Some picture book recommendations...
1. Annie to the Rescue by Deborah Niland. This is a beautiful follow up book to another favourite in our house, Annie's Chair. Annie climbs a tree to rescue her cat Callisto and then has a little trouble getting down, but in the end she does it all by herself. The language is simple and beautiful. Fred (4) learned it by heart after one read and Una (2) likes to listen to this one too, a good one for both ages. Deborah's illustrations are perfect, little round toddler people with little round toddler cat and little round toddler dog. Everybody will love this and it stands multiple rereadings.
2. Is Your Grandmother a Goanna? I found many of Pamela Allen's books baffling before I had children. Oh there are some obvious stand-outs like Grandpa and Thomas and the sad, dreamlike Black Dog (too sad for some, though I have no problem reading desolate books to preschoolers). I must admit I'm a bit disturbed by Mr McGee's pointy penis in Mr McGee and The Biting Flea, though not because I think it's inappropriate - it's just kinda icky (Fred is apparently blind to it). I also don't really enjoy reading the Mr McGee books, though Fred likes them. Anyway, when I first looked through Is Your Grandmother a Goanna I thought it was going to be one of her 'hard' to read books - lots of sound effects, lots of repetition. But it's actually really fun (like all these sorts of books, you have to throw yourself into it) and 'Chuffa chuffa chuffa' has become the new standard train noise in this house. This is a great 'premusic' book in a way, because of its focus on rhythm and tempo. I thought it might be a wee bit young for Fred but she loved it.
3. Daddy's Having a Horse by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Emma Quay. I sat next to Lisa at the A&U dinner after the Reading Matters cocktail party and she told me she sometimes reads my blog, so hi Lisa if you're reading this! Anyway, we all LOVED this book - borrowed from the library but now on the 'must buy' list, perhaps I loved it most of all, but only by a hair. It's a great 'new baby' book: Mummy is having a baby and, Lachlan is convinced, Daddy is having a horse. Of course. We never find out how Lachlan came to this odd conclusion, but we believe he believes it. The story is in the way his belief is encouraged by family and friends (with the exception of a vaguely concerned mum) and how he comes to terms with the truth. It's lovely and terribly authentic, and I just love the illustrations. And stands many rereadings. In fact every time I read it I was almost moved almost to tears, though it's not sentimental in the least.
4. Alison Jay's Alphabet. I'm not sure if I've blogged about this before, but this really is a stunning book. It's a board book, so heartily resilient to toddler paws. It's also very very cheap at about $12.95 retail in Aussie bookshops. It's everywhere, in bookshops and toyshops and giftshops - I saw it in seed and Crabtree and Evelyn recently. Una adores it - it kept us going for a nearly hourlong flight. There's lots to look at and point at in each picture, and lots of animal noises to make. Fred still really enjoys this one. I've bought it's companion volume Counting: a child's first 123 for her birthday in just under 2 weeks time. I haven't closely examined it, but it seems to be fairytale/folktale animals and it counts up to 10 and then back down again, ending with one little girl ready for sleep (Una shocked my pants off by counting unaided to twenty the other day). The illustrations are at least as nice as the Alphabet book (I like them a bit better because they're new!) Alison Jay illustrated a book called Una and the Sea Cloak which we have put away for Una when she's older.
5. If you're looking for slightly older picture books, Fred is loving Eloise, Midsummer Knight and The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard (a companion pair of textless picture books with comic book style panels, which we interpret together), and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.
6. I feel in all fairness I must mention this, though I think it's pretty crap. Una is obsessed with a Pocoyo book we got out of the library. The design is oookaaay - I like the clean white pages and stark character images. But the story is, quite simply, shite -a sort of hare and the tortoise race but everyone wins by co-operating and being nice to each other. Luckily Una is happy to read it to herself, 'Uh oh Pocoyo, up get.' She's never seen the show, so there's obviously something in the imagery (or god forbid the story) that resonates with her. Perhaps she just really wants her own car.