A few months ago there was a bit of a hoo-ha when a very well-known music media mogul (who shall remain nameless) declared that he was writing his own picture book, because he found the current picture books 'boring'.
Difficult to know where to start with that one. On the one hand, huge kudos for setting a great example to Dads and reading to your child (just five minutes a day folks, huge impact, remember that). On the other hand, I would hazard a guess that his 'domain expertise' when it comes to the canon of picture books may not be as broad as perhaps his five minute search on the Internet might have turned up.
Anyway, at Mostly Books we are surrounded by incredible works of art and imagination in picture book form, and of course for every book on display there's a score or more that we can recommend and order in the next day. Picture books are some of our most cherished children's books.
Here are our recommends and books we feel have the 'X Factor' for Christmas 2016. They soar across magical worlds, and stimulate young imaginations like nothing else. Boring? You're having a laugh...
A Child of Books - Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Difficult to overstate how wonderful Oliver Jeffers is, with his sparse but incredibly expressive illustration style and huge drama and emotion packed into his illustratins. 'The Day the Crayons Quit' and 'Lost and Found' are modern classics (we recommended 'Crayons' to a local primary schools, and they have used it as the basis as a whole host of writing exercises).
In 'A Child of Books' Jeffers has joined forces with typographical artist Sam Winston to create an inspiring, lyrical tale about the rewards of reading and sharing stories. A little girl sails her raft "across a sea of words" to arrive at the house of a small boy. There she invites him to come away with her on an adventure. Guided by his new friend, the boy unlocks his imagination and a lifetime of magic lies ahead of him...But who will be next? With real wow-factor, it's a wonderful gift for a young child from any book-lover.
Help - Sally Grindley
An interactive version of a classic fairy tale that follows the success of the bestselling 'Shhh!'. Based on 'The Three Little Pigs', 'Help!' physically involves the reader in the narrative and adventure. There's a wolf inside this book and the pigs need to catch him. Can you help them? Don't let him escape! Young children can lift the flaps and peep through the holes as they follow the adventure.
Anyone who has to read to a child should definitely discover Sally Grindley. Her books are almost as fun to read aloud, as to listen to...
Meg in the Jungle - David Walser and Jan Pieńkowski
Meg and Mog are as popular as ever - still illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski, since Helen Nicoll's untimely death in 2012, the stories are now written by David Walser - and they are just as engaging for young readers, with bright, bold shapes and colours.
In this new adventure, Meg, Mog and Owl explore the jungle, meet a friendly elephant, a sinister snake - and a tiger without any stripes! But can Meg's spell help or might things get a little more tricky for our hapless heroes?
Moomin and the Ocean's Song - Tove Jansson
It was a day that really ought to be filled with adventure...Moomintroll and his friends have heard of the legend of the Ocean's Song - held inside a shell, which only its finder can hear. Snufkin takes them to the island of the Hattifatteners but the friends have to turn back to escape a thunderstorm! Will they find the Ocean's Song, and get home in one piece?
This is a brand new picture book adventure based on the beloved Moomin characters by Tove Jansson - perfect for all Moomin fans young and old!
Nuddy Ned's Christmas - Kes Gray and Garry Parsons
Santa's sleigh was on its way just leaving Lanzarote. "Goodness Gracious," Blitzen cried. "Did I just see a botty?"
Yes, it's Nuddy Ned, running riot, completely starkers. Kes Gray does humour brilliantly for young readers (probably best known for his 'Daisy' books, and doing brilliantly with 'Oi Frog' at the moment). At Christmas, Nuddy Ned is desperate to meet Santa Claus, so let's hope there's a few flaps to protect Nud's modesty en route to the North Pole...
Oi Dog - Claire Gray, Kes Gray and Jim Field
Talking of 'Oi Frog', if you haven't already discovered it you must come in and take a look. And then take a look at this hilarious sequel which really will have children rolling around with laughter. After the indignities suffered in the first book, Frog's had enough, he's changing the status quo! Cat insists that there are rules - only mules sit on stools, no one but hares should sit on chairs and however irritating, dogs MUST sit on frogs.
'Well, I'm changing the rules,' said the frog. 'From now on, dogs sit on logs, not frogs!' And everyone else is going to have to sit somewhere else too. Will Cat want to sit on gnats instead of cushy mats? Will spiders like sitting on gliders? Will whales be happy to sit on nails? And, most importantly, where is FROG going to sit?
The Storm Whale in Winter - Benji Davies
It's winter time and Noi's island is covered in a blanket of snow. Even the sea is icing over.
Noi is worried about the little whale he saved last summer: Can he survive the harsh conditions? Little does Noi know that it's the little whale's turn to save him. A magical and touching story about a lasting friendship. A truly beautiful work packing a real emotional punch.
Hugless Douglas and the Great Cake Bake - David Melling
Who can resist Hugless Douglas. The big bear with the big heart can be found making sweet treats for his friends, and just like in his earlier adventures, things are not going entirely to plan...
The honey cakes are taking far too long, and the sheep are getting restless. There is some incredibly naughty behaviour, but the result is that Douglas doesn't have anything to eat. But help is at hand...containing an actual recipe for honey cakes, and David Melling's dynamic and mischievous illustrations, this is another Hugless book to treasure!
Tell Me a Dragon - Jackie Morris
Everyone has their very own dragon, and this book describes many different varieties of the beast, showing in words and stunning pictures exactly why their owners find them so entrancing. They range from a dragon as big as a village to a tiny dragon with whisper-thin wings, from a snaggle-toothed dragon to a sea-dragon which races dolphins on the waves - ending in a page inhabited by every dragon in the book!
Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa - Valerie Thomas
Korky Paul spent a magical afternoon in the Mostly Books garden earlier this year, so we were very excited to see this fabulously festive story with a spectacular pop-up ending! Winnie is going to be making her television debut early in 2017, so it's going to be a big year coming up for Winnie and and her long-suffering cat Wilbur...
When Winnie and Wilbur write their letters to Santa they never imagine that they are actually going to meet him on Christmas Eve! After the crisis of Santa getting stuck in their chimney, Winnie and Wilbur join him on his sleigh in a desperate race against time to make sure children everywhere wake up to stockings filled with presents on Christmas morning. What a magical memorable night! It's a fun and festive Winnie and Wilbur adventure!
Magnificent Creatures - Sue Tarsky
Anna Wright's stunning introduction to non-fiction and the natural world is enlivened by her gorgeously sophisticated and fun art style which mixes pen and ink, watercolour and fabric collage.
Find out what 'pronking' is and how one jellyfish can become two in the humorous descriptions. Both educational and beautiful Anna's unique picture book shows the character of these animals beyond their familiar forms.
Ollie's Christmas Reindeer - Nicola Killen
When a jingling sound wakes her from her sleep, a little girl's dreams come true when she meets a lost reindeer in the forest. Setting off on a magical adventure together it soon becomes a Christmas never to forget.
Nicola Killen's evocative illustrations are sure to enchant in this beautiful book with die cut pages, foil and flashes of festive red colour.
The Darkest Dark - Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers
After Buzz Aldrin, possibly the famous astronaut in the world is Commander Chris Hadfield, he of the guitar-playing exploits on the International Space Station, and regular commentator on space and science. This is his first picture book, and is based on the fact that Chris, when he was very young, was afraid of the dark.
It's a poignant story of a young boy who dreams of wanting to be an astronaut. And he's very busy; saving the planet from aliens is much more important than taking baths or going to bed. Because at bedtime the worst sort of alien appears - darkness. But when Chris watches the first televised moon landing, he discovers that there is a dark out in Space that is much darker than he's used to. It's the darkest dark ever, and he realises that the unknown can be ...exciting!
Blue Penguin - Peter Horacek
A heart-warming fable about a friendship and belonging from the award-winning illustrator Petr Horacek. "I feel just like a penguin," says Blue Penguin. "But you're not like us," said the other penguins and they left him all alone.
Poor Blue Penguin. Will he be able to convince the other penguins he is one of them after all? A moving and beautifully illustrated story from Petr Horacek, an illustrator described by the Washington Post as "the thinking tot's Eric Carle".
Coming Home - Michael Morpurgo
Yes, we know this is the story that the Waitrose ad is based upon, but the picture book is so-o-o much better!
This is the story of the little robin's migration, as he endeavours to be home for Christmas. Few people do animal stories as well as Morpurgo, and this has all the makings of a modern classic.