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The Best Books of 2023: Baby & Toddler

Posted on 18th October 2023 by Mark Skinner

Big stories for small hands and enquiring minds, the books we love as little ones really do stay with us through life. 2023 has seen some fantastic picture books and board books, ranging from the delightfully daft to the adorably heartwarming, and this is where you'll find our favourite books for babies and toddlers.    

 

Deadpan penguins, cheeky pandas, industrious squirrels and more; animals make wonderful characters for preschool stories and this year we've set off on a feline treasure hunt with Kim Hillyard, made otter friends on the riverbank with Pam Ayres and Nicola O'Byrne, and witnessed a kingfisher family's progress with Anna Wilson and Sarah Massini.   

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Acclaimed author-illustrator Benji Davies spins another affecting and entrancing maritime tale in the fourth instalment of his celebrated Storm Whale sequence.
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The author of former Waterstones Book of the Year The Fox and the Star weaves another tale of woodland wonder, as Squirrel finds the perfect spot to bury her beloved acorn.
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An adorable pair of adventurous cats set off on an epic odyssey at sea in this heartwarming picture book about the power of friendship from the author-illustrator of Gretel the Wonder Mammoth.
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The team behind picture book favourites The Lion Inside and The Gecko and the Echo triumph once more with a heartwarming tale of keeping promises and growing up as a red panda cub sets out on an adventure.

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£12.99
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Poetic national treasure Pam Ayres teams up with popular illustrator Nicola O'Byrne for this delightful rhyming picture book all about the eponymous otter and the very special friend he makes on the riverbank.
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With all the hallmarks of an instant classic, The Big Dreaming is the heartwarming tale of a bear cub concerned with the supply of dreams for the long winter slumber from master storyteller Michael Rosen, luminously illustrated by the award-winning Daniel Egneus.
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Proving that size doesn't matter if you've got a big heart and lots of determination, this adorable picture book tale from 'Draw with' Rob Biddulph revolves around the titular tiny whale's enormous mission.
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A simply gorgeous depiction of the wonders of nature and the circle of life, Wilson and Massini's picture book tracks the growth of a kingfisher family through the seasons as witnessed by a young child and her grandfather.
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The delightfully deadpan story of a penguin who just can't stand the cold, this stylishly illustrated picture book boasts winning text from a real-life polar explorer.
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Suffused with Emily Sutton's irresistibly colourful illustrations, Twist's enchanting picture book debut spins a warm hug of a story about a girl, her grandma's garden and an animal pest who threatens to spoil everything.
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In this side-splitting addition to the wildly popular Wonky Donkey series, Dinky gets quizzed about her favourite animals in the fast-paced rhyming rhythm that has become a hallmark of Smith and Cowley's picture books.
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Bently and Bond follow up Dogs in Disguise and Cats in Chaos with another gleefully silly rhyming picture book, as the courageous hamsters take on their sworn guinea pig enemies.
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With magical read-aloud sounds and lots of fascinating little details to spot, this joyous picture book of the Bug Hotel's Moonbeam Ball is a guaranteed hit for story time.
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The third instalment in Fraser and Hindley's adorable picture book series sees Gertie and family load up the sledge as they move to pastures new.
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Another madcap picture book tale featuring the culinary canine detectives, as Shifty and Sam pursue a criminal kitty from the Pawrient Express to a getaway gondola.
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This strikingly illustrated story of a bee, a ladybird and a toe-tapping celebration of dance and difference makes for heartwarming and inclusive reading for little ones.
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From the beloved creator of Grimwood and Barbara Throws a Wobbler comes another side-splitting story with an important message, as the titular anxious pooch finds ways to stop worrying about school.
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Touching and imaginative, Fearnley's delightful picture book with a message of perseverance and friendship unites a boy who struggles to read aloud and a charming rescue dog.
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From the creator of Mini Rabbit comes a hilarious picture book with an important message of slowing down to appreciate the world, as busy Pigeon finds himself lost with only a laid-back mouse for help.
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Two squabbling frogs decide they are safer when they work together in this charming and laugh-out-loud funny picture book from the author of Dick the Delightful Duck and Pongwiffy.
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The union of words and pictures can convey the beauty of the world like no other type of story can. This year Julia Donaldson and Victoria Sandoy delicately captured the life-cycle of an oak tree, former Waterstones Children's Book Prize winners Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola delivered an empowering tale of standing up for what you believe in and Oliver Jeffers recounted the history of humanity in his unique visual style. But just because a book is visually gorgeous doesn't necessarily mean the tale it holds is sweet-natured or cute, as the inimitable Jon Klassen proved with his stunning gothic fable The Skull. 

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Inspiring, hopeful and illustrated in his characteristically exquisite style, Jeffers' gorgeous extended picture book presents a whistlestop history of humanity before asking readers the all-important question of where we want to go from here.
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A breathtaking union of Julia Donaldson's gently rhyming text and Victoria Sandoy's evocative illustrations, this beautiful picture book traces the thousand-year history of a very special oak tree.
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The picture book genius behind I Want My Hat Back and The Rock From the Sky delivers a marvellously macabre folktale for slightly older readers as brave Otilla takes refuge in an eerie house inhabited by a sentient skull.
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The acclaimed author of Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah delivers her heartwarming debut picture book, mining the inimitable bond between mothers and daughters through play and imagination.
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Rocket returns in the third effervescent picture book from the Waterstones Children's Book Prize-winning team of Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, in which our irrepressible heroine organises a peaceful protest against the closure of her local library.
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The adorable and uplifting sequel to Waterstones Children's Book Prize category winner Grandad's Camper sees Milly attempt to bring the spirit of Pride to her beloved grandfather's cottage.
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From the comedian, broadcaster and author of Born a Crime comes a wonderfully witty and heartwarming fable about resolving conflict as a disgruntled child goes on a magical adventure through the long grass beyond the family's herb garden.

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The creator of The Big Book of series weaves a thoughtful and gently powerful picture book tale about the importance of preserving the natural world, rich in his gorgeously distinctive illustrations.
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From the creators of the adored There Once is a Queen comes another exquisitely presented royal tale for little ones, this time chronicling the life and times of King Charles III.
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Inspired by the names of numerous children that Julia Donaldson has signed her books for, this irresistible picture book written in her trademark effortless rhyming style is a love letter to books, their fans and the magic of bookshops.
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Blending enchanting adventure with an optimistic message of ecological awareness, Dawnay and van der Goor's beautifully presented picture book revolves around a girl who finds an entrance to magical land rich in nature.
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The Waterstones Children's Laureate demonstrates his magical storytelling skills once more in this delightful compendium of tales comprising a mere ten words each and illustrated by a range of fantastic picture book artists.
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This heartwarming and charming story of perseverance and resilience from the creators of The Worrysaurus and The Hugasaurus finds little dinosaur in need of some encouragement when she learns to ride her first bike.
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The marvellously eccentric Madame Badobedah whisks Mabel on an adventure to the Natural History Museum in this gorgeously illustrated and utterly charming instalment in the beloved picture book series.
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£15.00
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A simply magical tale with adorable illustrations to match, Drew, Moo and Bunny Too sets a boy and his two best friends off on a round-the-world adventure.
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Inspired by the classic folk song celebrating its fortieth anniversary, this beautifully illustrated and heartwarming picture book is a moving tribute to following your dreams.
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A beautifully constructed hymn to hope and kindness from the presidential inaugural poet and author of Change Sings, this empowering picture book about how even the smallest gestures can make a difference is blessed with stunning illustrations from Christian Robinson.
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From the iconic comedian and author of The Book of Legends comes a vibrant rhyming picture book tale all about determination and self-belief as Tyrone attempts to create a rocket out of building blocks.
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Exquisitely illustrated in a lithographic style and relating an important message of finding friendship and embracing difference, McClaren's delightful tale centres on a diminutive - and distinctly unmagical - unicorn.
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Charming and colourful, The Bear, the Book and the Blanket takes little ones on an endearing night-time journey to find the three things that guarantee a good night's sleep.
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Inspired by an original poem, this joyous picture book featuring CBeebies' first presenter with Down syndrome George Webster shows how every child is unique and that difference is a wonderful thing.
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The sound of children's laughter is a magical thing and there's been no shortage of hilarious picture book stories this year. Boasting vibrant and colourful illustrations to complement the zany text, 2023 saw the welcome return of Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet's Supertato, LadBaby's Greg the Sausage Roll and David Walliams and Adam Stower's Furball, as well as introducing new madcap characters courtesy of Tom Lacey and - in his picture book debut - Adam Kay.     

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Boasting work from Brian Bilston, Maya Angelou, Spike Milligan and many more, this rib-tickling collection of funny poems for every day of the year is perfect for brightening up the dreariest of days.
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The picture book dream team behind The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse return with a delightfully deadpan festive inquiry into how Santa is able to enter a wide variety of residences.
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David Walliams and Adam Stower serve up a side-splitting festive follow-up to Little Monsters, as Furball finds his loveable appearance a bit of a disadvantage at Monster School.
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A noisy little dinosaur comes stomping through the pages in this hilarious interactive addition to Tom Fletcher's beloved series that teaches little ones all about inside and outside voices.
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The latest riotous tale in the mega-selling series whisks you back in time to reveal the delicious origin story of how the beloved hero spud got his super powers.
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Everyone’s favourite savoury snack is back and this time beach-bound in a new adventure that chronicles Greg’s first ever holiday.
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Abounding in footwear-related puns, Lacey's joyful and hilarious picture book romp follows an energetic young trainer who refuses to toe the line - until his enthusiasm starts to negatively impact his friends.
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£16.99
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The Grinch's newfound Christmas spirit is in jeopardy with the arrival of the Whoville's The competitive nature of Whoville's Christmas Tree competition threatens to unleash the Grinch's bad old ways in this magical sequel to the festive children's classic by Dr Seuss.
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In his debut picture book adorned with joyful illustrations by Henry Paker, the bestselling author of This is Going to Hurt serves up a hilarious and anatomically enlightening story about a piece of sweetcorn making her way through a boy’s digestive tract.
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Following on from the unrivalled picture book classic The Queen's Knickers, Nicholas Allan spins the side-splitting story of what happens when King Charles III's undergarments are accidentally mailed out to the general public.
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The team behind the much-loved The Drama Llama deliver a hilarious and colourful rhyming tale all about taking responsibility, as Bea unexpectedly discovers a real, live yeticorn has come to stay.
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Beach's fart-obsessed picture book series rides again as both Sir Wayne and his windy dragon set out to rescue a princess held captive by a big, bad beast.
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A sublimely silly read for all junior dino-lovers, Taylor and Hicks' picture book follows the cat-and-mouse chase between Smallasuaurs, Badasurus and the fearsome Worseasaurus.
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An infant's first introduction to the world of books, board books are specifically designed to be sturdy, eye-catching and interactive and this year saw more lift-the-flap fun in Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's Acorn Wood, noisy jungle japes from Sam Taplin and the legendary Floella Benjamin recounting her favourite rhymes.  

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Return to the ever-charming Acorn Wood and help dormouse feel better with a little help from her friends, in this delightful addition to Donaldson and Scheffler's lift-the-flap series.
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Read and sing along with Baroness Floella Benjamin with this fun-filled book of favourite rhymes, featuring sturdy tabs and an accompanying CD narrated by the children's television icon herself.
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The Waterstones Children's Laureate delivers another charming tale of the irrepressible Luna, perfect for all little bookworms and fancy dress fans.
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A magical board book instalment in the bestselling night-time series sees two little dragons on a last-minute mission before bed in a story that is a must for fans, ideal reading for siblings and perfect for twins.
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Vehicle-mad preschoolers will adore this terrific addition to the bestselling felt flaps series as they hunt for Mr Train and his friends Mrs Tram, Mr Ferry and Mr Bus.
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More tactile, interactive fun with the bestselling series as little ones embark on a noisy journey through the jungle.
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From the world of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks' What the Ladybird Heard comes a colourful, interactive board book with flaps to lift and featuring a host of seaside animals.
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Discover the fire engine's squashy wheels, sparkly lights and bumpy doors in this wonderful addition to the iconic touchy-feely board book series.
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Christmas at Waterstones

Best Books of 2023

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