By Laura Jones, Rosie Barr and Rosie Burgoyne
This year World Book Night will take place on Friday 23 April with the theme of “Books to Make You Smile”. It is an opportunity to celebrate the books we love and the books we have yet to discover. Hosted by The Reading Agency, World Book Night celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and continues in its aim to inspire people from all over the world to read more and share their love of books with others. As part of World Book Night, The Reading Agency has put together a suggested booklist (which you can see here) with an array of fiction, non-fiction and young adult titles. As part of the celebration, we’ve decided to create a list of Children’s books that will make you smile and, in recognition of the ten year anniversary, we’re giving it a ‘now and then’ twist.
Books We Enjoyed as Children
Peace at Last by Jill Murphy
Having recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, Peace at Last has been enjoyed and passed down through the generations. It is the tale of Mr Bear and his attempts to get to sleep in a house full of unusual noises. Mrs Bear disturbs him with her snoring, whilst the clock ticks and tocks incessantly. The beautiful illustrations, which gained recognition in the CILIP Kate Greenaway Awards, depict Mr Bear’s journey around the house – and the garden – as he tries to find peace and quiet. It is a delightful story that makes me smile time and time again.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw
This is the picture book to reach for if you’re looking for a good weep. Love You Forever celebrates the unconditional bond between a mother and her son as he grows from a new baby to a difficult teenager, to an adult with a child of his own. Each night as his mother holds him, she sings a song: “I’ll love you forever / I’ll like you for always / As long as I’m living / My baby you’ll be.” Until the day that she is too frail to sing to him, so her boy is the one to sing the song to her. It’s a book that will make you hug your loved ones all the more tightly and perhaps echo the words to them too.
The Jolly Postman, or, Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
This timeless interactive book aimed at 4–10-year-olds remains as charming as ever, despite being published back in 1986. The book’s playful premise of a jolly mailman who goes around delivering mail to characters is bound to bring out a smile in readers both young and old. The book also includes letters that children can pull out and read, addressed to the “three bears,” the “big bad wolf” and “Cinderella,” providing endless amounts of interactivity and entertainment, making this book a true children’s classic.
Books We Love Now
The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steven Butler & Steven Lenton
Perfect for early middle grade, this book is full of mischief, mayhem and magic – the perfect recipe for adding a smile to your day. The Nothing to See Here Hotel is owned by Frankie Bannister’s family. From the outside, it looks like any other hotel on the Brighton seafront. However, once inside, readers learn of the strange goings-on and the crazy adventures that unfold. It is the perfect story for sharing a smile and developing a love of reading with younger family members or as a class reader at school.
Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Longlisted for the Jhalak Children’s and Young Adult Prize 2021, Too Small Tola tells the story of Tola, the smallest member of her family. Even though she’s small, Tola is determined not to let that stop her and in each story, she saves the day with her big heart, courage and determination. Tola’s family lives in Laos (Atinuke herself was born in Nigeria), and although the city’s setting may be new to British readers, the experiences of Tola and her family will feel infinitely relatable. Adorably illustrated throughout and featuring three short stories, the book is ideal for children who are just starting to read independently beyond picture books.
Dear Greenpeace by Simon James
This “enchanting environmental classic” from independent publisher, Walker Books, tells the heart-warming tale of a young girl named Emily who writes letters to Greenpeace about the whale in her pond. Whilst it makes reference to the environment and more serious topics, the book also provides joyful moments aplenty in Emily’s comic interpretations of Greenpeace’s advice on how to look after the whale, and her reunion with Arthur the whale, during which she declares that she’d had the “happiest day,” is sure to brighten your mood.