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The Gruffalo is a modern classic, and rightly so. Its impulsive rhythm makes it a great read aloud even for very young children - my twins were gripped by it when they were one.
Let your child learn how to empathise with a biscuit. This is the story of a little bear-shaped biscuit who escapes into the kitchen in the middle of the night and bakes himself a circusful of friends.
Ben is given a toy penguin. Despite all Ben's efforts to make friends with his gift, Penguin says nothing and appears characterless. But the shocking behaviour of a passing lion prompts Penguin to show his true colours, and his love for Ben.
I'm going to declare this book as the ideal early-years first introduction to empathy. Bobo is a baby chimp living in the jungle and he has lost his mum. Everywhere he goes, he sees other baby animals being cuddled by one of their parents and he cries the same refrain on every page, "hug!".
This deceptively simple picture book depicts the creation of a new friendship using only one or two words per page and illustrated with two expressively drawn characters. An exuberant boy greets a seemingly shy, somewhat downcast boy as they walk down the street. The greeting of Yo!
Another classic Alfie book from that wonderful empath and observer of small human nature, Shirley Hughes.
'Two Monsters' is writer-illustrator David McKee's darkly funny take on war and diplomacy, told via the tale of two monsters arguing over who's right whilst laying waste to the mountain they lean on. Small children will get the joke right away.
'Not Now, Bernard', now a picture book classic, tells the tale of young Bernard and the grumpy monster at the bottom of the garden.
Fabulous book about a fish who learns (eventually) that life is so much more fun and happier when he learns to share. Loved this book when my daughter was younger and still re visit sometimes when she forgets her manners!