I love picture books.
You probably already guessed that from the title of this post. I’m not ashamed to say I wrote my dissertation on picture books. Not quite your standard literature essay topic. And if you’re thinking it must have been easy, it wasn’t. Believe me. But seriously, there is nothing wrong with spending far too much time in the children’s section in Waterstones. No, not to shop for nieces and nephews but, for yourself. You are never too old to enjoy picture books. Admit it, I’m not the only one, am I?
Picture books aren’t just for children. They are just as much for adults as well. Maybe not the early years books. Unless you are reading to a baby, I’m not sure how entertaining it is to read ‘1 Duck, quack…2 Sheep, ba ba’ by yourself. I’m talking about picture books which tell a story. Where worlds and characters are brought to life in form and colour; visually jumping out at you from the page. Stories that touch the heart and make you think; where the obvious is hiding something deeper, something you miss as a child but understand as an adult.
I’m a visual person, and as much as I love a lengthy novel, I’m drawn to pictures that tell stories. The greatest thing about picture books is that language, stories and pictures are rolled into one, creating the ultimate piece of art work. That’s what they are – works of art.
Below I have shared a selection of picture books that I enjoy reading again and again, all for different reasons. It was so hard to choose. All picture books are special and should be treasured forever.
GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU
by Sam McBratney
I’ve had this book for as long as I can remember. It is one of my mum’s favourites and I can remember being read this book as a child. It is such a sweet story about Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare who try to prove their love for each other by measuring it. It is a simple narrative. Nothing fancy. No deaths, no violence (obviously) or lover’s torn apart. Just a parent and their young, spending time together and appreciating all that they do for each other. Plus, the illustrations are beautiful.
by Michael Bond
Everyone’s favourite little bear. Paddington is such a classic and I only bought this wonderful copy for younger children not that long ago. It is full of charm and mischief and can be enjoyed by all.
THE BEAR AND THE PIANO
by David Litchfield
Another bear story! Bears are very popular in picture books. In fact, animals, in general, are almost always featured. Do they all play the piano? Hmm, maybe, maybe not but there are a lot of talented animals in picture books and this young bear has a natural gift. After finding an abandoned piano in the forest, the young bear teaches himself how to play music. Then, one day he is overheard by humans who are extremely impressed, so they ask the young bear to go with them to New York. But the young bear soon discovers that fame is not for him if his family and friends are not by his side. It’s a beautiful book with very expressive illustrations.
THE STORM WHALE
by Benji Davies
I discovered the ‘The Storm Whale’ last year when researching for my dissertation and loved it immediately. The story follows Noi, a lonely little boy who finds a whale washed up on the shore one day. It is a story of loneliness, kindness and friendship all mixed into one. Davies’s illustrations are so wonderful and were what first attracted me to the book.
LOST AND FOUND
by Oliver Jeffers
Oliver Jeffers is one of my favourite picture book artists. There is so much talent out there but Jeffers work just manages to top it for me. Why? It’s his illustrations. The way that he uses colour, line, framing, space and texture all help to convey the emotion of the story in such an interesting way. ‘Lost and Found’ tells the story of a penguin who turns up, out of the blue, at a young boy’s door. The young boy knows what he has to do; he must take the penguin home. The story explores the meaning of home and that sometimes, home is something we feel inside and who we are with, and not a physical place.
THE BUILDING BOY
By Ross Montgomery
‘The Building Boy’ is illustrated by David Litchfield, who wrote and illustrated ‘The Bear and the Piano’ mentioned above. It too has some of the most expressive and colourful illustrations, filled with detail, warmth and vibrancy. The story deals with the loss of a young boy’s Grandma, and how he must overcome his grief and find a way to remember her, forever.
by Julia Donaldson
‘Paper Dolls’ is very different to Donaldson’s classic ‘The Gruffalo’. Firstly, the style of Rebecca Cobb’s illustration is so cute and evokes a sense of innocence and childhood. The story itself deals with loss but no matter what it is you lose, such as the little girl’s hair clip, or her Granny, they live forever in your memory. Just because something or someone is gone, doesn’t mean they are forgotten. It’s such a touching and heartfelt picture book; one you’ll want to keep forever.
THE HEART AND THE BOTTLE
by Oliver Jeffers (again)
I had to include another Oliver Jeffers book because this little gem is very moving. It tells the story of a young girl whose life is full of wonder, imagination and possibility. All of a sudden, her life changes and the world is no longer the same place, so she takes out her heart and puts it in a bottle to keep it safe. It isn’t until she grows older that she tries to retrieve her heart from the bottle, and once more puts it back where it belongs. I love this book as it explores death, grief and childhood in such an innocent and perspective way. I think all adults can take something away from reading this picture book – and it only takes one minute.
THE BEAR WHO LOVED TO DANCE
by Monika Filipina Trzpil
Out of all of the books above, this is the silly one, but it still has a message to take away. Again, the story is about a bear, but this one loves to dance, it is just a shame he isn’t any good at it. All of his animal friends can tap dance like Fred Astaire, plié like Darcy Bussel and so on. Bear feels left out as he doesn’t have a special talent and can’t do anything right. That’s until he takes part in a competition in which he excels at. I can resonate with the story as I sometimes feel like Bear; desperately seeking something I am good at. I’m sure we have all felt like this at some point or another.
Love Georgie ♥