We’re huge fans of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler round here. Their The Gruffalo is one of our favourite picture books and was turned into the best bit of children’s theatre I’ve ever seen by Tall Stories Theatre Company last Xmas. This year’s favourite Xmas book (with Olly, 5 and Billie, 4. Rosie, 8 months, likes books – but mostly for chewing) is their latest: The Snail and the Whale which is written (like The Gruffalo, Monkey Puzzle and Room on the Broom) in verse so effortless and so enaging that you’ll barely notice it rhymes and illustrated with the same kind of deceptive ease – immediate, friendly, open – that the kids love. Donaldson and Scheffler prove that kids’ books can be important books. My kids take this magical stuff for granted but I really wish there’d been such great picture books when I was a kid, instead of the crop of dry-as-dust improving yarns and patronising illustrated rubbish that we had to put up with in the Sixties.