The Gruffalo and beyond: Ingredients for choosing a picture book they’ll love by Angela Cain

The Gruffalo and beyond: Ingredients for choosing a picture book they’ll love by Angela Cain

Australia’s Top 50 Books includes 25 amazing picture books, and many of them are old favourites. We asked Angela Cain, superstar primary teacher and booklover, why so many old favourites pop up on the list every year and why reading picture books aloud is so vital. Here are her thoughts: 

“Hi Aunty A, I love the picture book, The Gruffalo, what other children’s books can you recommend?” As an educator and lover of children’s books, my sister asked the right person for further recommendations! I can spend hours in a bookshop browsing at children’s books. There is a complexity to how the words for the book are constructed that I adore. I turn the pages in awe and wonder, looking over the carefully created artwork on each page of the book.

My sister, Josie recognises the importance of reading to her 10-month-old every day and one of her favourite books is The Gruffalo. Josie talks about the way her daughter’s face lights up with pure concentration and delight when she reads to her. As an educator, we know that reading and storytelling with your child promotes brain development and imagination, teaches your child about language and emotions, and strengthens the relationship between the child and parent.

As I reflect back on my recommendations to my sister, the books I’ve suggested are very similar to the list of top 50 children’s books for 2020. Our children are still engaging with the same books we read as children. I wondered, what is the secret formula? Why do we still love these books so much? 

I believe they touch our hearts, and they educate us. It’s the colours and movement in the artwork, and the rhythm and the rhyme in the construction of the words on each page. There has been careful thought into exactly how many words appear on each page. And these books appeal not only to the child but to the parents as well. 

Just like the family stories that are passed down from generation to generation, so too are the greatest children’s picture books of all time. These books are as much for our children as they are for us. 


Angela is an experienced primary school teacher who has worked in the independent and Catholic school sectors. Angela has a passion for early childhood education and supporting families and teachers to support their children transition to the first formal years of schooling. Angela works for Catholic Schools NSW and has recently worked on a significant project on boosting early achievement in literacy and numeracy skills. The Early Years Foundations for Learning website 


The 25 titles for younger readers in Australia’s Top 50 kids books are: 

1The Very Hungry CaterpillarEric Carle
2Possum MagicMem Fox
3The GruffaloJulia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
4Where is the Green SheepMem Fox and Judy Horacek
5Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s DairyLynley Dodd
6The Very Cranky BearNick Bland
7Pig the PugAaron Blabey
8We’re Going on a Bear HuntMichael Rosen
9Where the Wild Things AreMaurice Sendak
10Room on the BroomJulia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
11The Wonky DonkeyCraig Smith and Katz Cowley
12Magic BeachAlison Lester
13Piranhas Don’t Eat BananasAaron Blabey
14The Secret GardenFrances Hodgson Burnett and Adelina Lirius
15Meet Snugglepot and CuddlepieMay Gibbs
16Thelma the Unicorn Aaron Blabey
17Green Eggs and HamDr Seuss
18Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little ToesMem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
19Oh The Places You’ll GoDr Seuss
20The Very Noisy BabyAlison Lester
21Wombat StewMarcia K Vaughan &  Pamela Lofts
22Where’s Spot?Eric Hill
23Dear ZooRod Campbell
24Kissed by the MoonAlison Lester
25GrugTed Prior


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  1. Elizabeth Pandelis says:

    I have read most of these either to my children or grandchildren. I would add “The Paperbag Princess” by Robert Munsch. I first read it when my kids were in pre school and laughed out loud.