Julia Donaldson and Axel Schefflers Childrens Books.

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As a parent its one long, impossible search for the book you want to read aloud as often as your children want to hear it. Julia Donaldson (author) and Axel Scheffler (illustrator) have produced a series of books which are as near as humanly possible to that; written in simple rhymes they're great fun to read (again and again and again) and children can join in with the repetition; and great fun to look at, with new things to spot in the characterful pictures every time. Each book has a simple underlying message, not so obvious that you feel like your preaching by reading them, but not so subtle that your child isn't aware of them either. They're aimed at pre-schoolers and those just starting school. My daughter (aged 3 and a half) adores them.

So far there are five books:

A Squash and A Squeeze.

An old lady finds her house uncomfortably small, but gets unexpected advice when she asks the wise old man for help. Includes a pig raiding the larder and a cow jigging on the table - guaranteed to make toddlers laugh, even if they might not grasp the "be happy with what you have" message. This is the shortest of the five, recently re-released.

Monkey Puzzle.

A poor baby monkey has lost his mum, so a friendly butterfly helps find her. Unfortunatly the butterfly doesn't realise mum monkeys look the same as baby monkeys, and keeps finding the wrong creature. Great for children to join in with naming the animals.

The Gruffalo.

This one won several awards, and deserved them. A mouse frightens off prospective predators by telling about his friend, the scary, but imaginary Gruffalo. But then the mouse meets a Gruffalo, how will he stop it from eating him? I had to explain to my little girl that the animals wanted to eat the mouse, as she didn't understand just from the line "the mouse looked good", but apart from that she loved it. This one has the subtle message that little clever people can outwit big fierce people.

Room On The Broom.

My personal favourite. A witch and her cat go for a flight on their broom on a stormy night. As the wind blows various things away and they have to rescue them they meet new friends. When the witch faces attack by a dragon her new friends band together to save her. My only problem with this is I find I'm still reciting it to myself hours after the kids are in bed! Great repetition for them to join in with.

The Smartest Giant In Town.

This one is my little girls favourite. George is a giant, a very scruffy one. One day he decides to smarten himself up, but meets several animals in need and ends up losing most of his smart new clothes, and very nearly his trousers too (is anything more funny to a 3 year old?). But the grateful animals prepare a surprise to cheer him up. Unlike all the others this is a mix of prose with a repetative rhyming song George sings after meeting each animal . The illustrations are great, my little girl especially loves looking out to see which of the inhabitants of George's town are covering their ears when he's singing. The message behind this one is actions are more important than appearances.

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