Do skip this post if you have no interest whatever in picture books. I was inspired to write it by someone else posting about wanting inspiration for books to buy as gifts for toddlers other than the really well-known ones - and I thought I'd like to record what the Peanut enjoys at the moment (he's just turned two).
We are a fairly bookish household and own a fair number of these, but some of them are library books. We're lucky enough to have a brand-new library building five minutes from our house. "Wibwary" is one of the Peanut's favourite places in Edinburgh (after Granny's house and the museum) although this may have something to do with the excellent windows which give a good view of the traffic lights on the main road. The boy likes to watch vehicles go past. But he also loves books. Some of these he's loved for a while, some are new favourites.
Recurring characters with more than one book:
The Pip and Posy series by Axel Scheffler (the illustrator of the Gruffalo books). These are simple stories about two friends, a girl mouse and a boy bunny, follow plausible toddler scenarios (having a toilet-training accident, not sharing nicely, getting a fright, letting go of a balloon...) and always have a reassuring ending. They do not have much in the way of bonus entertainment for the adult doing the reading, but they are apparently pitched just right for toddlers, because the Peanut loves them and wants them again and again. The pictures are good for talking about - there's plenty of detail besides the core story.
Spot. Again, very simple stories, usually with flaps to lift. I find them rather boring to read - the pictures aren't as detailed as Pip and Posy - but the boy loved Spot at first sight and will ask for them. He also likes the classic five-minute Spot animations (on YouTube) which follow the books very closely.
The Christopher Nibble books (two so far - a third due out in January). We love these - partly because we have guinea pigs - but the books have lovely illustrations and gentle humour. All the characters are anthropomorphised guinea pigs and their concerns will be familiar to anyone who's owned one (the first book concerns a dandelion shortage!) The Peanut likes to spot "wheek-wheeks" in any book and there are plenty of them here.
Humber and Plum. These are about Hum, a toddler (well, a koala, but it's not plot-relevant) and learning to adapt to being a big brother. It is possible that I like these better than the Peanut does... he is a bit younger than Hum, and he actually didn't appear to resent the Sweetpea when she arrived, so perhaps he doesn't relate! But he pays attention and wants the stories again when we finish. The pictures are very pretty.
Julia Donaldson's books in general. He likes The Gruffalo, but his favourite so far is Tabby McTat, which he would listen to all the way through from quite a young age (it's quite long). It has a city setting and wonderfully detailed Axel Scheffler illustrations which have lots of things to point to. The Peanut also likes imitating Samuel Sprat, the kitten with the deafening mew. You have been warned!
He also likes the Acorn Wood series of lift-the-flap books (same author/illustrator). We've recently acquired The Rhyming Rabbit, also by Julia Donaldson, which is pretty good too - it's about a rabbit who annoys his family by constantly making up poems, so rather than mope, he goes off and finds a friend who likes to make up poems too. I feel this sort of attitude is quite useful in life.
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy. We've only got the first one so far, but it's a hit. "Doggies!" Requires a bit of oomph from the reader, also convincing aggravated-cat noises.
Books with pictures to discuss:
The Baby's Catalogue. This is the classic by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. It's a book of pictures following five babies/toddlers through their day, with simple captions rather than a story, and it's good to go through even with a child who only knows a few words. Now that the Peanut is two, he's had a resurgence of interest in making more complicated descriptions of what's going on in the pictures (his favourite at the moment is the picture of the youngest baby breastfeeding, which he is convinced is his little sister). The book was published in 1981 and I grew up with it myself... a few things have changed but the pictures are mostly perfectly recognisable even to a modern toddler.
I would recommend any book by the Ahlbergs but this is the one we've spent most time with so far.
You Choose. This has extremely detailed pictures by Nick Sharratt which all have a theme - houses, animals, vehicles, food, jobs, activities - and the idea is that the reader chooses their favourites from the picture. But it works well with beginning talkers just to point at things in the pictures. We have spent literally hours with this book and have just bought the sequel, Just Imagine. Two minor caveats: You Choose is not a board book (the format's a bit big) and the Peanut tore a lot of the pages a few months ago in trying to turn them to get to his favourite bits. Nothing a bit of book-mending tape couldn't fix. Also, Just Imagine has some pictures that I think I would have found frightening as a toddler - there's one page where the children imagine they were made of various materials, and there's a knitted child unravelling and a wax child melting! This may be one of those things that's more disturbing for the parent than the child, though...
First Thousand Words. Ooh, it looks as though this has been updated again. My mum has the original edition (rather battered) and I have the 90s version, updated with the occasional more modern picture (the tech in that one now looks very old-fashioned, but hey). No story, just a big scene on each page, with a border with little captioned pictures of objects from the big scene. Again, good for talking about the pictures and will probably really come into its own once the Peanut starts to get closer to reading.
Books about vehicles. Because the boy loves vehicles.
Digger Dog. Very simple plot - Digger Dog can smell a bone, but he's having trouble digging it up so he goes and fetches increasingly large mechanical diggers until he succeeds. Two fold-out pages with surprises, which never seem to pall for the boy. Jolly illustrations.
He also loves anything with Thomas the Tank Engine, though I have to admit to mixed feelings about this. I had not remembered quite how petty and quarrelsome the engines are in the original stories (which I enjoyed myself as a child) and the modern stories (such as I've seen) are fairly rubbish.
The Peanut's main vehicular interest, however, is tractors. I have yet to find the platonic ideal tractor book for toddlers, although we have a couple of Dorling Kindersley board books which just have photos of tractors doing stuff with basic captions. There don't seem to be a lot of storybooks about them, but any book with "farm" in the title often has pictures of them, which keeps the boy happy.
Books about libraries:
This seems to be a mini-genre, maybe because children's book writers love libraries. We have two:
Otto the Book Bear - a storybook bear leaves his book and goes on an adventure, and ends up living in a library. We also have Homer the Library Cat which has a similar starting point and end, but goes different places in the middle. The Peanut likes them both, but has been requesting "Book Bear!" increasingly frequently since he got it; I think its illustrations are slightly more accessible (Homer's are quite "busy") but both are appealing.
Chu's Day also features a visit to the library. I didn't know if the Peanut would really get this story - it's a simple plot and words, but there are some relatively complicated concepts in there (trying not to sneeze, for one thing, which is alien to the boy. If he wants to sneeze, he does.) But he thought it was very funny - the not-quite-sneezes in particular, rather than the big denouement. We had to read it four times before he would put it down. So evidently I am not that good at gauging what he's ready for.
X-posted to the livejournal.