Emma’s Favorites for PreSchoolers

From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover that you have wings.” – Helen Hayes, actress

The preschool years are “golden time” in terms of reading with children. Specific interests and passions are beginning to emerge more clearly, and it’s vitally important to take advantage of these in reading selections, as well as to be prepared to revisit favorites often. I cannot count the number of hours we spent reading truck books with Sam, and princess stories with Hope (I know, I know, painfully gender-obvious, but their choices!) – but the joy of hearing them “read” the same books quietly to themselves, almost verbatim, well before they could actually read, spurred us through any possible sense of tedium.

Many of the books on the Babies and Toddlers list remain favorites throughout this time. Below are some additional beloved titles. You can click on any title to buy directly from Amazon.com:

Amy the Dancing Bear (Carly Simon/Margot Datz) – Singer-songwriter Carly Simon’s book about Amy, a little bear who would rather dance the night away than sleep – and her exasperated mother, who is the one who ends up being tucked in.

Angelina Ballerina series (Katherine Holabird/Helen Craig) – Angelina, the little mouse who lives to dance, has enchanted children for over twenty years. Spirited text and delightful illustrations – a bookshelf must.

Apples and Pumpkins Anne Rockwell/Lizzy Rockwell) – The simple joys of fall, from visiting a farm for apple- and pumpkin-picking, to carving jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating.

Arthur series (Marc Brown) – Marc Brown’s bestselling books (and Award-winning PBS-TV series) follow Arthur, the world’s favorite aardvark, through daily life – losing a first tooth, getting glasses, going to camp, dealing with his feisty younger sister, D.W. – while delivering worthy and helpful life-lessons for youngsters.

  • D.W.’s Guide to PreschoolParents readying children for pre-school will be grateful: D.W.’s straightforward advice covers everything from bathroom breaks to snacks, naps, and center time.
  • D.W.’s Guide to Perfect MannersD.W.’s brother, Arthur, dares her to be perfect for a day – can she smile, make her bed, and be agreeable all day, at home and school?

Bad Dog, Marley!” (John Grogan/Richard Cowdry) – Marley the dog is desperate to please, but always in trouble. Based on Grogan’s bestselling “Marley & Me”, this picture book echoes the message that loving someone for who they are makes all the trouble worthwhile.

Bark, George! (Jules Feiffer) – The giddy tale of a puppy who speaks every other animal’s language but his own – with superbly spare text and Feiffer’s brilliant, classic line-drawings.

Bedtime for Frances (Russell Hoban/Garth Williams) – Frances, the irrepressible young badger, tries every delay tactic she can muster at bedtime. A perfect goodnight story for wide-eyed youngsters.

Bread and Jam for FrancesAfter over-indulging in her favorite meal of bread and jam, Frances discovers that variety really is the spice of life.

The Big, Big Sea (Martin Waddell) – The lyrical and beautifully illustrated tale of a mother-daughter jaunt to the sea, by the light of the full moon.

  • Owl Babies Three worried owlets wait for their mother to return from her night flight.

Charlie and Lola series (Lauren Child) – The hilarious brother/sister team from England (also a popular TV show). A series of delightful books celebrating the value of apologies, tomatoes, and the right shoes, to name but a few – all accompanied by Child’s wonderful mixed-media artwork.

  • The Princess and the PeaA terrifically funny twist on Andersen’s familiar tale, featuring brilliant paper-doll princess illustrations against a photographic background.

Corduroy (Don Freeman) – A stuffed bear in a department store finally gets adopted by the right girl. An early childhood classic.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus series (Mo Willems) – A brilliant tribute to the often dramatic and unreasonable behavior of preschoolers – with simple but hilarious illustrations. Get the whole series.

  • Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too More of Mo Willems’ comic genius, featuring the hilarious antics of a preschooler and her beloved stuffed bunny.

Fancy Nancy series (Jane O’Connor/Robin Preiss-Glasser) – Glam-girl Nancy is determined to rescue her family from plainness by giving them lessons in the art of accessorizing.

Fire Truck (Peter Sis) – Little Matt imagines he is a fire truck – until a pancake breakfast brings him back to reality.

The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies (Cicely Mary Barker) – Cicely Mary Barker’s classic rhymes and gorgeous illustrations celebrate every flower, tree, and bush – and its attendant fairy.

Frederick‘s Fables (Leo Lionni) – While the other mice busily prepare for winter, Frederick daydreams. But when winter sets in, it is Frederick’s imagination that matters most. Lionni’s fables celebrate timeless values and are accompanied by simple and evocative collage-style illustrations.

Froggy series (Jonathan London) – Scores of books in which Froggy starts school, learns to swim, acquires a sister, etc. The silly sound effects make this series is a great read-aloud.

The Golden Egg Book (Margaret Wise Brown/Leonard Weisgard) – Another classic tale about a bunny, and the new friend that hatches from a found egg.

  • The Important BookA book that encourages thought about the essence of everyday things.

Grandfather Twilight (Barbara Helen Berger) – Grandfather Twilight takes his daily walk through the forest at days end, to usher in the wonder of night.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Crockett Johnson) – Harold takes a memorable journey with a simple purple crayon… First published in 1955, a tribute to the power and wonder of imagination.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series (Laura Joffe Numeroff/Felicia Bond) – The first in the best-selling “If You Give a…” series. An enthusiastic mouse wears out an accommodating young boy with his demands – ultimately bringing everything back to square one.

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes (Rose A. Lewis/Jane Dyer) – The sweet story of an American mother and her new baby, adopted from China.

I Love You, Little One (Nancy Tafuri) – Seven young woodland creatures ask their mothers “Do you love me, Mama?” A quiet, lyrical book, providing assurance of the constancy of parental love.

I Stink series (Jim and Kate McMullan) – A hilarious ode to the humble garbage truck, from the best-selling author-illustrator team. Other books in the series celebrate tugboats, dump trucks, etc.

Jazzbo Goes to School (Matt Novak) – School does not interest Jazzbo, until his mother finds just the right one.

Katy and the Big Snow (Virginia Burton) – A charming, old-fashioned tale about a little snowplow’s courage and determination in the midst of a small-town blizzard.

Mike Mulligan and his Steam ShovelMike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, prove their worth in spite of modern technology in this touching tale about friendship and dedication.

Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse (Kevin Henkes) – Lily, the indomitable mouse, learns a valuable lesson about resolving conflict after she interrupts her class one too many times, in this wise and funny book.

  • Lily’s Big DayLily lobbies relentlessly to be the flower girl at her teacher Mr. Slinger’s wedding.
  • ChrysanthemumChrysanthemum is proud of her name until she begins kindergarten. A tender and compassionate story about teasing.
  • OwenOwen and his beloved blanket Fuzzy are inseparable, until the first day of kindergarten. Can his parents find a solution that suits everyone and helps their son transition?

Make Way for Ducklings (Robert McCloskey) – Duck parents search for a safe place to raise their ducklings. A true classic, first published in 1941, with Caldecott-winning, sepia-toned illustrations.

Mole Music (David McPhail) – A sweet story about a violin-playing mole, reminding us that we never know the full effect of our actions – and of the power of music to change the world.

Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney) – A must-have for every child’s library, this heartwarming story follows Alice Rumphius on her life’s quest to see faraway places, live by the sea in old age, and do something to make the world a more beautiful place.

Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats (Alyssa Satin Capucilli/Joan Rankin) – Subtle lessons in numbers and letters compliment this whimsical tale of Mrs. McTats and her 26 cats – plus one dog.

Olivia series (Ian Falconer) – The “Eloise” of pigs! Ian Falconer’s hilarious series about an unforgettable (if a tad precocious) porcine heroine.

The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch) – A Prince and Princess slated to marry don’t end up “happily ever after” – thank goodness, since the Prince is hopelessly shallow. A girl-power favorite.

  • Thomas’ SnowsuitAny parent who has met with a child’s refusal to wear a snowsuit will relate to this story and envy those who live in Arizona.

Pete’s a Pizza (William Steig) – An amusing and endearing story about a father’s attempts to cheer up his son on a rainy day by pretending to turn him into a pizza.

A Pig Named Perrier (Elizabeth Spurr) – A potbellied pig is missing something, despite his Hollywood life of luxury with his movie-star owner, until he takes a trip to a country farm.

Pinkalicious (Victoria Kann/Elizabeth Kann) – A little girl eats one too many pink cupcakes and turns pink for a day… A book for pink-lovers everywhere.

The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats) – The classic Caldecott Medal winner that pays homage to the wonder of a child’s experience when the world is blanketed in snow.

  • Peter’s ChairA little boy wrestles with the arrival of his new sister, and her acquisition of all his “hand-me-down” baby things.

Stella, Queen of the Snow (Marie-Louise Gay) – Stella responds to her little brother Sam’s fears and boundless questions with a delightful blend of fact and fancy, encouraging him to share her joy in his first snowstorm. Others in the series include:

Sugarbush Spring (Marsha Wilson Chall/Jim Daly) – A warm and evocative story depicting life on a Minnesota farm at sap-collecting time.

Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go To Sleep (Joyce Dunbar/Debi Gliori) – Willoughby, a thoughtful bunny, calms his younger sister Willa’s nighttime fears by encouraging her to think happy thoughts.

Tell Me What It’s Like To Be Big – the sequel to “Tell Me Something Happy…” in which Willoughby reassures Willa that being big is something to look forward to.

Toot and Puddle” (Holly Hobbie) – The classic series featuring two good friends whose differing tastes celebrate being true to oneself while still being a true friend.

Where Is That Cat? (Carol Greene/Loretta Krupinski) – Miss Perkins has no intention of keeping the cat she has found, but each time a prospective owner comes by, the cat hides – and it soon becomes clear where “Fitz” will stay.

Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne/Ernest H. Shepard) – The “Bear of Very Little Brain” and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood have delighted readers of all ages for over 80 years. A must for any library.

  • The House at Pooh Cornerin which we meet Tigger, and the adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood continue.
  • When We Were Very YoungMilne’s classic poems about the joys, complexities, and fantasies of childhood.
  • Now We Are SixMore of Milne’s gifted poetry about childhood, beloved by all ages.

and any books by…

  • Sandra Boynton
  • Marc Brown (Arthur series)
  • Margaret Wise Brown
  • Eric Carle
  • Lauren Child
  • Kevin Henkes
  • A. A. Milne
  • Dr. Seuss