Our Recommendations for Babies to Age 4

Beware! Ralfy Rabbit and the Secret Book Biter by Emily Mackenzie

Ralfy Rabbit is back – and if you’ve met him before, you’ll know Ralfy LOVES books… So much that he used to creep into people’s bedrooms and take them home! But now he faces a new problem – in the shape of his noisy new sibling Rodney. Poor Ralfy can’t find anywhere quiet to read! Fleeing to his favourite bookshop (now look carefully here – do you recognise anything?), he finds it too busy. Settling in the library, he discovers a chunk has been bitten out of his book! Who is the Secret Book Biter? Can Ralfy solve the mystery? Emily Mackenzie’s delightful illustrations make this book a joy and a great way to explore the experience of adjusting to a new sibling.

The Tree Keepers by Gemma Koomen

I first came across The Tree Keepers when my kids watched Gemma Koomen reading it online as part of a Hexham Book Festival initiative. We were entranced by her beautiful illustrations, bringing a bustling treetop community of tiny people immediately to life. This gentle story follows shy Sylvia, who prefers to hide than play with the other Tree Keepers – that is, until she finds herself sharing her den with an unexpected visitor who expands her world and introduces her the pleasures of friendship. Full of wonderful detail, the Tree Keepers’ world springs to life on every page, making for lots to talk about as you read.

The Singing Mermaid by Julia Donaldson

This is my favourite Julia Donaldson book. It’s an absolute dream to read aloud, as well as being a brilliant story. It has all the hallmarks of a traditional ballad and yet works as well if you are 4 or 40! The sing-song rhythm and vibrant imagery create a magical tale of a mermaid captured from the sea and stolen by the circus – until her friends from the seashore intervene… Babies will love the rhythm of the words and the bold and characterful illustrations, whilst older children will be spellbound by the mermaid’s adventures – and relieved that good friends are on hand to save the day!

The Girl and The Dinosaur by Hollie Hughes and Sarah Massini

Gorgeously illustrated, I love this tale of a young girl who dares to dream. While the grown-ups think she has better things to do than dig for bones on the beach, she keeps going and uncovers a dinosaur ‘beastie’... who comes to life at night! And so begins a magical adventure…. A beautiful tribute both to real-life palaeontologist Mary Anning and to the power of a child’s imagination.

No-Bot the Robot with No Bottom by Sue Hendra

Well known for her inimitable Supertato series, this is another wonderfully wacky gem from Sue Hendra. It all begins with an innocent play in the park – but when Bernard the robot jumps from the swing… he leaves his bottom behind!! Can Bernard’s friends help him find it? Great fun to read aloud, this book is guaranteed to have everyone laughing!

The First Slodge by Jeanne Willis

‘Once upon a slime, there was a slodge…’  And this slodge thinks she is the only one. ‘My day, my night’ she says. Until she is no longer alone. Another slodge has appeared and it is a terrible shock to both of them. Delightfully offbeat and beautifully illustrated, this tale gently explores emotions which go all the way back to genesis – and celebrates how good life can be when we share it with friends.

Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell

Franklin the dragon loves stories, and he especially loves reading to others and sharing his stories with them. But everyone in the village is too scared of Franklin to come and listen – everyone, that is, apart from a small girl called Luna. Together, they make a plan to bring Franklin’s stories to life, but can a bookshop on the back of a flying dragon really work? A beautiful, wonderful story all about the magic of reading, friendship and sharing stories.

The Runaway Pea by Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore

It’s six o’clock and time for tea – but one little pea decides that being eaten is no fun and sets out on an adventure of his own! Will he survive the perils of the dog bowl, fish tank, and toaster – and worse, the gloomy depths under the fridge – for a haPEA ending? Find out in this hilarious rhyming tale that proves being small is no barrier to doing big things!

Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph

One small dog knows that she doesn’t fit in, and so she packs her suitcase and sets off in search of a new home. Along the way, she learns that perhaps being different – and being proud to be herself – isn’t such a bad thing after all…a fun, charming and uplifting rhyming story that both children and adults will love!

Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett

Cyril the squirrel and Pat the rat are best friends. They do everything together – play hide and seek, put on puppet shows, and tease the other animals in Lake Park. But everyone knows that squirrels and rats can’t really be friends. Or can they? All about the power of friendship and how difference really doesn’t matter, this fun story is great to read aloud.

A Home on the River by Peter Bently and Charles Fuge

When Bramble the badger discovers that he and his neighbours have no water because their river has run dry, he sets off to discover the reason. But the long trek along the riverbank has some surprises in store! Can he bring the water back and make it home in one piece? A delightful rhyming tale of sharing, caring and making new friends.

​Love is my Favourite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark

I discovered Plum the dog during an animal themed storytelling session during the summer holidays and she has become one of my favourite characters. Plum is a loving companion, slightly mischievous and she shares her thoughts in such an endearing and witty voice that provides great entertainment for all. For grown up dog lovers, check out Emma Chichester Clark’s Plumdog – with daily canine adventures in abundance!

​You’re Called What?! by Kes Gray and Nikki Dyson

Welcome to the Ministry of Silly Animal Names, where there’s a very long queue of creatures with one thing in common – they all want to change their names. Why ever could that be? Well, wouldn’t you if you were called a Bone-Eating Snot Flower Worm? A unique, laugh-out-loud funny story full of weird and wonderful real animals with unbelievable names from Kes Gray, author of Oi Dog, and illustrator Nikki Dyson.

​Little Red Train: Runaway Train by Benedict Blathwayt

This is a wonderful series of stories all about the little red train and his driver Duffy. The stories are told with a steady pace and the information about trains interests young railway enthusiasts. However, it is the illustrations that really make these books stand out. The pictures are fabulously detailed and children’s observations from within them always spark delightful conversations.

​The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

This is an all-time favourite of mine. It’s a beautiful and moving story of the love between a young boy and his old velveteen rabbit and about how the power of love makes us real. Even reading it now, every word is familiar; I must have made my parents read it to me over and over again!

​Peck Peck Peck by Lucy Cousins

It’s books like this that reinforce why real books are so brilliant! Peck Peck Peck tells the story of a baby woodpecker whose dad is teaching him to peck a tree, but little woodpecker’s enthusiasm for his new found skill spreads beyond tree trunks, to a front door, an armchair, a picture of Aunt Geraldine, until there’s nothing left to peck - you can even peer through where he’s pecked through the pages!

​Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

This is a fantastic simple interactive book in the traditional sense. As we go through the seasons, children have to tap, blow, rub the tree for the magic to happen on the next page. It’s a fun way of developing motor skills, learning about the changing seasons and sharing a story.

​Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

This beautiful rhyme about babies from all over the world flows with warmth and gentleness. Lovingly complemented with the delicacy of Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations, this is sure to become a classic family favourite in the way of Each Peach Pear Plum and Peepo.

​Baby Sees

You are never too young to begin a lifetime’s love of books. The Baby Sees series are full of black and white illustrations that stimulate a baby’s vision and engage their attention. They are a great way to introduce even the youngest of babies to the joys of books.

Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar by Emily Mackenzie

This is a great story that shares the pleasure of reading. Ralfy loves reading so much that he starts burrowing up into people’s houses at night and stealing their books! But when Arthur notices his favourite book is missing he sets out to track down the mystery book burglar. Emily’s colourful illustrations and entertaining humour are wonderful for children….and adults – it is one of my all-time favourites for storytelling in the bookshop!

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