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Kes Gray Recommends His Top 5 Picture Books of 2019

Posted on 15th November 2019 by Mark Skinner

The genius behind Eat Your Peas and the phenomenally popular Oi! series, Kes Gray knows a thing or two about what makes a great picture book. Below, he shares with us his absolute favourites from the past twelve months.  

An idea as fresh as newly fallen snow, words that sparkle like fairy lights and illustrations as bold as a streaker turkey; that’s what I look for in a picture book. After hours of deliberation, here are my five recommendations for Christmas:

Oh Christmas Tree by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

It’s Christmas but Christmas tree doesn’t do decorations. Never wears them, won’t ever, ever, ever wear them. What are the tree decorations going to do?

Sue and Paul are top of the game when it comes to snort-out-loud picture books, and as a big Christmas fan myself this should be a festive reading essential on every family bookshelf!

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Centred on the genius concept of a Christmas tree that just refuses to be decorated, Hendra and Linnet’s festive offering is a laugh-out-loud treat from start to finish. Witty, rhyming text and bold illustrations make this a must for every child’s stocking.
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There's an Elf in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott

Congratulations if you are on Santa’s ‘Nice List’ this Christmas but be careful. The mischievous elf in this book wants to trick you in to being naughty! 

I know, I know, two Christmassy titles in one list- I told you I was a fan!- but this one was too good not to include. I love the interactive elements of this series and this new addition is guaranteed fun for all the family on Christmas eve. Will your little ones end up on the naughty list or the nice list?!

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The latest, marvellously inventive volume in Fletcher and Abbott’s breezy, interactive series finds one of Santa’s little helpers marooned inside your book, making enquiries about how good you’ve been this year. Packed with fun temptations to misbehave, There’s an Elf in Your Book is a surefire winner for kids this Crimbo.
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100 Cats by Michael Whaite

If you think a cat is a cat is a cat, think again! This is a great book for reading aloud and there’s so much that children can get from every single page, with fantastic illustrations from Michael Whaite. The little mouse hiding cheekily throughout the book is a particularly nice touch. A proper cat-and-mouse tale (or should that be tail…) for pre-schoolers. 

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Having catalogued every kind of pooch you can possibly imagine in the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-nominated 100 Dogs, Michael Whaite turns his attention to a fantastic festival of felines. Fast-paced rhyming text and vibrant, hilarious illustrations make this another must-have picture book.
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Sneaky Beak by Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

Bear’s life with Hamster is perfect. Or is it? Are their beds bouncy enough? Is their bath bubbly enough? Is their granola crunchy enough? When is enough enough?

I’m particularly fond of picture books with a contemporary edge and this clever story from mastermind Tracey Corduroy holds a really important message about the pitfalls of materialism. At this time of year, it’s important to reflect on the value of what you have. I did enjoy Sneaky Beak’s clever rhyming jingles, though.

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A zany picture book comedy with an important underlying message about the dangers of consumerism, Sneaky Beak finds Corderoy and Neal on top form. A travelling sales-bird unleashes his patter on Bear and Hamster and soon they find that they possess everything they could ever dream of – but will it make them truly happy?
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A Planet Full of Plastic by Neal Layton

I’ll be enjoying my 59th Christmas this year, but how many more Christmases does our planet have left? If we want to protect our planet for the future and beyond then plastic is a problem that every child around the world needs to understand and now can understand.  Fast.

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The perfect introduction to the scourge of plastic for younger readers, Neal Layton’s brightly illustrated book explains the science behind why plastic does not biodegrade and what the consequences are for the planet, as well as offering countless ideas for how we can all help ease the crisis.
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