Best Illustrated Story Books

One of the greatest joys of modern parenthood is the quality of the illustrated children’s books that are being produced these days by talented authors and illustrators.

Only a fortnight ago, the coveted Waterstones children’s book prize for 2015 was awarded to debut Blown Away, by Rob Biddulph, among fierce competition. Judge Melissa Cox, children’s book buyer at Waterstones, said: “The test of a good picture book is not how good it is on first reading, but how enjoyable it is on its 50th.” No truer word…

Here are some illustrated children’s books that we guarantee you won’t tire of.


best illustrated children's books

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

In 26 short stories Oliver Jeffers introduces the alphabet. From Edmund the astronaut to the Zeppelin, little readers can see the adventure through from A-Z, or dip in and out of it. It’s funny, adventurous and up there with Jeffer’s other modern classics, Lost and Found and The Incredible Book Eating Boy.

I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen

Not new, but one of the very best around, this story holds up a mirror to the fibs and excuses of childhood. It will make children and adults bark with laughter. Klassen’s debut is totally charming and more than a bit wicked.

The Story Machine by Tom McLaughlin

This story follows a boy who paints pictures with words: encouraging creativity and confidence in the most reluctant readers. Drawing on his experience of being dyslexic at school, McLaughlin demonstrates that the power of the mind means anyone can tell stories. An inspiring read.

The First Slodge by Jeanne Willis (Author) and Jenni Desmond (Illustrator)

A witty tale of a strange creature who wants to keep everything to itself, the message underlying this book is that sharing and friendship are far more rewarding than ownership. We like the originality and the simple illustrations.

It Might Be an Apple by Shinsuke Yoshitake

What might an apple be if it wasn’t an apple? This is a rollercoaster of imagination, taking the reader through a series of fantastical alternatives: could it be a spaceship, does it snore, does it get scared at night? A creative book that encourages children to challenge the world.

The Little Boy Who Lost His Name

The story of this personalised book follows a child who has lost his name and has to track down each letter, meeting weird and wonderful characters along the way. Beautifully illustrated, it’s a great gift – especially if given to each child in a family to compare the stories of their names.

A Bed for Bear by Clive McFarland

At hibernation time, Bernard feels claustrophobic in the cave and goes in search of a better bed, only to be tested by wind, rain and the wilderness. An adorable story and great bedtime reading – this is an excellent debut.

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph

A captivating tale about an adventurous penguin who rides a kite to an exotic island, only to realise he misses his igloo. Touching on climate, colour, counting and the moral of appreciating what you’ve got: this is a great debut from the Observer Magazine’s art director, and a deserved winner of the prestigious Waterstones award.

Where Bear? by Sophy Henn

A boy and a bear are best friends. And when the bear grows, the boy decides to help him find a more suitable home: The zoo? A cave? The jungle? Sophy Henn’s simple, modern illustrations are enchanting. We love the subtle messages: when the boy and bear are separated, their background colors change across the spreads.