Charlie Swinbourne picks his 10 favourite books for fathers to read to their children
Calm Down, Boris!
by Sam Lloyd
Boris is a fluffy orange puppet who is endearingly demanding. First your child is asked to check Boris’s fur for bugs, then he needs help with his picnic in the park. Next, he asks for a kiss, despite his ticklish fur, which made my daughter giggle! Boris may get a little carried away once in a while, but he’s so lovable that he gets away with it. My kids love him, and you’ll be pleased to know we found his fur entirely bug-free.
How We Make Stuff – The Story Behind Our Everyday Things
by Christianne Dorion, illustrated by Beverley Young
Amazing pop-up book that shows how everyday things such as clothes and mobile phones go from being raw materials to our homes. This book has pop-up pictures and tabs that will attract the attention of children of all ages, along with written text so that you can explain how oil eventually becomes a rubber duck, for example, in more detail. In showing how many objects are disposed of, the book also has a subtle environmental message. A clever book that makes learning fun. To be honest, I enjoyed reading it, and learning from it, as much as my children did!
Penguin In Peril
by Helen Hancocks
You know how some films are categorised as ‘chase movies’? Well, this one’s a ‘chase book’ – if that term exists – and it’s hilariously funny with it. Three cheeky cats set out to buy some fish, but a detour to the cinema gives them another idea – why not capture a penguin instead, who can catch enough fish for a feast? The delightful thing about this book is how Hancocks allows her illustrations to tell the story, as the chase that ensues takes us through the Underground, a restaurant kitchen and a sewage system. Can the penguin escape his peril? Read it to find out.
Man On The Moon (A Day In The Life Of Bob)
by Simon Bartram
There’s an image from this book that is now indelibly etched on my mind, and it’s of Bob, the Moon’s caretaker, cheerfully vacuuming the surface of the Moon. Bob seems to have the best job in the world. He rises at 6am every day, cycles to his rocket and puts in a lunar shift, enjoying picnics with other cosmic caretakers, giving talks to tourists and even selling souvenirs. The only downside is the blind spot he has when it comes to spotting aliens – but luckily, your children can help with that! The joy of this story is how cleverly Bob’s world is created, which may be why my children now want to be Moon caretakers when they grow up. Not least so they can point out the aliens.
I Like Peas
by Lorena Siminovich
A touch-and-feel book that teaches opposites through the world of vegetables. Whether they’re inside or outside, like peas, or big or small like variously sized pumpkins, this book will not only teach your children about contrasts, but after feeling the different textures within, it might just have them reaching for a vegetable or two at the dinner table. Which can only be a good thing.
What Pet to Get?
by Emma Dodd
What pet should Jack get? As he suggests everything from an elephant to a dinosaur, his mother is the voice of reason, reminding him, for example, of how impractical it might be to have a lion in the house – especially for the poor postman. The book got my daughters thinking, too, and I’m confident that they now agree with Jack’s mum that sharks may not fit in smoothly with family life. As soon as I’d finished this book, my daughters wanted me to start reading it again. If that’s not an endorsement, then I don’t know what is.
by Shaun Tan
A beautiful little book about a beautiful little creature called Eric, who is supposed to be a foreign exchange student. When he comes to stay, he sets up home in the cupboard, spending his days finding out about the world, from things like stamps to cereal packets. Is the way that Eric is different all down to a ‘cultural thing’, as Mum says, or does his parting gift suggest he may come from a very special place indeed? A book about difference, Eric is full of exquisite black and white drawings and ends with a dash of colourful magic.
The Pirates Next Door
by Jonny Duddle
Matilda lives in Dull-On-Sea and, as the name suggests, not a lot happens there. During the summer, it’s too busy and during the winter it’s too quiet. Which is why it’s so exciting when a colourful gang of pirates called the Jolley-Rogers arrive in the neighbourhood, ready to liven things up for a while. Just one problem – Matilda’s parents and the rest of the neighbours don’t approve, and gossip about their behaviour. Can the Jolley-Rogers beat the small-town attitudes and win over hearts and minds? In Jonny Duddle’s rhyming tale, you’ll have a ball finding out.
My Hamster Is A Genius
by Dave Lowe, illustrated by Mark Chambers
Maths isn’t easy, is it? Certainly not for Ben, who has a nightmare maths teacher. Things start to look up, though, when Ben gets a pet hamster called Stinky, who can do sums. But can Ben actually learn something for himself? This humorous tale, the first Stinky and Jinks adventure, no less, had my daughter captivated, and she’s not even started maths yet. The dialogue sounds like it’s utterly real, as though author Dave Lowe channelled a real family’s banter into this book. We’re off to get the next Stinky and Jinks adventure.
Not Bad For A Bad Lad
by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman
Coming from the author of the best-selling book War Horse, which became the worldwide smash hit play and film, this has serious pedigree. Like that book, it’s about horses and it has a strong link to real events in history. When a ‘bad lad’ is sent to borstal, he finds refuge, and ultimately a new path in life, through working in the prison stable. It’s a story of trust and respect, written by a grandpa to his grandson. Inspiring and heartwarming, with beautiful watercolours that bring it to life, this deserves a place on every child’s bookshelf.