My very first experience of blogging came a few months ago.

It was when ELT trainer and author, Lindsay Clandfield, invited me to do a 'guest spot' on teaching young learners on his blog 'Six things - A miscellany of English language'. Lindsay's blog is a varied collection of interesting, surprising and often amusing things about teaching and learning. The only proviso is that every posting comes in a list of six. 

Given my love of literature and storytelling, it's probably no surprise that I chose to write about my six favourite illustrated story books to use with children. The reason for reproducing my original posting on Lindsay's blog and list here is that, following the discussion we have had so far with contributions from so many different countries and cultures, it would be wonderful to hear about your favourite story books too! 

Here's what I wrote:

In more than 25 years of teaching, I’ve used many different picture books with children aged 3 – 12 and have a precious collection of well-thumbed favourites. In the 1980s, picture books closest to my heart included classics such as The Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle), Where’s Spot? (Eric Hill), Meg and Mog (Helen Nicoll & Jan Pienkowski) as well as more challenging titles such as Where the wild things are (Maurice Sendak) and Gorilla (Anthony Browne). I still love these books and have found it an almost impossible task to reduce my collection of favourites to a list of six. I’ve therefore decided to choose six picture books which i) I’ve used recently and ii) have produced the most enthusiastic responses in the groups of children that I’ve shared them with. They are in no particular order as follows:

1 Giraffes can’t dance  (Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees)

This picture book in rhyming verses tells of Gerald the giraffe’s anguish at being mocked by all the other animals for his lack of dancing skills at the Jungle Dance.

We follow Gerald’s touching learning journey from his loss of self-esteem to becoming the object of admiration of all the animals. In terms of significant issues, the story touches on believing in yourself and discovering your own personal strengths. Two features are the strong beat of the rhyming verses which makes the language highly memorable, and the expressive illustrations of Gerald both when he’s sad and as he entrances the animals with his elegant dancing at the end of the story.

2 I will not ever NEVER eat a tomato (Lauren Child)

In I will not ever NEVER eat a tomato Charlie plays a series of imaginative and amusing tricks on his little sister, Lola, who is a very fussy eater, to get her to eat her dinner. The story is predominantly told using direct speech from Charlie’s point of view. Charlie and Lola are drawn in bold lines with large eyes and expressive mouths that clearly convey their every feeling. Lauren Child also uses a combination of photos, collage and computer-generated backgrounds, as well as a variety of fonts and sizes in the text. These add to the appeal and humour and emphasise how Lola really hates eating vegetables. This story is ideal as part of a unit of work on food and, if children enjoy Charlie and Lola, there are many more stories in the series as well.

3 Mr Wolf’s week (Colin Hawkins)

The appeal of Mr Wolf’s week seems to lie in the fact that it is an ordinary, everyday story about the routine of a normal, inoffensive wolf, in contrast to the villainous character children associate with traditional stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood. For language classes, the story helpfully focusses on lexical sets typically found in children’s coursebooks: days of the week, weather, clothes and everyday actions. The charm of the story lies in the delightful pictures of Mr Wolf and the simplicity of the repeated language pattern for each day: Monday is … (weather). Mr Wolf puts on his … (clothes) and …. (what he does). This also makes it an ideal model for children’s own attempts at writing a story. 

4 Something Else (Kathryn Cave & Chris Riddell)

Something Else is a moving story about differences, and the agony and isolation of being an outsider. Something Else wants to be like the other creatures but they won’t accept him. Then one day a strange creature comes to Something Else’s house and wants to be friends. Something Else almost rejects him but is reminded of his own experience just in time. Embedded in this beautifully illustrated and apparently simple story are themes of racism and intolerance. Whenever I share this story with children in upper primary, I never fail to be impressed by their mature response and ability to talk openly about issues that adults often shy away from. Something Else makes me think how often we underestimate children, and also that picture books should not only be for them.

5 Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell)

Dear Zoo is a classic ‘flap’ picture book that never fails to appeal to very young learners. If possible, it’s best to use the ‘big book’ version which makes it easy to see with large groups and more fun to open the ‘flaps’. The concept of writing to the zoo to ask for a pet is brilliantly simple, and the repetitive language pattern, combined with different size coloured boxes and animals on each double spread, engages the rapt attention of little ones, even those with the shortest concentration spans. As the different animals on each page get sent back to the zoo because they are not suitable, the animal on the last page of the story is ‘perfect’.

6 Lost and Found (Oliver Jeffers)

Lost and Found is a touching story about a penguin and the boy who helps him. Behind its apparent simplicity resonate themes of loneliness, friendship and the value of kindness. As the boy and the penguin set off to the South Pole, their tiny boat contrasts with the vastness of the blue and green-toned sea and the waves as big as mountains. Many children worry when the boy realises his mistake in leaving the penguin at the South Pole, and their reunion hug on the penultimate page needs no words. This is a picture book children will ask you to read again for sheer pleasure and, in my view, it’s best to let the magical words and illustrations speak for themselves.

I'm really looking forward to hearing about your favourite story books to use with children now too! Please feel free to write about one or more - it's entirely up to you - and in as much detail as you like in order to convey to others why the book(s) is/are so special. My hope is that by the end we will have the most fantastic collaborative list of story book recommendations. Please do join in and share!



Dear Carol!I would like to share  my impressions  of one of the books I have read recently .It is "Walk Two Moons " by Carol Creech " which is the winner of the 1995 John Newbery Medal. This book is for teenagers  and I would recommend it to parents as well. On the cover of the book  there is a proverb:Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins.It is about a 13 - year old girl who is travelling  from Ohio to Adaho in search of  her mother. Despite her father's warning that she is fishing in the air , she knows the journey  is the only chance she has for reuniting her family. It is an exciting book  about teenagers' life, their relationship and the adult world which can't exist separately. Each chapter is titled  which conveys the message of the chapter.My students enjoyed the book and it evoked great discussions.With best wishes, Neli  KukhaleishviliGeorgia     

I am a big fan of Allan Ahlberg's books, and the Fast Fox Slow Dog series is brilliant - illustrated by André Amstutz. The first book is called Chicken Chips and Peas. All the books are about Mother hen and her chicks who get into all kinds of trouble, revolving around Fast Fox and his tricks: they are always rescued by Slow Dog often without realising they are about to fall into a trap! The language is simple and repetetive, the pictures are captivating, the books have a gentle humour, a touch of suspense, and end happily - what's not to like? These books certainly fulfil one of my criteria for children's books, which is that I have to enjoy them enough to want to re-read them again and again.

Dear AllIt's great to see some of my all time favourite authors/illustrators being mentioned - Julia Donaldson, Anthony Browne and Nick Sharrat. I once has the opportunity to see Julia and her husband perform to a theatre full of children in Hong Kong. It was wonderful to watch as they bought the Smartest Giant in Town to life. If you ever get the chance to see them in action it's well worth it. I may have even pushed and shoved just a little to get my large collection signed! I also recently saw a youtube extract of Anthony Browne explaining the shape game - great to play with young learners. There's also a short extract where he describes his own favourite book as a child. His illustrations are pure genius and children can see so much more than we can. The translated version of Voices in the Park is a book that is used widely across France for this very reason - developing visual literacy. It also works brillantly with bilingual children. My favourite Nick Sharrat is Eat Your Peas. Despite the amount of language children (and adults!) are always blown away by the ever-increasing audacity of cheeky Daisy and the increasing desperation of her mother!I have to say though at the moment my favourite author/illustrator is Emily Gravett. I think she takes storytelling onto a quirky tangent and takes her stories on twists and turns you wouldn't normally expect. Favourites include Wolves and Spells. I also love Polly Dunbar and her child-like sense of humour in Penguin. Jo

Hi Aneta Thank you very much for adding Clifford to our collaborative list and for mentioning some of the huge range of titles in the series. I was once given a wonderful red Clifford puppet by Scholastic delegates at a conference I attended but I have to admit that I have never actually used the Clifford stories in my classes. One of the reasons for this is perhaps that within the anglo-speaking world the range of children's picture books available varies hugely from continent to continent and although Clifford is a classic in the States, he is perhaps not quite so well-known in Britain (?). This may also explain why many of the titles mentioned so far in the discussion have not been familiar to you, as they mainly draw on a very British tradition of children's picture books. I also found this when I was working in Asia last year where many of the children's picture books in English came from Australia and there were quite a few titles which were completely new to me.So many thanks for widening the scope of picture books discussed and it would be great to hear about any others from different cultures and continents too! 

Dear NeliThank you so much for sharing your experience of the book Walk Two Moons. It's wonderful to hear about a book that is suitable for teenagers to add to our collection - and your description is so vivid it makes me want to read it as soon as I can!It's often hard to find fiction for teenagers that is exciting and appealing as well as raising important life issues in a relevant and accessible way and it sounds as if Walk Two Moons really succeeds on both these counts.Anyone else know story books for teens that do this? 

Hi SarahThank you so much for bringing Allan Ahlberg into the discussion! I completely agree with you about the Fast Fox Slow Dog series and the way you describe their appeal based on the language, illustrations, use of humour and suspense is very apt.I love many of Allan Ahlberg's other books and poems too. For very little ones, Peepo where you (and the baby in the pram) peep through the hole in each page before you see each domestic scene (interestingly portrayed in 1950s style but the book is still immensely popular today) and Each, Peach, Pear, Plum a rhyming book with different fairy tale characters hidden on each page, are wonderful. For older children, rhyming tales like Burglar Bill and poems from Heard it in the Playground are also among my favourites too.I completely agree with your criterion of 'enjoying them enough to want to re-read them again and again' - and the chances are that if we feel like that, the children will too! 

Hi JoThanks so much for your great contribution and for raising the whole area of authors and illustrators bringing their work to life and/or talking about what they do. The experience you had watching Julia Donaldson bringing the Smartest Giant in Town to life sounds amazing (I'd have loved to have been there too!) and many thanks also for the Youtube link to Anthony Browne in action.As you say Voices in the Park is a book with many levels intertwining visual and textual comprehension and great to know that it is used so widely in France and that they care about developing visual literacy and aesthetic understanding which can often be a neglected part of the school curriculum. I also completely agree with you about Eat your Peas and part of its appeal no doubt is the theme of adults trying to get you to eat what you don't like which is close to many children's hearts (or stomachs). The cumulative pattern of the story makes it really good to use in class too.Interesting that you mention Emily Gravett - I find her originality in developing the whole picture book genre astounding. In fact I came back from the Hildesheim children's literature conference with her book The problem of rabbits. I'm not sure whether I'd actually use it in class but i was fascinated by the design and layout and the extra things stuck on different pages such as 'The Carrot Cookery Book' designed to look old and well-used but lots of rabbits! 

Hi RobThanks so much for forwarding this Guardian article with Shirley Hughes' top 10 favourites - really interesting to see! I think that part of the difference between Shirley Hughes' list and ours here is to do with the language level and suitability of the books with children who are learning English as a second or foreign language rather than native speakers. But it's brilliant to see that the Very Hungry Caterpillar makes it into all the favourite lists whatever the criteria!Shirley Hughes' books were also favourites with my children when they were younger - they loved the charm of characters such as Dogger, Alfie, Lucy and Tom and the detailed realism of her illustrations. But in fact I've never used her books with my classes because I felt the text demands were too great. On the other hand with more and more children starting English earlier and reaching a higher level sooner, this is probably changing fast.

Actually I love to read story book. Here some story books are interesting and some are funny I like this collection.


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