As one much loved author dies, here's the perfect picture books that every child should read

·8-min read

Watch: Beloved children's book author Eric Carle has died. 

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"In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and — pop! — out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar."

Hands up who's been sent tumbling back to sitting crossed legged on the scratchy carpet of the classroom floor as your primary school teacher reads out the tale of the The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Sadly, Eric Carle, the author of the hugely popular children's book, has passed away at the age of 91, but the beautifully written, and illustrated, book will live on in the hearts of children and parents all over the world. 

The book, which was published in 1969, follows a caterpillar for a week as he eats his way through different fruits and foods in escalating quantities before nestling into a cocoon for two weeks and emerging as a beautiful butterfly.

According to the book’s publisher, Penguin Random House, a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar is sold somewhere in the world every 30 seconds.

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Buy it: The Very Hungry Caterpillar | £4.99 from Amazon

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Its enduring appeal, according to children’s-literature experts, can be attributed to its seamless blending of story and educational concepts, its colourful and striking visual style, and the timelessness of both its content and aesthetic. 

"Classic books resonate with the adults and children and often spark conversations about the adult’s own childhood which promotes a sense of belonging and identity," explains Dr Amanda Gummer, psychologist and founder of the Good Play Guide

It isn't the only children's book that has served the test of time, continuing to remain the go-to from the book shelf. Here's our pick of the bedtime must-haves.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak | £4.99 from Amazon

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

When Max gets sent to his room without dinner for misbehaving, he decides to sail away to a distant land, which is full of wild things just like him. It's here he believes he can be king. 

The magic and adventure is captured perfectly by the Sendak's quirky illustrations, with the story serving as an ode to the power of imagination, while also offering a reminder about the comfort that family and home can provide. 

This last part is best illustrated when Max arrives back from his adventure to find a bowl of hot dinner at his door.   

Dr Gummer believes the secret behind this book's success can be attributed to the fact that children love dressing up and going against prescribed norms.

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The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson | £4.99 from Amazon

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

If you have children chances are you've got a well thumbed copy of the Gruffalo you know off by heart. 

The touching tale features a mouse venturing into a wood and meeting various animals that might like to eat him for lunch. The story culminates with the mouse using its quick wits to avoid becoming a meal for the Gruffalo. 

And kids and parents can't get enough of it. The beautifully illustrated book has sold more than 2.25 million copies worldwide, is the UK's best selling picture book, selling 2,000 copies each week, and has been translated into 30 languages as well as turned into a film featuring the voice of James Corden.

"The rhymes are lovely and give the story an energy and excitement," Dr Gummer says of its appeal. 

"The clever mouse outwitting the big monster resonates with children as they are often the smallest in a group."

Certain children's books have served the test of time. (Getty Images)
Certain children's books have served the test of time. (Getty Images)

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram | £4.99 from Amazon

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

This sweet story explores the special love shared between parent and child via Little Nut Brown Hare who instigates an 'I love you more' competition with his father Big Nut Brown Hare.

The emotional to-ing and fro-ing between father and son is tender, full of imagination, and is made all the more special by the beautiful illustrations. 

And, *spoiler alert*, the ending is particularly heartwarming: Little Nut Brown Hare wears himself out and his father gets the last word—“I love you to the moon, and back.”

"This beautifully illustrated book gives children a sense of being loved and the enormity of that love and gives them ways of expressing their own feelings," Dr Gummer adds. 

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle | £5.94 from Amazon

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Another classic by Carle. Beautifully coloured artwork and favourite animals make this rhythmic story a great intro for little ones to looking and learning about colours. 

Each double-page spread moves seamlessly into the next and young children seem to love the colourful animals and simple repetitive language.

"The rhymes and interactivity of this book make it a fun book that boosts children's confidence as they learn the responses," Dr Gummer explains. 

Watch: Camilla reads 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' during library visit. 

The Mr Men Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves

Our top pick: Mr Bump | £3.99 from Amazon 

Mr Bump by Roger Hargreaves
Mr Bump by Roger Hargreaves

When the late Roger Hargreaves created the Mr Men character, Mr Tickle, in 1971, the book went on to sell a million copies in just three years. Since then he's been joined by a 90-strong host of characters. 

While the books have received some criticism mainly surrounding gender stereotyping, child psychologist Elizabeth Kilby believes the colourful straightforwardness of the series is exactly what children need.

"What is so important about the Mr Men books is that they are the only children’s series that takes complicated psychological concepts and builds a whole character around them," she writes in the Telegraph.   

"Of course, we’re all a mixture of different components – we can all be nosy or silly sometimes – but distilling one characteristic and building a narrative around it puts it in isolation and makes it easier to understand and to relate to.

"It’s making something beautifully simple out of something complex."

And now two new characters are set to join the fold. Little Miss Brave and Mr Calm have joined the likes of Mr Tickle, Mr Bump and Little Miss Sunshine in the world-famous children's book series.

The books will be available on pre-order via the official MrMen.com website, and in all good bookstores from September, 2021.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen | £4.99 from Amazon

We're Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
We're Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

"We're going on a bear hunt, we're going to catch a big one..." If you're not already familiar with the repetitive text in Rosen's tale you soon will be. 

The simple, yet brilliant, story follows a father and his family as they go out in search of a bear, wading through the grass, splashing through the river and squelching through the mud. 

The tale is told in a repetitive format, which has an almost musical quality, that adults and kids love reading equally. 

Teamed with Helen Oxenbury's beautiful illustrations, it makes for a wonderfully entertaining picture book that has become a firm family favourite. 

Some books have enduring appeal for both parents and children. (Getty Images)
Some books have enduring appeal for both parents and children. (Getty Images)

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The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr | £2.82 from Amazon 

The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr

"Once there was a little girl called Sophie. She was having tea with her mummy in the kitchen. Suddenly there was a ring at the door.” You know the rest....

This delightful story from Kerr is a true classic and has inspired many a World Book Day costume. With enduring appeal for both children and parents alike, the simple yet charming story and beautiful illustrations have kids asking for this on repeat at bedtime. 

Peepo! by Allan Ahlberg | £6.99 from Amazon

Peepo! By Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Peepo! By Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Peepo is a picture book told from the perspective of a baby boy. A series of holes peeping through to the next page leads the young child on to the next stage of the day, giving a hint of what is to come. Tapping into a baby's love of the game peekaboo, the peepo rhyme and beautiful illustrations are endlessly entertaining. 

"A lovely book helping children understand their place in the family," explains Dr Gummer. "The hole in the pages provide interest and interactivity."

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