The magic of a good party has never faded for me. I still love them as much as when I was a little girl.
There’s something life affirming about a group of people coming together to laugh, feast and dance, whether that’s a child’s cake-fuelled birthday celebration or a wonderful white wedding.
The pandemic has meant life has lacked parties and we are very much poorer for it.
This is one of the reasons I started a charity event called Party Dress Day, during the bleakness of January. It was a way to lift spirits by putting on a favourite outfit, bring people together in a shared caused and raise money for The Good Grief Trust.
Our first event raised £1710 and our second one is today, Easter Saturday. The boys have matching shirts and bow ties, with a sandwiches and jelly picnic lunch planned. There will also be dancing to our official Spotify playlist and I will don my wedding dress for the first time in nearly ten years.
More details on our Just Giving page.
And to celebrate, we’ve picked out our favourite picture books about parties.
1. Kitchen Disco by Clare Foges and Al Murphy. £6.99 (paperback), Faber & Faber
This fun-filled fruity book had us at “Bananarama”. Clare Foges and Al Murphy have done a delightful job celebrating the sillier side of life, with a world where the residents of the fruit bowl hit the kitchen dancefloor for a spot of night fever.
The rhyming text with its repetitive chorus of “shake it like a mango” is perfect for kids to join in with, while the humour is right up their street. I mean, who wouldn’t chuckle at a DJ banana doing the splits and grapes doing the conga? Buy from Amazon
2. So Much! by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury. £6.99 (paperback), Walker
The love and joy that a baby brings to a family is a precious thing, with this fascinating little person becoming a focal point for loved ones. This award-winning and uplifting story captures this sense of adoration perfectly.
As a cast of relatives arrive ready for a surprise party for Daddy, each one expresses their affect for the child in different ways – hugs, play fights, kisses, games and stories.
The language is rich, descriptive and repetitive, with Helen Oxenbury’s bright gouache pictures capturing their energy perfectly. While the book reflects Trish Cooke’s Afro-Caribbean heritage, the message is universal – and just a joy to share. Buy from Amazon
3. Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love. £12.99 (hardback), Walker
A wonderful wedding is one of the greatest parties there is, especially when you are a small child. Fancy outfits, dancing, staying up late, lots of lovely food – who can resist?
This gorgeous follow-up to the glorious Julian Is A Mermaid sees our character attend a wedding with his grandmother and play the role of page boy for the two brides, while a girl called Marisol is bridesmaid. The duo have a great time playing their part in the celebrations and after the meal, they sneak off to play, dirtying their smart clothes.
Julian fashions his friend a new dress from his shirt and when their grandmothers find them, they are amused rather than angry, taking the pair back to the party for dancing. This is such a perfect celebration of love and humanity on so many levels – and Jessica Love’s artwork is exquisite too. Buy from Amazon
4. I’m Actually Really Grown Up Now by Maisie Paradise Shearring. £11.99 (hardback), Two Hoots
Who else has memories of being put to bed as a child while your parents had a party downstairs? The FOMO was just unbearable and you couldn’t wait to be grown up enough to join them.
When Meena hears the adults having fun without her, she announces that she is old enough to organise her own bash and attempts to prove how responsible she is. But as any party host knows, the planning is hard work and stress can run high.
The premise of this book works on so many wonderful levels, from not growing up too soon to appreciating your parents and what they do. Maisie Paradise Shearring’s sketchy artwork is full of vibrant energy too. Buy from Amazon
5. The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr. £6.99 (paperback), HarperCollins Children’s
Judith Kerr’s classic about an unexpected tea party guest who eats more than his fair share is a wonderful combination of surreal humour and oh so British manners.
I mean, we’ve all encounter that person who is outrageously badly behaved yet utterly entertaining, haven’t we?
Children just adore the idea of this huge wild creature drinking all of Daddy’s beer after a full plate of buns. The Sixties fashions are fabulous too, yet there is a timeless quality that makes this story one of the most enduring picture books of all time. Buy from Amazon
6. Beast Feast by Emma Yarlett. £10.99 (hardback), Walker
This tasty tale has three key ingredients that make it so moreish – a funny but touching storyline, amazing artwork and clever interactivity in the form of letters to open and read.
Beast is ever so pleased to have captured Dinner and invites his monstrous pals over for a feast, sending each one an invite. As their replies come in, Dinner uses his wiles to win Beast round and escape his dreaded fate – becoming a guest at the party instead of the meal. Buy from Amazon
7. Charlie and Lola: This Is Actually My Party by Lauren Child. £6.99 (paperback), Puffin
Our favourite sibling duo come to blows when Lola’s enthusiasm for Charlie’s birthday celebrations see her interfere with his plans.
The well-meaning little sister isn’t convinced by his monster-themed party and ends up dressing as a fairy and making pink cakes.
But after opening his cards and presents, then blowing out his candles, she manages to redeem herself with handmade party bags and the duo make peace in a heartwarming way. Buy from Amazon
8. Cake by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet. £6.99 (paperback), Macmillan
A party’s not a party without cake. But when Cake receives a special invite to a soiree, the innocent sponge doesn’t realise he is guest of honour for a sinister reason rather than his sparkling personality…
As with all of Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet’s stories, this is wacky and witty, with plenty of LOLs for kids and parents. Not least when Cake goes ‘hat shopping’ with the help of a milliner penguin and is liberated from impending eating by a buffet food rescue party. Buy from Amazon
9. Mr. Men Birthday Party by Roger Hargreaves. £3.99 (paperback), Egmont
Laughs and mayhem ensue when the residents of Happy Land get together to celebrate Mr. Silly’s birthday party.
Things would have all run so smoothly had Mr. Birthday not got sick. Instead Little Miss Naughty is put in charge of blowing up balloons and Mr. Forgetful is sending out invites…
It’s classic Mr. Men – amusing, quirky and lots of fun. Buy from Amazon
10. Onesie Party by Leigh Hodgkinson and Chris Jevons. £6.99 (paperback), Farshore
Fancy dress parties are a right of passage for kids and students, and this new rhyming book sees a group of animal invitees ponder which onesie they will don for the soirée.
Should Dog be an octopus and Bird be a moose? The decision is tricky! But the central message is that you’ll have fun whatever you wear and the best thing you can be is you.
Funny, bold and joyous, this story is filled with party spirit. Buy from Amazon