The best children's books: 0-2 year-olds
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Eric Carle
One pickle, one cup cake, one slice of watermelon – small fingers have never been able to resist the tiny hole through which the very hungry caterpillar crawls or the luscious food he savours as he does so in his growing journey from a tiny caterpillar to a great big fat one. The necessary "pop" all adults just have to make to make sure he metamorphoses into a beautiful butterfly makes this the easiest book to share with the very smallest listener.
Dear Zoo: Rod Campbell
A perfect flap book, Dear Zoo raises anticipation and then satisfies it absolutely when the flap is lifted. I'm not sure that I'd trust a zoo to come up with exactly the pet I would like, and I'd be right; an elephant is too big and a frog is too jumpy. All have to be sent back. But patience is rewarded. In the end they do send exactly what is wanted.
The Baby's Catalogue: Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Loads of looking at all the things that babies and their families do all day long. Babies feeding, sleeping, playing; mothers and fathers working and resting; siblings teasing and caring. Everything that happens in the world of a baby is kindly observed in this near wordless picture book.
Where's Spot? Eric Hill
The delights of a simple game of hide-and-seek are explored in the bright pages of this flap book. It is dinner time but where is Spot? The search is entirely good humoured, with no sense of parental irritation at his disappearance!
We're Going on a Bear Hunt: Michael Rosen
A big bold story perfectly matched by Helen Oxenbury's illustrations, it captures the happiness and excitement of a family day out. Armed with all the things they need, the family sets off, splashing through water, squelching through mud, swishing through long grass. They're not scared! Or are they? The double-quick, headlong journey home is equally brilliant – and so is the snug ending.
Mr Gumpy's Outing: John Burningham
On a hot, sunny day, generous Mr Gumpy treats his animal friends to an outing on the river. Mr Gumpy tells them all not to muck about. But . . . guess what? Things do not go according to plan. Perfectly paced and sparely told, there are enough clues in the illustrations to enable young listeners to predict the catastrophe and relish it.
Owl Babies: Martin Waddell
Absolute terror and absolute reassurance are perfectly balanced in this stunning picture book, illustrated by Patrick Benson. How the three baby owls look after themselves and each other as they deal with their anxieties while their mother is out hunting is impossibly moving.
The Odd Egg: Emily Gravett
The simple bold joke of The Odd Egg gives Duck a satisfying last laugh. Told almost entirely in pictures with a sequence of cut-down pages adding to the drama, adults will enjoy it most but children will also love the surprise when Duck's egg finally cracks open.
HUG: Jez Alborough
With just the one word of the title dotted through and celebrated repeatedly in all the pictures, this could be cloying. But it is not. It is infused with genuine warmth as each picture tells of loving interactions between different animal families. Monkey's own search for his mother, and the very special hugs she gives, propels the story perfectly.
Handa's Surprise, Walker: Eileen Browne
Knowing the fate of the fruits in the basket that Handa carries on her head while Handa does not gives young readers a great sense of conspiracy. In the best pantomime spirit they long to tell Handa what's happening just behind her.