Pinkney’s vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively drawn characters, make this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.
7) Stanleys Stick by John Hegley and Neal Layton
This book is about a stick owned by a boy called Stanley. But it is more than a stick because Stanley can make it into whatever he wants it to be through the power of imagination.
Playful words by Hegley are complimented by Layton’s simple, colourful illustrations which include just the subtlest pieces of collage to bring places like Blackpool beach to life.
8) Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett
The best way to conquer your fear is to face it.
This is exactly what Orion does. Orion is afraid of many things, his greatest fear is the Dark. One night Orion gets fed up with being afraid and he demands the Dark leave. The Dark and Orion meet and learn more about each other. Together The Dark and Orion explore the scary parts of the dark and see that there is fun to be had, and The Dark is not so scary.
Playful formatting make it a visual wonder. Loads of challenging vocab in there helps children put words to fears.
This story teaches a great lesson about how to get over our fears. How to address them and how to make them our strengths instead. this book is a great book for anyone with fears, not just of the dark.
9) Is There a Dog in This Book? by Viviane Schwartz
Equal time for canines! Three cats —Tiny, Moonpie, and André — think there might be a dog in this book, but it’s up to the reader to help them find out.
Can cats and dogs share the same turf? Revisit the age-old dilemma with a hide-and-seek romp among furry friends.
Brimming with humor and featuring Viviane Schwarz’s exuberant artwork, here is a lively interactive exploration of the surprising joys of unlikely friendships.
10) LOTS, The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton
Lots, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers.
There are living things everywhere: the more we look, the more we find. There are creatures on the tops of the tallest jungle trees, at the bottom of the coldest oceans, even under the feathers of birds and in boiling volcanic pools. So how many different kinds are there? One, two, three … lots!
With beautiful words from Nicola Davies and amazing detailed illustrations by Emily Sutton, this book is certain to enchant and inspire your class. (they’ll fight over it if you’re not careful)
11) Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton
What looks to be four friends or four family members creep through the woods at night in search of prey. Three of them have nets–and a plan–to capture a bird. They fail, time and time again, while the smallest member of the party attracts a flock of birds with his friendliness, kindness, and offer of food. Of course, the others still don’t learn from his example.
Funny and profound, the books helps explore the importance of every voice, even the smallest.
12) Grumpy Frog by Ed Vere.
Grumpy Frog is not grumpy. He loves green, and he loves to hop, and he loves winning. But what happens when Grumpy Frog doesn’t win, or encounters – horror of horrors – a Pink Rabbit?
Join Grumpy Frog as he learns about compromise and tolerance, friendship and the power of saying sorry.
A hilarious book with a twist in the tail about getting – and getting rid of – the grump
Wildly funny, anarchic and playful. Grumpy frog does that rare thing and hiding serious messages beneath the humour. It’s a corking assembly book too.
Links to other year-group lists…