This year, we've enjoyed many wonderful books with our daughters, including several that have been brilliantly interactive. They combine beautiful illustrations and engaging stories with technically creative use of flaps, levers, pulls and going beyond the 'fourth wall'. Below is a selection of our favourites, all reviewed in 2016.
Mungo Monkey Goes On a Train by Lydia Monks, published by Egmont
This is the story is of Mungo and his sister Mimi on a day-trip with their granny and grandad. The pages are full of bright colours and charming details, with a bounty of page flaps that cleverly add to the fun. Our favourite scenes include the dark tunnel where four flaps reveal the creepy crawlies hiding in the dark; the triple fold flap that flips up three times to incrementally take the train "up", "up", "up" the hill; and storefront of the shop at the top of the hill that lifts up to reveal its wonderful wares, including ice creams, souvenirs and outdoor toys.
With a superb combination of an easy read narrative, highly engaging illustrations and clever page flaps, this is a delight to read for all involved. It also offers a lovely depiction of a grandparents and grandchildren relationship.
A Case of Good Manners Published by Sweet Cherry
This is a wonderful collection of 12 bite sized books about manners, brilliantly packaged inside a robust, illustrated, child-size carry case. It's contents are entertaining for babies and older toddlers alike - our 9 month old and three and a half year old daughters recently spent a very happy afternoon together, interacting with the Case and all it has to offer.
Delightful illustrations depict scenes of adult and child animals demonstrating the worth and importance of 'good manners', 'good habits' and 'getting on with others' (with each book addressing a single theme such as kindness, sharing, taking turns and listening). The books also work well as a group in a literal way, with their back covers each forming part of a 12 piece jigsaw.
I Wish I Were a Pirate by Smriti Prasadam-Halls (words) and Sarah Ward (illustrations), published by Bloomsbury
This has been hugely enjoyed by both our daughters. It is highly tactile, with strongly made interactive elements on every page, including their front covers (from a rotating ship's wheel, to pirates that you can tip into the sea with the flick of a finger as they walk the plank).
A gentle rhyme accompanies highly appealing illustrations depicting children engaged and happy in make believe play as pirates, with boys AND girls represented. Our elder daughter also enjoyed reenacting many of the books' lively scenes.
There's an Owl in My Towel by Julia Donaldson (words) and Rebecca Cobb (illustration), published by Macmillan Kids
Here, the author/illustrator dream team of Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb are reunited in a new boardbook for younger readers. Julia Donaldson's trademark light-hearted rhymes, here describing amusing situations that make us and our elder daughter smile (including 'a mole in my bowl', 'a hare in my chair' and 'a lamb in my pram') are perfectly matched by Rebecca Cobb's beautiful illustrations of small children faced by these animal antics.
Interaction comes from the clever use of flaps to reveal a gentle riposte to the animals' behaviour (such as 'fly away owl', 'run away mole' and 'skip away lamb'), and a memorable song version of the book available to watch here, performed by Julia herself. A final scene of cosy sleep, and the comfort of a teddy in bed, draws the book to a soothing close.
This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne, published by Oxford University Press
When Bella takes her dog for a walk across the book's opening pages, "something very odd happened". We see her dog's front half vanish into the book's gutter, and then the rest of him, with Bella left tugging on his lead. Soon other people and vehicles disappear into the book's middle, and even Bella follows. We all have help Bella by to turning, shaking and speaking to the book to get the characters back.
Our daughter loves the interactivity of this laugh out loud tale. She is intrigued by the idea of a book that can consume its protagonists, who actively acknowledge their existence inside a picturebook, and by the concept of another world within the book from where a letter can be sent to her. We love Richard Byrne's expressive characters, who are cute but not cutesy, and beanie-wearing Bella's can-do attitude to dealing with a crisis.
Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle, published by Chronicle Books
The third 'Flora' book from Molly Idle, all of which have featured birds, this is a tale of friendship and rivalry, told through the spirit of dance in lavish emerald and turquoise. Two peacocks, green with envy, vie for attention from a girl with an ornamental fan, each displaying their plumage in an effort to outbid the other.
A clever use of lifting flaps literally provides the twists and turns to a wordless yet fully engaging story (including a magnificent fold-out double page). Compromise wins the day and provides a satisfying, happy ending.
Baby Gym series published by Child's Play
This charming and engaging quartet of board books is perfect for hands on play with your baby, with each book designed to suit a variety of times in a baby's day, including active play of fun and games, and soothing time to encourage sleep. Each book contains five spreads featuring a baby enjoying a different movement or interaction with their adult. The pictures are accompanied by lyrics, songs and helpful tips and information on how to support a baby's visual, aural and physical development.
Bounce & Jiggle and Wiggle & Move contain between them 10 rhymes, songs and poems matched with instructions on how to enjoy physical interaction and rhythm. Touch & Tickle has 5 great ideas based on baby massage techniques, while Calm & Soothe focuses on touch aimed at encouraging relaxation, good digestion and wind down. A lovely aspect of the illustrations is the diversity of babies (all kitted out in adorable baby grows) and their adults, including scenes of twins. Our elder daughter loves to listen to the songs, and regularly joins in while we engage our baby in the likes of "this is the way the ladies ride", "criss-cross apple sauce" and "hush little baby".