Traction Man Is Here
Mini Grey

Red Fox Picture Books

ISBN 9780099451099

Y1 children will appreciate this book at many levels although there are some touches of more sophisticated humour which may be beyond them. However, that is no reason to deprive them of this gem of a book that deserves to be read and re-read. Read it to the children to support them in reading the many kinds of text and pictures and then let them loose with it. They will enjoy the tension between the depictions of imaginary play in a very real and everyday setting and the humour which seems to undermine the belief in the imaginary heroics of action man. The marvellous ending, in which we discover that traction man truly is a hero, is a triumph for the imagination! This is a good introduction for young children to the highly imaginative and inventive humour of Mini Grey.

Traction Man Is Here
Abel's Moon
Shirley Hughes

Red Fox

ISBN 9780099265351

This book takes children into a slightly less familiar world than that of Alfie or Shirley Hughes’ other very English stories but at its centre is that same essence of family life. Her wonderful illustrations celebrate the warmth of family life and the importance of its small daily interactions. The story of the boys’ transformation of the table and the way that their imaginative play links them to their absent father is beautifully evocative and poignant. Their activities are those which we imagine to be universal children’s play. They may well not be. It may be an idyll but it is a wonderfully optimistic and uplifting one with an important message for children about the power of the imagination and its importance in making sense of the world and growing up. Many opportunities for story telling about personal experiences of play, family, loss and hope may be inspired by this story.

Abel's Moon

ISBN 0689860889

Y1 children will love Olivia if they don’t already know her. The humour created by the tension between the text and the pictures is wonderful. The understatement of the text taps into children’s knowingness about real life and they will enjoy the position of power it puts them in as a reader. They will laugh at the humour of Olivia being firm with her brother, being ‘quite good at building sandcastles’, her ‘time to think’ on the naughty step of the stair. As they read they will enjoy getting to know Olivia and using this knowledge to predict what she might do next. The wonderful simple and expressive drawings allow for children to begin to infer feelings and thoughts.

ISBN 0744554284

This book has a simple text but very sophisticated pictures which are slightly disturbing but deliberately so because the book is dealing with the subject of change. From the opening page the reader is encouraged to view the everyday world through Joseph’s eyes and soon, like him, becomes clued into the kinds of changes which may be happening and anticipates and hunts for them. The predatory nature of the changes is threatening but children may enjoy talking about how this reflects the fears which Joseph has. The ending where the big change is revealed is a relief to him but also opens up many possibilities for discussion about different kinds of changes and children’s responses to them. This title is currently out of print but a version published by Ferrar Straus Giroux, ISBN 0374411778, is available.

ISBN 184121583X

Many children are familiar with Charlie and Lola from the television series and may well be already familiar with Clarice Bean. However, this book is worth including on this list because her stories are so rooted in the familiar world of children and home. Her inventiveness with lay-out and text is challenging as well as fun and offers children an interesting model for presenting stories and anecdotes about their own families. As in most of her books, there are references to many different kinds of texts within the story. The humour of the relationships and the dialogue between the characters will be recognisable for many children and make them laugh. Website offers a quiz, downloadable desktop wallpapers and screensavers as well as some information about the range of books available.

ISBN 0099438747

Children will love the way in which this story defies the logic of an adult world. From the start when Billy’s parents try to persuade him to have something conventional for his birthday present and can only justify their objection to his request for a bucket because ‘buckets are far too bucketty to be a birthday present’, we know that this will celebrate a child’s view of the world. This understanding takes the reader happily through the sly laughter and thoughtless jokes of the unbelieving parents because we, the readers, believe in the magic of Billy’s bucket. The comic climax justifies our faith and imagination. This is a great book for sparking off children’s own imaginary bucket worlds.

ISBN 0099253321

This is a wonderful book which again is rooted in the familiar but shows the power of the imagination to transform this into something fantastic. It celebrates the play that can be created by a shared suspension of disbelief; in this story Mrs Tredgar leads the children into imaginative adventures. The children’s exploration of the garden and their discoveries of Italian ruins, the far off shore of Egypt and the Arctic encourage children to look again at their own environment and become explorers, transforming the familiar into their own new adventures. The clever ending, whilst acknowledging the changes which growing up makes to the imaginary world, also suggests possibilities of children discovering their own green ship within the overgrown bushes and shrubs of their own environment. Photos on this school site give some ideas about using the book as a starting point for sculpture.

ISBN 0711214492

This story is set in South Africa and children will recognise the differences between the local environment and their own. However the story’s concerns are with family life and the relationships between Jamela and her mother particularly. Children will respond both to Jamela’s excitement about the beautiful material and also her feelings when she realizes the effect of her actions on her mother when she ruins it. The happy ending puts everything right and is followed by a celebration of the every day activities which bond mother and daughter as well as the special family wedding. For teachers there is interesting information about Niki Daly and the background to the Jamela books at

ISBN 0744561825

This picture book will appeal to many children in the way in which it reflects their own experiences at school. Molly’s excitement about taking her special crystal to school is conveyed through the text and the split page lay-out as she rushes into school. Similarly both text and lay-out conveys the importance of sharing this with other people as the children crowd around Molly and then leave her alone as they rush to see Russell’s dinosaur. The emptiness of the picture of her on her own on the left hand page contrasts with the business of the facing page where all the children follow Russell. Her plummeting disappointment is vividly real as is her joy when the wonderful Miss Plumberry ensures that everyone’s news is valued.