Ten of the Best Picture Books to reassure and boost young children at the beginning of the year

Books aren’t medicine, but in these days of separation, bewilderment and loss, they can feel like it. Whether you’re looking for a tonic to fortify or a balm to heal, the right books can work wonders. Carey Fluker Hunt has selected ten of the best.


One of the best ways to boost children’s wellbeing is to share books they choose for themselves and really love. But if you’d like to extend their experience, here are ten picturebooks with special powers for you to explore. They are enticing, accessible and great fun to share – ‘reading for pleasure’ books in every sense – but all of them do much more than simply entertain.

Toys in Space Mini Grey, Red Fox, 978-1849415613, £7.99 pbk

Seven toys have been abandoned on the grass. Night falls, and for the first time they see the starry sky in all its terrifying glory. A tale might keep their spirits up, but Wonderdoll’s story is about a drooling alien who kidnaps toys, which doesn’t really help... Bursting with inventive details and great fun to read, this story-

within-a-story brings the creative process centre-stage and shows how powerful imagination can be.

When children’s lives are physically confined and exploring new places isn’t possible, books can help them to escape. And if they hone their storytelling skills, like Wonderdoll, they’ll have endless worlds at their command..

Mr Brown’s Bad Day Lou Peacock and Alison Friend, Nosy Crow, 978-1788003988, £6.99 pbk

Mr Brown is a Very Important Businessman who carries a Very Important Briefcase. When the latter is inadvertently stolen by a baby elephant, a high-energy chase through town ensues. By the time Mr Brown – now in his shirtsleeves – goes upstairs to bed, we can’t wait to discover exactly what he has inside that case…

Suffused with summer sunshine, endearingly silly and bursting with kindness and good cheer, this is a book to lift the spirits on days when everything seems grey. Mr Brown’s devotion to the business of a snuggly bedtime will send little ones to sleep with warm hearts - and adults, too, will feel the glow.

12 Books for Keeps No.246 January 2021

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee, Walker, 978-1406376708, £11.99 hbk

Little Wolf is out with Dad for his very first Howl, and he’s anxious to show good howling form. But however hard Little Wolf tries, his voice sounds…

different. How can he join the pack when he makes that kind of noise?

This dramatically-illustrated picturebook is immensely engaging and tackles some important themes. Big Wolf has high expectations, but loving insight enables him to recognize and value Little Wolf’s individuality. This is an empowering message for families to share: one that leads to emotional wellbeing and growth. And there’s nothing quite like toe-tapping rhythms or a good long howl to deliver a boost!.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

Beatrice Alemagna, Thames and Hudson, 978-0500651797, £6.99 pbk

The boy in this book would rather play onscreen than go outside. His cautious misery when faced with mud and rain may strike a chord: this is a child who hasn’t discovered the secrets of the Great Outdoors. But as the storm reaches its peak, things change - and when the boy gets home, he’s almost bursting with the wonders that he’s seen.

This is a story of slow happenings and subtle shifts, but Alemagna’s artwork raises it to epic status. Observing the natural magic in this book is a joy, and will inspire mood-boosting explorations of your own.

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