Books We Heart - A Nice Cup of Tea and a Bedtime Story March 28 2015 1 Comment

This month's edition of Books We Heart has been compiled by Mahone Bay mum, book lover and nature enthusiast Kara Turner.  Kara has three children who have already inherited their parent's passion for reading. Her impeccable taste in many things, books being just one, made her an ideal guest poster here on our book lovin' blog. Read along to see what stories are shared at bedtime in her home after a nice cup of tea and then head to your locally owned book shop to buy one of Kara's recommendations.  

A Nice Cup of Tea and a Bedtime Story
By Kara Turner

We’ve read to our three children (aged 5, 7 and 10) since they were tiny babies. The oldest still enjoys being read to, but she is deeply immersed in Harry Potter so it is happening with rapidly decreasing frequency. Our middle child is into some classic chapter books of her age group, but has recently also embraced wizardry at Hogwarts. At the moment, it’s my husband who usually reads to our youngest each night. He’s just turned five and still loves picture books (who doesn’t?). It will be a sad, sad time when we grow out of the picture book stage.

 I spent most of my professional life working on children’s books: buying rights to them, editing them, planning the printing of them, and publishing them. All of this before I had children of my own, so by the time I was on bedtime-story duty I had strong ideas about the kinds of books I liked. My husband and I both grew up in the UK and our taste in children’s books is distinctly British. But it is influenced of course by our children: voracious listeners all three. Here is a selection of enduring family favourites aimed primarily at the 3 to 7 year range. There’s a lot to be said for books that can keep a parent entertained for years on end — these books all have what it takes:

Ladybird fairytale classics 


These small hardback books were all mine as a child (the imprint had its heyday in the late 1960s and early 70s) but incredibly they have not dated in more than 40 years. Everyone needs a favourite collection of fairy tales and this is mine. I love each and every tattered one, and so do my kids.

Peepo (Janet & Allan Ahlberg)

We used to chant this classic rhyme from memory with two-year-old Lily buckled into the backpack on long hikes in the Rockies. I recommend the board-book edition for durability. It is perfect for younger children, and the illustrations are pure oh-so-British nostalgia.

Green Sheep (Mem Fox & Judy Horacek)

Another winning but quirky rhyme, with clean, simple illustrations. I’m not a fan of all of Mem Fox’s work but this one brings a smile to my face every time I read it. (For the book’s backstory and insights into the writing process, head here)

 The Tiger Who Came To Tea (Judith Kerr)   

One of the best children’s books ever written in my opinion. I love stories like this: imaginative yet not forcibly so, and short and to the point. In spite of a talking tiger at the table, children can relate to the story because so much of it is recognizable and familiar (bath time, grocery shopping, the excitement of going out for dinner after dark). This is one I always pack when we travel because we have a paperback edition that slips nicely into a suitcase and it’s guaranteed to hold the kids’ attention.

Tiddler: The story-telling fish (Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler)

This is probably my favourite picture book of all time. I adore the story line and the illustrations. I feel the same thrill of anticipation when I pick up Snail and a Whale, but my kids are not so keen. Our other perennial favourites are Stick Man and Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book. But, with the possible exception of Superworm, you can not go wrong with a Donaldson/Scheffler book or two before bed.

Alfie (Shirley Hughes) 

Hughes is a genius at writing stories that appeal to young children with just the right mix of everyday observation and gentle drama. Alfie is aged around four in the books and is a sweet, patient, slightly anxious little boy that every parent will fall in love with. By the same author Dogger is also excellent and we love Rhymes for Annie Rose, too.

 Milo’s Hat Trick (Jon Agee)

We have enjoyed everything this writer/illustrator has ever published. He’s one of the few non-Brit authors on this list and is someone we discovered through the library. His sense of humour is evident on every page and his original and imaginative stories are spot on. In this one, a lackluster magician learns a new trick from a bear. We also love Terrific, Dmitri the Astronaut, and The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy (Oliver Jeffers) 

How could any children’s picture book list not include Oliver Jeffers! Just brilliant in every way — he fits into the same modern superstar category as Jon Agee and Jon Klassen. This title and Stuck are our favourites. I would love to spend a day hanging out in Oliver Jeffers’s wonderfully wacky brain!

 Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain (Edward Ardizzone)  

Published in 1936, this is a classic adventure story in the traditional sense. It is not for the faint of heart —young Tim runs away from home and stows away on a ship. While not a part of my childhood, it was a part of my husband’s, and is now a regular part of our children’s.

You Choose (Nick Sharratt & Pippa Goodhart)

This isn’t a bedtime story, but it has played a key role in our bedtime routine over the years. Sometimes kids just want to make up their own stories and this is a fun way of prompting them. Every double-page spread presents a variety of options to choose from: houses, clothes, food, pets, hobbies, etc. Our kids often huddle together to go through the book themselves — a bonus if we are tired or distracted. This book is always packed for trips away from home.

Danny the Champion of the World (Roald Dahl)

You can’t go wrong with Dahl’s brilliant storytelling, and this one with its heightened sense of danger and nighttime shenanigans is our favourite. While it’s nice to be able to finish The Enormous Crocodile or The Magic Finger in one bedtime reading, nothing beats the anticipation of awaiting the next chapter of a longer story.

Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome) 

Every child who lives by the ocean or is interested in sailing should be reading this book! There are 13 tomes in the series and Lily has made it to number 7. Swallows and Amazons is the first book in the series and a must-read, but We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea is our favourite. It requires a keen parent, and is not recommended for the under 7s as the jargon can get a little impenetrable in places (the book was first published in 1930), but it’s well worth persevering.

Kara Turner spent 16 years working for publishing companies in the UK, Norway and Canada as an editor and associate publisher. Since having her third child — and moving to Nova Scotia — she has worked part-time as a freelance editor. She and her husband run a small geoscience publishing company called Agile Libre.


If you haven't already, like Woolly Thyme Press on facebook or (if you have) leave a comment to enter and win a copy of one of Kara's book recommendations - The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, April 3rd, so share and like - books and Woolly Thyme Press.