When I say my 4 year old is a book hound, I mean it. At an average of 4 books a day(usually six, but there are those days where we only get to four), it adds up to a dead minimum of 1450 we’ve read in the last year. Of course we haven’t read that many titles; some we read over and over and there are certain ones that are met with a wail of “No! Keep that one!” when it’s time to return them, and if I hear it enough, I give in and buy it to keep.
I’ve bought a lot of books this year, especially when the library was closed.
So what keeps a four year old coming back for more? A short engaging story they can identify with, rhyme, repetition (and thus predictability), and relevant illustrations. If the pictures are too abstract, it’s not going to work. Beautiful art feeds the imagination and makes the story memorable. Here’s a short list of the books my four year old can’t stop requesting:
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner. Oh Mr. Wuffles, how many times we’ve “read” you! In this nearly wordless book, Mr. Wuffles the cat causes an alien ship to crash land, and they must team together with the ants in the walls to repair the ship and escape Mr. Wuffles. Brilliant for developing imagination and prediction, because it’s never quite the same story twice.
Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards Two girls with the same doll but very different ideas learn that being a princess or being an action hero is just as much fun. A great way to break out of the perpetual princess phase.
Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer: Classic old-school. We’ve read them all but are still looking for more. Yeah, the oldest ones are still the best, but Critter thinks like a preschooler, and they relate.
Mo Willems‘ Pigeon books are our favorites, but Elephant and Piggie are almost as desired, and Knuffle Bunny is loved. Somehow Pigeon wound up with Brooklyn accent.
Creepy Pair of Underwear and Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown. Four is already aware that underwear are comical, so a book about creepy underwear hits all the marks. Both books lead kids down a slightly scary story but swing it around to a safe and funny conclusion, allowing kids to explore fear safely.
David series by David Shannon. Any of the David books will do – No, David! is the first book she was able to memorize and “read” back to me, word for word. There’s nothing like a kid getting into trouble to teach sympathy and manners – or as my preschooler called it, tablemammals.
Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore. There are several Freckleface books, and they are each sweet and charming and no matter what the difficulty, they wind up in friendship and inclusion without being fake and syrupy. The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are endearing and distinctive – everything she’s illustrated has been wonderful – and she’s done a lot!
Ladybug Girl by David Soman. Lulu loves to dress up as Ladybug Girl with her friends Bumblebee Boy and Grasshopper Girl, sometimes just playing around and sometimes being superheroes and having adventures. Perfect stories for imaginative kids who already want to change the world.
Vampirina series by Anne Marie Pace (and illustrated by LeUyen Pham) is different than the series Disney made from it – more wholesome and childlike. Vampirina’s just a vampire girl trying to fit in with regular society, whether it’s evening ballet lessons or an Addam’s-family style sleep over, with an emphasis on trying your best and being a good friend.
Superheroes: Four seems to be the age when being a hero kicks in. We loved Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, Iron Man, Black Panther – all of them. They’re quick and simple, not very deep, aren’t always written logically, but they give kids enough of a background to understand what their older siblings are watching.
By all means keep rereading Little Blue Truck and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and The Kissing Hand, but if you need something more, give these books a try!