Adorable dog Hairy Maclary was first published back in 1983 in the original book Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. Since then Hairy Maclary has become a 12 book series, and there are another 9 books about his friends which generation after generation of kids seem to love.
“Any Hairy Mclairy book by lynnly Dodd my 3 children all love it when I try to read it to fast and get my words twisted ! #WHSbookmarks #bestbabybooks” – Kelly WilsonHairy Maclary is often found in the midst of adventures with his animal friends and opposed to the cunning local cats, including tomcat Scarface Claw. New Zealand author Lynley Dodd has written this classic picture book series with rhythmic verse and repetition to help little ones develop and practise language and narrative. The books usually have a wide format so that child and adult may sit side by side and enjoy the stories and pictures together.
Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski first introduced us to Meg the witch and her striped cat Mog back in the 1970’s. Meg can never quite get her spells right, often leading to lots of trouble for Mog, Meg and their friend Owl.
“@WHSmith #WHSBookmarks #bestbabybook my boys loved Meg, mog and owl. They never grow old” – Caroline
The character proved to be so popular with little ones that an animated TV series was made and released in the UK and the US. 40 years later and many of us who enjoyed Meg and Mog as children still share their adventures with our own little ones.
This is certainly not going to be the last time we see the dream team that is Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler in this particular top 20, and to start things off we have Stick Man at #18. An adorable character that brings life to the world around us, your little one will see Stick Man everywhere next time you go to the park.
“@WHSmith Stick Man, I bought it when our Daughter was pregnant. Grandbaby is 1 now and loves it #WHSBookmarks #bestbabybook” – Our Patch
Life is never simple for Stick Man, birds want to use him to build a nest, dogs want to fetch him and others want to build fires with him. In this colourful picture book little ones can read about Stick Man’s dangerous journey back to his family tree where his Stick Lady Love and their 3 stick children live.
We told you it wouldn’t be the last we saw of them! The Gruffalo’s Child is the follow-up book to the incredibly popular picture book The Gruffalo.
“It has to be the gruffalo and The gruffalos child. Great for parents and the children can be so inspired by the story. We often take it into the woods to really capture their imagination!” – Phil Turner
The Gruffalo has warned his daughter about the big bad mouse that he met in the first book and told her not to go into the woods. The Gruffalo’s daughter ignores her father and heads into the woods anyway, only to come across the Fox, Owl and Snake that we all remember from the first book too. When the animal’s directions don’t help her find the big bad mouse, The Gruffalo’s daughter thinks he must have been made up. But then she really does meet the mouse, and just like he did to her father, he uses his brains to trick her into believing that he’s the scariest animal in the woods.
The Jolly Postman takes the #16 spot with his multi-award winning interactive picture book. We suspect there’s not a copy left in a library that still has all the bits and bobs that come with it intact.
“Anything by the Allbergs. Each Peach and the Postman book are remembered with affection by my (now adult) children.” – Eileen Ridley
The story follows the Jolly Postman as he rides his bike around delivering letters to some well-know children’s characters, including the three bears from Goldilocks and the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. As you are your little one make your way through the book there are plenty of envelopes to open, containing letters, games and even a tiny little book! The sense of wonder at discovering these hidden treasures will make this book one that will stay with your little one for years.
Judith Kerr’s well-loved character Mog the Cat first appeared on our bookshelves 45 years ago in Mog the Forgetful Cat. Mog’s owners Mr and Mrs Thomas and their children Nicky and Debbie often appear in the books too, and were in fact based on Judith’s own family.
“Mog was my all-time favourite! #WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBooks” – Natalie Jane Hyde-Wilkins
We last read about Mog in 2002 when Mog sadly died, teaching children about the experience of losing a pet. Mog has continued to be a popular character with children for generations, and one that many parents look forward to sharing with their kids.
The second book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg to make the top 20, Each Peach Pear Plum has a bouncy rhythmical story that leads from one well-known children’s character to the next.
“@WHSmith #WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBook Each Peach Pear Plum. We are still reading it together 6 yrs later. Its our snuggley.book” – Clare
Cleverly accompanied by the illustrations, your little one can search for clues as to who the next page will be about as you read. Will it be Robin Hood? Tom Thumb? Jack and Jill? A timeless story that children enjoy reading again and again.
One of the older books on this list, Elmer was published back in 1968 (nearly 50 years ago!) although a series of books about this loveable elephant have been regularly published since the early 1990’s.
“#WHSBookmarks#BestBabyBooks l childmind and a firm favourite here is Elmer :)” – Susan Marks
Elmer’s story is one of accepting that we’re all different and acknowledging that it’s those quirks and differences that make us who we are and that others love us for. Elmer has a colourful patchwork appearance that little ones will adore, and children love the moment when Elmer stops trying to blend in with the other elephants and accepts that everyone loves him for his differences. This book contains a positive message and a character that your kids will eventually share with their own children.
Surely none of you thought that Julia and Axel would only appear twice in the top 20? Their third book to make the list, Room on the Broom, is the story of a kind witch and her cat who are flying on their broomstick. A windy storm blows away the witch’s hat, bow and wand, but three helpful animals return the items to her. In return they ask for a ride on her broomstick, but soon it becomes clear that there are too many of them on one broom and they all end up tumbling into a bog. How will they escape the bog and the dragon that lives there? You’ll have to read it to find out!
“only recently discovered room on a broom and love to read it to our 1 year old and 5 year old #WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBooks” – Mel Sawyer
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s winning formula of captivating illustrations and a fun, rhythmical story that will keep children entranced once again has proven a success.
Another fun and interactive book by the Ahlbergs, Peepo! Is one of the best loved books for reading together with your baby. As you go through the story, your little one can peep through a hole in the page to see what’s to come on the next page. And as the story is about a little baby’s day, there will be plenty of familiar images for your little one to enjoy.
“@WHSmith #WHSbookmarks #BestBabyBooks Peepo by Janet & Allan Ahlberg is a must for a baby & children grow into it’s layers of sophistication” – Kathy Lambert
Full of surprises and fun discoveries, parents and children have marvelled at the wonderful illustrations and giggled their way through this book for generations.
#10 Peppa Pig
As we enter the top 10 we have a slightly more contemporary character for you. Peppa Pig burst onto our TV screens a few years ago, delighting children with her playful personality and fun family – Mummy, Daddy and little brother George.
“At the moment my toddler is loving all of his books but especially his Peppa Pig ones as there is lots to discuss from the pictures and the page numbers are fab and helping him to learn #WHSBookmarks #bestbabybooks” – Kirsty Russon
Similarly to the TV series, the Peppa Pig books feature Peppa and her family in various scenarios as they work through new experiences and often learn a new lesson. Fun, colourful, relatable and educational, these interactive books have become a firm favourite among children and parents too.
We’ve had many funny and whimsical books on our list so far, but Guess How Much I Love You is perhaps one of the most heart-warming. Released in 1994 the book has all the hallmarks of a classic that parents will continue to read to their children for generations.
“@WHSmith A book called “guess how much I love you” was my favourite book as a toddler #WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBook” – Annie
The story follows Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare as they each use bigger and bigger examples to show just how much they love each other. You and your little one will be thinking up new things to describe how much you love each other for weeks.
Of course Spot the Dog made the top 10! Created by Eric Hill in 1980, the iconic image of the yellow dog with a brown spot on each side of his body is one that everyone should recognise.
“Spot the dog books are great from toddler through to eary years at school. #WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBooks” – Elaine Livingstone
This mischievous little dog has been the star of many books and a TV series, with touch and feel books, lift-the-flap books and cloth books all available. In the very first book – Where’s Spot – Spot’s mother Sally searches the house for him, a simple story that many little ones love to read again and again.
We think you’d be pretty hard done by to try and find a person today who doesn’t know and love the Mr Men and Little Miss series. Roger Hargreaves’ classic series has been going since 1971, and features some of the best known children’s characters around.
“My 4 year old is Mr Men and Little Miss mad, she adores them all, and so do I, it’s a blast from my past too xx #WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBooks” – Joanne Tocher
It all started with the fun orange character Mr Tickle, when Roger Hargreaves’ son asked the often-wondered question “what exactly is a tickle”? Since then there have been more than 80 Mr Men and Little Miss characters, each providing a moral lesson to be learned from excessive use of their name-trait.
Another classic that has stood the test of time, the wonderfully whimsical The Tiger Who Came to Tea is one of Judith Kerr’s most loved stories. Ideal for reading aloud, the colourful illustrations and fun story makes this a lovely tale to enjoy together.
“@WHSmith The Tiger Who Came to Tea #WHSBookmarks He drank all Daddy’s beer you know! That made my daughter chuckle every time.” – Judith Allen
When the doorbell rings as Sophie and her mother are about to have tea in their kitchen, the last thing they expect to find at the door is a big furry tiger. Immediately making himself at home, the tiger eats all their food, drinks all their drinks and drains all their water so that Sophie can’t have a bath. After the tiger has left Sophie’s father takes them out for a meal, and the next day the family show a great level of forgiveness towards the tiger.
So that’s it, we’ve reached the top 5! And at last we see an appearance by Rod Campbell. The lift-the-flap book Dear Zoo has been a favourite among little ones for more than 25 years. An interactive book, children love reading and re-reading this classic, lifting the flaps to reveal the different animals as you make your way through the story.
“Dear zoo, it’s great fun especially with the lift flaps #WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBooks” – Hayley J Evans
A fun way to learn about the different animals at the zoo while enjoying the fun pictures, it’s no wonder that this classic has made the list.
The Usborne touchy-feely series That’s Not My… has been a huge success with babies and toddlers since it was first published in 1999, providing new textures for little ones to explore.
“#WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBooks Hey! We love the Usborne That’s Not My .. Books. He really enjoys them. I think I’m going to have a right little book worm on my hands. Liked & Shared x” – Heidi Leah Peter
With repetitive text and wonderfully illustrated characters, parents and children love finding out about the different animals together. And of course there’s the little white mouse that appears in every picture for children to try and spot. There’s so much to do on each page, it’s no wonder little ones are enchanted by these sensory books.
For more than a quarter of a century, children have followed this excited family on their adventure to find a bear. Rhythmical, fun and bold, with catchy repetition throughout, kids can’t help but join in with this fun and adventurous tale.
“@WHSmith Also We’re going on a bear hunt as can do action to that too. A real act out book #BooksForU5s #WHSBookmarks” – Kate Buckle
There are plenty of laughs as you go through the grass “swishy swashy” and “squelch” and “squerch” your way through the mud together. But will the family ever find their bear? And if they do, what happens next? If you have doubt that this is the perfect book to read aloud then check out this video of Michael Rosen himself performing the story.
So we think you all might just have a soft spot for Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. With an astounding four books in the top 20, this infectious pair have demonstrated just how successful their colourful illustrations and engrossing rhymes have been in keeping parents and children happy. But it was one particular character who made an appearance back in 1999 that has seemed to have had the biggest impact on the imaginations of our little ones; The Gruffalo!
“@WHSmith #BestBabyBook #whsbookmarks my favourite books to read to my daughter are any by Julia Donaldson. We particularly love The Gruffalo” – Lucy Woodrow
When the mouse finds himself the potential dinner of several woodland predators, he tells them that he’s off to meet the Gruffalo who may well like to make them his dinner. But when the mouse really does stumble across The Gruffalo, he has to use his quick thinking and cunning once again to make his escape.
And the Best Book for Babies and Toddlers as Voted by You is…
We know you’ve been wondering when this hungry little caterpillar would show up on this list, and we’re pleased to say he’s here at number one! Eric Carle’s classic picture book ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ has been a staple in many children’s reading diets for more than forty years.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is the perfect toddler book it’s eye-catching , role play & colourful we all love reading it too #WHSBooks#BestBabyBooks” – Kim Tyler
“#WHSBookmarks #BestBabyBooks i still think the old ones are the best, there’s a good reason why children are reading them, generation after generation, mine and my sons first favourite- the very hungry caterpillar x” – Vicky Collins
“The very hungry caterpillar has to be the best baby/toddler book as it has a sweet story that includes counting and how creatures grow and change. #BestBabyBooks #WHSBookmarks” – Rebecca Wright
“The Hungry Caterpillar was always a big favourite of mine and my little one loves it too!” – Katy C JohnstonA timeless story, the book has a subtle educational element both in its narrative of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, and in its use of counting and the days of the week. Wonderfully colourful and fun, kids adore the spectacular illustrations that accompany this tale, as well as the variety of foods that the caterpillar eats. Your votes have proven that this iconic character is as loved today as he was 46 years ago!
Take a look through the top 150 books that you recommended as the best books for babies and toddlers here: