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Some nights I absolutely love reading my kids a book before bed. Other nights I think I’ll scream if Miss Nerd whips out her tattered copy of Frozen for the 452nd time.
Little Nerd is 7 now, Miss Nerd is 4 – that’s a lot of books to be got through every night! Sometimes, especially when solo parenting, the bedtime routine drives me absolutely bonkers. There are times I am exhausted, irritable, the kids are bickering, they’ve been prolonging dinner time, bathtime, brushing their teeth and packing away their toys and basically doing every single little thing they can to delay the inevitable bedtime. All I want is to get that bedtime story read so I can get them into bed. Sometimes, the bedtime book is the only calm, pleasant spot in a night of nuttiness.
After bedtime reading for almost seven years now, Mr Nerd and I have certainly come to appreciate a good children’s book – the mark of which I believe is a book that BOTH children and adults can re-read over and over, without adults wanting to poke their own eyes out with the corner of a hardcover.
A while ago I shared some of my personal favourite books on Instagram and so many people asked if I could collate them into a blog post for easy reference and gift shopping – so here it is!
Every single one of these books are ones that my kids LOVE while also being books that I think adults will appreciate and enjoy too.
Please tell me if you have any recommendations in the comments, so I can check them out too! We are always looking for new reads.
Tricky’s Bad Day
Poor Tricky – we can ALL relate. He wakes up at 5 to get a drink, wakes up his entire (now cranky and tired) family, and it starts the beginning of Tricky’s bad day, where NOTHING goes right, and everything (and everyone) is irritating to him. Until Mum gets home at the end of the day; and Dad and Tricky escape together. They get their coat and boots to head out in the rain – they can still make this a wild and adventurous day. My friend and mum-of-three Ashlea from Our Sunshine Days recommended this book to me; and it immediately became one of our family’s favourites too. It’s such a great little story and relevant to both kids and adults. Sometimes just getting outside for a run around, even when it’s a windy, cold day, can help you turn your dark mood right around.
This will show you how much Tricky’s Bad Day has permeated. Sometimes when I am in a bit of a funky mood – particularly on a dark, drizzly day when the kids and I have been stuck in the house and we’re driving each other crazy, I find myself gazing outside at the trees blowing in the wind and thinking, “All I need is a run up a hill.” Quoting Tricky’s dad. Also, on a minor note, I love that it is the mum in the book who goes to work that day, and Dad stays home with Tricky and his two younger siblings. Tricky’s Bad Day won the Book of the Year for Early Childhood at the 2019 CBCA Awards.
Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Peepo is one of the best books ever written for babies and toddlers, and I’m sure most people who have read it will agree! It’s a classic. Peepo is one of the many books created by husband and wife team Janet and Allen Ahlberg. They produced more than 100 children’s picture books together, with Allen writing away in a shed in the back garden and Janet painting the illustrations in a loft above the garage, until Janet sadly passed away from cancer when she was 50. Like many of the Ahlbergs’ books, there is something about Peepo that is charming and warm. The most gorgeous detailed illustrations; following a few days in the life of a busy little baby and his loving family, and all the little things he sees around him.
What adds to Peepo’s magic are all the little hints in the pictures, like blimps and helmets – most children wouldn’t think anything of them; adults will realise, that while not mentioned in the text, Peepo is set in London during WWII. (Try not to tear up at the bittersweet last page, when the dad and mum tuck the baby into bed; the dad saying goodnight while dressed in army uniform). We started reading it when Little Nerd was one, when he loved finding things in the pictures, and have enjoyed it with both kids for years since.
I Want My Hat Back
If your sense of humour is on the dry side, like I’ve been told mine is, this is a kids book I think you’ll enjoy. The bonus? It’s a quick read – you’ll whip through it! Perfect for those nights when you can’t wait til the kids are in bed so you can Netflix and chill. The story follows a bear looking for his hat, but no one has seen it. The littlest kids might not quite understand what’s taking place in the pictures; the ones who realise what’s happened will likely be filled with mirth or glee. This book was another recommendation from one of my followers. We must have read it 30 times now and my kids still giggle at it.
The Paper Bag Princess
Written in 1980 and still just as relevant and punchy today, this one is a classic (and another good SHORT book!) It’s about a feisty princess who is also strong and clever – and I love the message of standing up for yourself. Little Nerd and Miss Nerd LOVE the ending. (Prime has free overnight delivery of this one – a good last-minute gift idea!)
The Snail and the Whale
A sweet stories about a beautiful friendship, and I love the wonderfully creative solution to the problem at the end. Julia Donaldson can do no wrong. Beautiful illustrations and writing.
There’s a House Inside My Mummy
Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban
This is the book to get if you are expecting another baby and aren’t sure your firstborn is grasping what the heck is going on! This gently humorous book will help. It’s sweet and simple and tries to teach little kids why Mummy is a little more tired than usual these days. When Little Nerd was two and I was pregnant, he LOVED having this read to him when I was roughly the size of a house myself, would recommend for 4 and under. There’s a line in it about the mum feeling too tired to play sometimes and that line that would bring me to hormonal preggo tears pretty much every time.
The Paper Dolls
Five stars for The Paper Dolls, my favourite Julia Donaldson book. It was recommended to me by a House Nerd reader who said she knew it off by heart and still loved it. We all love it too – it’s one of those special books. It’s about a little girl whose mummy helps her make five little paper dolls one day and she plays with them all the time. Until one day, she meets a little boy with a pair of scissors. While it’s pretty obvious what happens (my kids still shake their heads at his reprehensible act) the ending is beautiful and happy, I think adults will appreciate the nostalgia, as well as the bittersweetness of the last few pages. And while not overtly emphasised, The Paper Dolls is a book that could be used as a gentle way to introduce the subject of loss to little kids. The illustrations by Rebecca Cobb are perfect, with a lovely hand-drawn quality, showing how the little girl’s special memories grow as she gets older and older. Waaaaah. (In a good way). Again, it’s a book I occasionally find myself welling up at; one that makes me read a little slower and cuddle my kids a little bit tighter. (What is up with me and getting teary at kids books? I am sensing a theme).
Pig the Pug series
The young and old will appreciate Pig the Pug. Pig is rude, grumpy, selfish, stubborn, hasty and sneaky… and always learns things in a hard (and hilarious) way. Aaron Blabey is a VERY talented writer and illustrator – his drawings kind of remind me of comics, and adults will laugh at the humour in his drawings just as much as kids do. My kids particularly love Pig the Fibber, Pig the Star and Pig the Winner, but you can’t go wrong with any of the books in the series.
Where the Wild Things Are
It would be remiss of me not to include Where the Wild Things Are in a round-up of great childrens book; even though I’m sure 95 percent of you have likely already read it. Written in 1963, there’s still something so perfect about this book; the pictures, the perfect cadence of the writing, or perhaps it’s just the nostalgia of the story that makes it feel comforting returning to it as an adult to read to my own kids. Max was naughty and rude. His mother calls him WILD THING and sends him to bed without dinner. While in his room, he goes on a wild adventure to a land where wild things are, tames them and makes himself their king. But when he starts to feel lonely, he realises he wants to go home to where someone loves him best of all… and where a little reminder that his mum still loves him is waiting for him in his room.
This Moose Belongs to Me
One of my favourite books by award-winning writer and illustrator Oliver Jeffers. This Moose Belongs to Me is an easy-to-read book about a boy named Wilfred, who owns a moose. “Wilfred owned a moose. He hadn’t always owned a moose. The moose came to him a while ago and he knew, just KNEW, that it was meant to be his. He thought he would call him Marcel.” Most of the time Marcel is a pretty good pet…. until one day, when Wilfred wonders whether Marcel really belongs to him at all. I’m never unhappy about being asked to read this one – it’s a light, cute story that is easy to read and the illustrations are gorgeous; with vintage painting-style backdrops teamed with cute drawings.
Here We Are
Another brilliant Oliver Jeffers book, this is a lovely read with the ability to move me to tears. (I know what you’re thinking, it sure doesn’t take much to bring me to tears!) A beautiful hopeful take on the world we live in, with poignant words, and topics that entice little minds to ask big questions. Somehow this is a book that will make you feel good, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. A good one to read at the end of a long parenting day.
Back to Sleep
Poor Finn. We’ve all been there. Try as he might, he just CAN’T sleep…. because Mummy and Daddy won’t sleep throught the night. Just as Finn gets Daddy back to bed, Mummy wakes up…. and then Daddy again, and so on and on. Written with Zoe Foster Blake’s standard wit, this book is a really cute, funny role reversal that kids will laugh at and parents will wryly appreciate. “Can you lie with me till I fall asleep?” said Mummy. Finn took a deep breath. He could never say no to that. She wouldn’t be forty forever. He needed to make the most of these precious years.
No One Likes a Fart
Zoe Foster Blake
Except my kids, apparently, who laugh at this one every time (for some reason they find “air biscuits!” hilarious) If your kids are like mine and consider any book about burps, farts and bad smells completely glorious, they will appreciate this. My two are 7 & 4, but even older kids around 9 will like this one. (Free delivery of this one if you have Amazon Prime!)
“Koala Lou, I do love you.” It’s a good day if I make it through Koala Lou without bawling, while the kids look at me questionably. As an eldest child myself who can understand what it felt like to often feel a little overshadowed by younger siblings, I relate to this furball perhaps a little too much, but it’s a really sweet, simple story about the endearing love between a parent and child.
There’s something so nostalgic and 80s about Stickybeak to me – I think it’s the beautiful, detailed drawings. I feel like it’s so rare they illustrate books like this these days. Brings me right back to my own childhood reading this one; I still remember my Year One teacher reading it to my class. A light-hearted story about a classroom’s pet duck and his adventures as he goes home with one of the kids for a weekend.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
I can remember being on a class excursion to the city in Year 1 and my teacher having the whole class sing the nursery rhyme version of this book – I couldn’t believe Mr Nerd hadn’t sung the song in school too, it never left my brain! This is a special sort of book. I love the cosiness of it, the paintings, the parents, three kids and dog banding together to go on a crazy – and fairly irresponsible – family adventure. My kids ask for it ALL the time. Miss Nerd feels sorry for the bear at the end. “He just wanted to be friends.” Apparently.
Claire Malone Changes the World
Nadia L. King
A new book by Irish-Australian author Nadia L. King, my two love this story about a clever little girl who isn’t happy with the way the world is going. At first, it makes her really sad. Then, she decides she wants to try to change things. My kids became obsessed with writing letters after they read it. Like The Paper Bag Princess, I love stories that carry a message about empowerment, and doing what you can. The drawings in this are gorgeous too.
If you ever enjoyed beach shack holidays as a child, this book will be a wistful step back into time. It’s a series of rhymes about a family playing and imagining at the seaside, with detailed pictures with lots of little things to spot. There’s something very calming, even for an adult, about the slow cadence of the rhymes and repetition in this book. It is a slow-paced read that is perfect for unwinding hyper little kids at the end of a busy day when you’re trying to lull them to sleep! I love the last pages that depict the family all asleep in the little bedroom with the moonlight glinting on the ocean.
What kids books could you happily read and again? Would love to hear in the comments! Maya x