Picture Storybook Reviews

I hope you find some new friends from our picture storybook reviews. We have read and loved many picture storybooks with our children and some are still their favorites.

Please remember that if you are a South African parent, it will be better for you to order through Kalahari.net
The links below will take you through to Amazon.com.

Sarah Garland's Books

Out and About,Polly's Puffin and others Sarah Garland’s picture story books relies her pictures to tell the story about a mom with young children and their everyday activities. We used them to talk about our friends and activities. We were even inspired by her books to do a bit of gardening or go on a picnic. These are ideal books to read to the very young child.

Catherine and Laurence Anholt’s stories
This husband and wife team has a host of really lovely first word and experience books for young children. We have enjoyed these books in particular: A Kiss Like This and Chimp and Zee.

Shirley Hughes Books
Shirley Hughes picture story books are beautifully illustrated and are of the normal day to day activities of a family with young children. Our all time favourite is Alfie Weather which is reviewed under the nature study section. Dogger, The Big Concrete Lorry, The Wheels of Trotter Street, Moving Molly, Sally’s Secret and Angel Mae are fast seconds.

Little Bear and Big Bear books by Martin Waddell
“Big bear is a big bear, and little bear is the little bear…” they clean house together, sort out a sleepless night and experience life together. Our favourites are You and Me, Little Bear and Can’t You Sleep Little Bear.

John Joe and the Big Hen Martin Wadell This is our 4 year olds favourite picture storybook. John Joe is afraid of the big hen down the road. It’s a story about older siblings learning to care for their younger ones. Look out for other books by Martin Wadell, we have not found any to be wanting.

Richard Scary's Books

A bit twaddly but they got my then 3 year old to sit still. Richard Scarry covers letters, numbers, manners and the world around us in an amusing way.

Mairi Hedderwick's Books
Katie Morag is a little Scottish girl who lives on a remote island. These picture storybooks are her lessons in life that she learns as she grows. She has to learn to deal with two grandmothers, a new pier being built, and facing her parents when she looses the mail. Delightful reading and some very interesting life lessons.

Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline Series

"In a little house in Paris, covered in vines…” Madeline is adventurous and fearless. She stands up for the wrongs and has a very big heart. Definite must read! We recently acquired a puppy - the children hoped to name her Genevieve, after Madeline’s Rescue story.

Jill Barklem's Books
Bramley Hedge stories and videos

Jill Barklem’s pictures in her picture storybooks are absolutely remarkable. The fine mouse sized details in each picture are exquisite and the stories of the mice in Bramley Hedge are just as intriguing for young children and moms! Titles in this series are: A Winter Story, Summer Story, an Autumn Story and Summer Story. The Sea Story is an adventure that the mice go on to fetch salt for their stores.

The Velveteen Rabbit
Marjory Williams (retelling by Lou Fancher) A gorgeously illustrated version of this beloved story about a boy and his toy rabbit. The version that little ones like has beautiful colour pictures. Older children who can sit still for chapter will enjoy the original. This is for all moms who remember their favourite bedtime toy, or for moms who have children who are inseparable with their bear or bunny at night.

Robert McCloskey's Books
His lovely black and white drawings are so rich with life and facial expression. His humor in his writing show how he enjoyed his own children. Books that we have especially loved are Lentil, One morning in Maine, Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal.

Bill Peet’s books

All of Bill Peet’s picture storybooks are illustrated with his fantastic colour pencil style. The animations of the machinery and animals are what taught our children the principal of personification. His writing style is mostly in rhyme and the text and vocabulary is not “dumbed down”. Our favourites are:

  • Katy the Red Caboose,
  • Randy’s Dandy Lions,
  • Hubert’s Hair Raising Adventure,
  • Zella and Zodiac,
  • Kermit the Hermit,
  • Return to Shady Glade,
  • Kweeks of Kookatumdee.
  • There are 3 books that we found distasteful due to witches, those titles are not included here.

    Nora’s Surprise, Satomi Ichikawa

    Nora is invited to tea by the geese that live in the woods. She takes her toys along and there she meets the largest sheep she has ever met. This story highlights not having preconceived ideas and friendship in a different way. Other books by this author range from delightful to passable.

    Jane Hissey's books
    Jane Hissey’s pictures are realistic and the stories set in the life of nursery toys. Old Bear is the wise old chap who watches over the goings on, Bramwell Brown is the doing bear, organising everyone lives, and Little Bear, he is always getting into innocent trouble. Our favourites have been Jolly Tall, Jolly Snow, Ruff and Hoot. Some of these stories are on story tape too.

    Nick Butterworth's books
    We have loved the escapades of Percy the Park Keeper as well as some of the other books by this author. Some of his books are on video too.

    Eric Carle’s books

    His delightful illustrations in his picture storybooks have had my 7 yr old trying to mimic his artistic style for a long time. A lot of his books are in rhyme. Our favourites have been A Home for Hermit Crab, Animals Animals, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the Very Lonely Cricket.

    Max Lucado’s children books

    He has a special message to children that God loves them just as they are and He just wants their love and obedience. We have loved You are Special and Because I love You.

    This next author has to be one of our favourites who writes and illustrates the most beautiful picture storybooks.

    Patricia Polacco’s books

    Patricia Polacco has the wonderful a way of showing life of different cultural and religious groups thorugh her stories and her pictures. She deals with the Amish, Jewish and Orthodox Faiths. She also shows how the characters of her stories learn lessons from how to read, pride, honesty and love. When you have read one, you are hooked. Our favorites are:

  • Thunder cake,
  • Chicken Sunday,
  • Tikvah Means Hope,
  • The Bee Tree,
  • Just Plain Fancy,
  • Thank You, Mr Falkner
  • Pink and Say

  • Riki-Tikki-Tavi, Jeremy Pinkey

    A lovely retelling of the story of the Mongoose who saves a young boy from a snake. The illustrations really make this edition special.

    Edward Ardizzone books
    Here are a series of heroic stories about a little boy, Tim and his adventures at sea. Originally published in 1949 with old time illustrations and language, they are a real treasure for all young adventurers.

    James Herriot Treasury for Children

    The stories of an English country vet. The pictures are gorgeous and one can almost feel the cold wind whistling down the mountain as Mr Herriot goes about his business of caring for the animals (and the owners) of his little country town.

    Beatrix Potter Treasury

    We all know about naughty Peter Rabbit and careless Jeremy Fisher. But there are a host of other stories to look out for. Her beautiful water colour pictures are inspiring to the naturalist in all of us.

    Capyboppy, Bill Peet

    This is a true living book true to Charlotte Mason’s criteria. A book that has enough emotion and scientific fact to entertain and educate your children as to the Cappybara - the world’s largest rodent.

    Here are three of our favourite African picture storybooks...

    Monty Mongoose Series,

    Straight from Cape Town South Africa! If you can’t visit this country, then see it through the eyes of a mongoose as he visits Cape Town’s best tourist and heritage sites.

    How it was with Dooms

    Written by a mother and son team about their true experience of fostering a cheetah cub in Kenya. It is a special and heartwarming story with beautiful photographs and illustrations. A real living book from Africa.

    Nama Kwa’s Garden, Mary Callahan

    A beautiful story about the indigenous people of the early South Africa and their desire to bless their village chief with a garden situated in a desolate plain. This story highlights working together as a team for the common good.

    Katje the Windmill Cat, Gretchen Woelfle
    Katje is rather put out when her master, the miller, marries and has a child. But she risks her own life, when there is a storm and ensuing flood, to keep the baby safe. Set in Holland.

    The Cherry Tree, Brian Wildsmith

    Set in the Second World War in Japan. It is a story of overcoming even in the most difficult of circumstances and the optimistic hopes of young children as they give a great old cherry tree a second chance at life.

    Looking for a picture storybook with a Christmas message? Take a look at this next one!

    The Crippled Lamb, Max Lucado

    A Christmas story told from the perspective of a lamb who cannot go to the fields with the shepherds. It teaches that each person has a special role to fill in this life.

    The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark, Jill Tomlinson

    A lovely story with gorgeous illustrations about a young owl, Plop, who is afraid of the dark. He decides to sleep during the night. But in his adventures he meets other people and animals who point out why the dark is necessary, beautiful and interesting.

    The following picture storybook reviews carry some emotional themes.

    The Painter’s Cat, Sharon Wooding
    The story is set in Renaissance Italy in Venice. Micio is a stray cat who is adopted by an artist. But Micio is under the impression that he is no longer loved by his owner as he is always painting. The illustrations depict Venetian life beautifully and the story line is endearing as the cat find his way into one of his master’s masterpieces.

    The Gardener, Sarah Stewart & David Small

    Lidia Grace Finch is growing up during the American Depression in the 1930’s. She lives with her mom, dad and granny in the country. Because of financial difficulties, she is sent to live with her Uncle in the city. She leaves with a suitcase and a small packet of seeds she collects from her Granny’s garden. She becomes very homesick but her seeds help her to create a wonderful surprise for everyone. A sweet and poignant tale.

    The Lion and the Unicorn, Shirley Hughes

    Although I mentioned Shirley’s books above, this book deserves a special mention. Set in the Second World War, a young British boy has to be evacuated to the country side and leave his mom and home behind in London. A country family reluctantly takes him in for a period. He has some adjustment problems but he has a medallion from his father which helps him through. Truly a beautiful story with the gorgeous illustrations that we expect from this author.

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