I am about to attend a picture book retreat. A place I will go where no-one can reach me…in other words, a wonderful stately home in the middle of nowhere that has zero internet access and mobile reception. I will be alone with my thoughts and a blank notebook to be filled with the writings of a would-be author attempting to channel her inner child. Just an excuse for me to be silly in my writing as I get to write stories about chocolate and smells and bodily functions in quiet places…the list goes on.

To gain further research into the world of wee people I visited my local library (avoiding rhyme-time as it gets VERY noisy when that is on and I’m getting old) and took up a comfy position on a squidgy beanbag in the children’s section. I casually glanced over at each cherry-picking made by grubby, rice cake encrusted screwed on hands and grinned at the dribbles that splashed onto the trendy coloured neckerchiefs that seemed to adorn every single one of them. What a fantastic idea! I wish those drool catchers were around when my boys were dribbling goo machines.

There was no pattern or method of selection, the toddling customers liked everything in the large knee height boxes: from the pop-ups to the furry monsters to the hard backed slabs of cardboard that made up their newly found stories. Anything that was edible really!

After a while (possibly a few hours) I noticed the coughs and watch-tapping of the library assistants and realised I had indeed over-stayed my welcome. All the lights were turned off by the time I reached the revolving door. Note to self – stop reading and pay attention to the time.

I came home full of ideas, excitement and snippets of gold from the munchkins I had met. But none of the books they had selected made me change my mind – I still have my favourite 5.

Here they are:

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Allan Ahlberg – I was five when this was published and it still makes me smile to this day. A story of I spy for young children that includes all their favourite nursery characters. It’s one of those books I reach for when I am buying a newborn a present.

Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson – when I talk about this book it appears that many of her readers didn’t get past The Gruffalo. There are so many of her books that could be in this top 5 list but the storyline and wonderful illustrations from the amazing Axel Sheffler make it a constant visitor at bedtime in our house. I love the fact that although slightly filled with peril that Monkey can’t find his Mum, he has all these wonderful characters that help him along the way back to her.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes – there should always be a story of lost toys in your bookcase – it’s what happens in real life isn’t it? Another older book but still worth a read.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson- a wonderful story that seems to grasp the attention of every young reader. I love the ‘big ribbon’ at the end when all is not lost because Mum comes back.

Stuck In The Mud written by Jane Clark and illustrated by Garry Parsons – a fantastic family experience especially good for reading to more than one child at the same time. A fun, attempt with lots of  Oh no’s! and Hurry Up’s shouted at the pages by the young readers. A great way to end the day!

And just for my friend Sheila, I will add in her favourite, my secret number 6… Nothing by Mick Inkpen. From the author of such brilliant characters such as Wibbly Pig and Kipper comes a tale of a forgotten toy when his family move house. What a magical story of finding out who you are AND with a little help, your way home.



  1. I don’t know Stuck in the Mud but I love all the others. Our favourite Julia Donaldson book is What the Ladybird Heard.

    I hope that you have a wonderfully productive and inspiring time at the retreat 🙂

    1. Author

      Thank you very much Catherine – I am looking forward to it!

  2. If you’re talking Julia Donaldson, my favourite is still “Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book”. Reminiscent of Seuss, whose “Oh the Places You’ll Go” was pretty sublime. And, I recently discovered, also the last book he ever wrote, in 1990! I grew up on “Fox in Socks” myself, another Seuss classic.

    1. Author

      I nearly added Charlie in but I didn’t rate it for my top 5 because Monkey Puzzle deserved to be there. I appreciate it’s story though and wish I could replicate such a fantastic tale. One day!

    1. Author

      I will try my very best and will call it David just for you! David the Dragon with the love of chocolate that keeps appearing in his pockets as if by magic.