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Check out Beanstalk's Top 40 books for reluctant and struggling readers

Written by · Published May 1, 2018

There's a Bear on my Chair, Little Beauty, There's No Such Thing as a Snappenpoop

Children’s literacy charity Beanstalk have put together a list of the best books to motivate and inspire children to read. The Beanstalk Top 40 has been handpicked by children’s literacy experts.

Beanstalk’s Story Starters reading helpers go into schools and help children develop a love of books and reading. They are currently recruiting for volunteers in Suffolk. The books on this list will also be part of a starter pack for schools that sign up to the scheme.

Although the list is aimed at reluctant and struggling readers, these are books that all children can enjoy.

Wriggle and Roar!, by Julia Donaldson & Nick Sharratt

“Are you tired of being you? Here’s a whole bookful of things you can do! There are rhymes to make you wriggle and giggle, shrug and sigh, snap like a crocodile and slither like a snake. Julia Donaldson’s verse jumps off the page and Nick Sharratt’s snazzy illustrations add to the fun. Do the actions! Make the noises! Audience participation is guaranteed!”

Press Here, by Hervé Tullet

“This title instructs the reader on how to interact with the illustrations to create imaginative images. The book invites the reader to push the yellow button on the cover and trigger a magical journey of colour, imagination, and virtual interactivity.”

Flip Flap Jungle, by Axel Scheffler

“What do you get if you cross a monkey with an armadillo? Why, that would be a Monkadillo! And a Leopard with a Frog? That would be a Leopog, of course!”

Featuring sturdy, split pages, 121 possible combinations, silly names and animal noises to make young children giggle.

Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell

“What kind of pet would you like from the zoo? An elephant, a lion, a snake, or something smaller? Lift the flaps and see what has been sent - it’s bound to be a surprise!”

Oi Frog!, by Kes Gray and Jim Field

“This is a tale about a frog who discovers that all animals have their special places to sit! Cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs, mules sit on stools and gofers sit on sofas, but Frog does not want to sit on a log! Jam-packed with animals and silliness, this original story will have young children in fits of laughter.”

Open Very Carefully, by Nick Bromley & Nicola O’Byrne

“What would you do if you were settling down for a quiet bedtime story and you realised that a crocodile had fallen into your storybook and was - not to put too fine a point on it - furious? Would you slam that book shut, cram it in the bookshelf for evermore or would you be brave enough to peek?

“This crocodile has ended up in totally the wrong book, so he proceeds to eat his way out in this picture book of a very grumpy croc trying to escape a storybook that is all wrong for him!”

Peace At Last, by Jill Murphy

“It was late at night and Mr Bear was tired. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not get off to sleep. Mrs Bear was snoring and the clock went tick-tock, tick-tock, and still Mr Bear could not sleep.”

A Dark, Dark Tale, by Ruth Brown

“Once upon a time there was a dark, dark moor. On the moor there was a dark, dark wood. In the wood there was a dark, dark house. What secrets lay behind the dark, dark door of the house?”

We’re Going on a Lion Hunt, by David Axtell

“Through the long grass, the swamp and the lake, two girls decide to go and hunt a lion - they’re not scared! This is an African version of a traditional tale, illustrated by David Axtell.”

Window, by Jeannie Baker

“A mother and a baby look together at the view from their window. As the pages turn, the baby grows up, and gradually the scene before him changes… but what will happen next?”

Little Beauty, by Anthony Browne

“A very special gorilla is taught a very special skill: sign language. He appears to have everything he needs, but one day he signs that he is sad and needs a friend. His keepers bring him a tiny cat called Beauty and the two of them become inseparable.”

Class Two at the Zoo, by Julia Jarman & Lynne Chapman

“This is a funny picture book that follows Class Two on a trip round the zoo. They see all sorts of animal antics. However, they don’t notice the anaconda slipping up behind that’s determined to make a meal of them! But Class Two are a resourceful bunch and come up with a rescue plan.”

You Choose!, by Pippa Goodhart & Nick Sharratt

“Imagine you could go anywhere, with anyone and do anything! Where would you live? Where would you sleep? Who would be your friends? Go on - you choose! With the help of Nick Sharratt’s illustrations, this book looks at a whole range of scenarios where choosing is made fun.”

It’s Okay to be Different, by Todd Parr

“The title of the book provides a clear message, to encourage children to understand difference in people and to be more tolerant of others. This colourful book, a trademark of Todd Parr, details lots of situations, some that will make children laugh and say ‘I wouldn’t do that’ and some that will make even adults think.”

What Are You Playing At?, by Marie-Sabine Roger & Anne Sol

“Boys don’t play with dollies - that would be silly! Girls can’t play football - that would be ridiculous! Boys don’t play skipping - that would be absurd! But the pictures tell a different story and show that in real life men and women do a whole range of things.”

The Book with No Pictures, by B. J. Novak

“You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except, here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say ‘blork’ or ‘bluurf’. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like ‘blaggity blaggity’ and ‘glibbity globbity’.”

Some Dogs Do, by Jez Alborough

“All dogs walk and jump and run, but dogs don’t fly - it can’t be done, can it? Jez Alborough’s uplifting tale is for anyone who has ever believed that miracles really do happen.”

Tidy, by Emily Gravett

“Pete the badger likes everything to be neat and tidy at all times, but what starts as the collecting of one fallen leaf escalates quickly and ends with the complete destruction of the forest! Will Pete realise the error of his ways and set things right?”

Lottie Potter Wants an Otter, by Jeanne Willis & Leonie Lord

“When little Lottie Potter goes to Trotter’s Otter shop to buy a new pet, she certainly doesn’t expect to find quite so many kinds. There are spotty otters, potty otters, snotty otters and tangled-in-a-knotty otters - to name but a few! But what will she do when the otter she chooses turns out to be a rotter?”

There’s a Bear in my Chair, by Ross Collins

“Poor Mouse! A bear has settled in his favourite chair and that chair just isn’t big enough for two. Mouse tries all kinds of tactics to move the pesky Bear but nothing works and poor Mouse gives up.

“Once Mouse has gone, Bear gets up and walks home. But what’s that? Is that a Mouse in Bear’s house?”

There’s No Such Thing as a Snappenpoop, by Jeanne Willis & Matt Saunders

“Little Brother wants to join in the fun with his sibling, but Big Brother won’t let him play.

“‘Fetch me a Snappenpoop!’ says Big Brother. But everybody knows there’s no such thing as a Snappenpoop - or is there?”

Dave’s Cave, by Frann Preston-Gannon

“Dave loves his cave. Inside is decorated exactly the way he likes it. Outside there is a lovely spot for a fire and the grass is always lovely and green. But, Dave is unhappy. What if there might be an even better cave out there? And off he sets in search of a new home.

“But it turns out that good caves are hard to find. They’re either too small, or too big, or too full of bats, until he finds one that looks much more promising. Outside has the perfect space for a fire and the grass is greener than any he’s ever seen. But why does it look so familiar?”

That is NOT a Good Idea!, by Mo Willems

“This is the story of a hungry fox who meets a plump goose and, ooh!, what an innocent looking goose she is. Just look at those big, doey eyes - so trusting! The fox can’t believe his luck so he asks the goose to go for a stroll. The goose, with her angelic face, cannot refuse. Suddenly, a little chick pops up warning the protagonist: ‘That is NOT a good idea!’ All too late! This fox is on a roll and next, he invites the goose back to his house tucked away in the deep, dark woods, and … the goose says YES!”

The Big Book of Magical Mix-Ups, by Hilary Robinson & Nick Sharratt

“Would you like to turn your nosy brother into an inflatable rabbit? Or transform your bossy babysitter into a giant doughnut? Create countless combinations of rib-tickling spells with this crazy book of mixed-up magic.”

Mixed Up Fairy Tales, by Hilary Robinson & Nick Sharratt

“This fantastic split page, spiral bound book allows the reader to mix and match different combinations of fairy tales with hilarious results. What would happen if Goldilocks had two horrid stepsisters and fell asleep for a hundred years? Would she be woken by a hungry wolf or Little Red Riding Hood’s Granny?”

Norman the Norman from Normandy, by Philip Ardagh & Tom Margan-Jones

“Norman, the Norman from Normandy, loves fighting. He gets up every morning wearing nothing but his chainmail and runs around his bedroom waving his sword, then uses it to chop the top off his boiled eggs.”

Frog and Toad are Friends, by Arnold Lobel

“Once upon a time, there were two good friends: a frog and a toad. From writing letters to going swimming, telling stories to finding lost buttons, Frog and Toad are always there for each other, just as best friends should be. This book collects their warm and funny adventures.”

The Children Who Smelled a Rat, by Allan Ahlberg & Katharine McEwen

“In this thrilling and amusing Gaskitts story, Mrs. Gaskitt finds a very peculiar package, Mr. Gaskitt loses a baby in a shopping cart, Horace the cat has mixed feelings about a bird, and the twins’ beloved teacher, Mrs. Fritter — ooer! — is not herself. Why? How? When? And why does everyone keep looking the other way?”

Eric!, by Chris Wormell

“Eric is a little boy who sometimes gets things wrong. But Eric learns that while you can’t be good at everything, sometimes it takes a little time to find out what you are good at. And when a huge monster stomps down the mountain to Eric’s village, Eric just might have his chance to shine.”

It was a Dark and Stormy Night, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

“Antonio, a small boy who has been kidnapped by Brigands, passes a dark and stormy night in their cave weaving for them incredible stories of their own exploits and through this actually solves his own problem of how to escape.”

Once Upon an Ordinary School Day, by Colin McNaughton & Satoshi Kitamura

“An ordinary boy goes off to school and everything seems just as ordinary as ever, until a new teacher arrives in class.

“The new teacher is not ordinary at all and when he plays the children music and asks them to draw the pictures it inspires, the ordinary boy’s imagination is unlocked and his attitude is transformed.”

The Tunnel, by Anthony Browne

“Once upon a time there lived a brother and a sister who were not at all alike. They fought and argued constantly. One morning they discover a tunnel, which changes them forever. When they return to the real world, it is with acceptance of each other.”

The Great Big Book of Families, by Mary Hoffman & Ros Asquith

“What is a family? Once, it was said to be a father, mother, boy, girl, cat and dog living in a house with a garden. But as times have changed, families have changed too. Mary Hoffman takes a look through children’s eyes at the wide varieties of family life, from homes, food and schools to holidays, jobs and housework.”

The Covers of My Book Are Too Far Apart (and other grumbles), by Vivian French & Nigel Baines

“Vivian French explores some of the fibs we tell children and children tell us about reading and books in a fun picture book.

“From excuses like ‘I haven’t got time to read’ to misconceptions about those who struggle with reading, the book turns negatives on their head and celebrates the right we all have to access story, and the wonders of the printed page.”

You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum!, by Andy Stanton & David Tazzyman

“Mr Gum is a truly nasty old man. He’s absolutely grim. But this book’s not just about him. There’s also a little girl called Polly, an evil butcher, heroes and sweets and stuff, and Jake the dog, who must be saved from terrible, terrible evil.”

Archie’s Unbelievably Freaky Week, by Andrew Norriss & Hannah Shaw

“Archie is an accident waiting to happen. He can’t help it. In just one week at school, he is accused of murder, gets trapped in the staff cloakroom without any clothes, and somehow manages to turn himself into a dog. Not to mention the poisonous spider and the Health and Safety Inspector who gets a toilet stuck on his head!”

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, by Liz Pichon

“All Tom Gates wants to do is get tickets to see his favourite band when they come to town. It’s not easy when he’s up against Delia, his weirdo big sister. All of his plans seem to get him into major trouble!”

The Wolves in the Walls, by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

“When Lucy hears noises from behind the wall she tries to warn her parents that there are wolves banging about. But her parents don’t listen. When the wolves finally take over the house and Lucy and her family are evicted to live in the garden. her parents realise perhaps they should have listened.

“But Lucy is no shrinking violet and pretty soon she has the wolves out and the family back in the house. So what was that noise Lucy heard coming from behind the wall?”

The Laugh Out Loud Joke Book, by Michael Rosen

The Laugh Out Loud Joke Book is jam-packed with over 300 hilarious jokes written and selected by bestselling children’s author Michael Rosen.”

Alice Violett

Alice Violett

I write and edit content for the Suffolk Libraries website. Visit my website.