Preschool Favorites: a 4-year-old’s Top Ten List

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 WillemsPigeon 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!

 

Connecticut Picturebook Authors

Did you know that some of the most famous, and most loved, children’s authors live in Connecticut? I know that when I sat down determined to find out if any of my favorite authors are, or were, local I was amazed at the caliber of wonderful children’s books that were written right here in Connecticut. Here is a sampling of my favorite picturebook authors that I discovered to be own state treasures.

Mercer Mayer is the writer and illustrator for Little Critter First Readers, as well as Little Critter Spectrum. He began writing and illustrating children’s books in 1966 and has published over 300 titles. He also happens to live in Roxbury Connecticut. I loved the Little Critter books growing up, and now I get to share that love with my children with books like Just for You, There’s a Nightmare in My Closet and Just Go to Bed.

There’s a Nightmare in My Closet

Just for You

Anne Rockwell lives in Old Greenwich Connecticut. You might recognize her name from many picturebooks that are family and library favorites. Many of Anne’s early works were illustrated by her husband Harlow Rockwell. After his death in 1988, their daughter Lizzy stepped up and illustrated many of her books. Apples and Pumpkins, Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train, and The First Snowfall are some of my favorites.

The First Snowfall

Apples and Pumpkins

Nancy Elizabeth Wallace grew up in Rowayton Connecticut, and now lives in Branford Connecticut. She writes and illustrates her picturebooks with cut paper art style images. Nancy often does research at the library for her science based books. She also collects what she is writing about, so that she can see and touch them in order to spark wonder, curiosity, questions, and better understanding. Stars! Stars! Stars!, Baby Day!, Pumpkin Day!, and Count Down to Clean Up! are some of her books that I remember most.

Count Down to Clean Up!

Baby Day!

Unfortunately, one of my favorite children’s author that was born and raised in Meriden Connecticut has since moved up to New Hampshire, Tomie De Paola. He is best known for his Strega Nona books and unique illustration style. Tomie dePaola has written (and/or illustrated) over 200 books for children. He and his work has received the Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution, the Kerlan Award from the University of Minnesota, and the Regina Medal from the Catholic Library Association. My children and I love the books about Strega Nona, Big Anthony, and Bill and Pete books.

Pete and Bill to the Rescue

Strega Nona

Sadly, last year an amazing Connecticut resident, that also happened to be renowned children’s authors and illustrator, passed away. Maurice Sendak, passed away in May of 2012. This Ridgefield Connecticut resident wrote over twenty books, and illustrated more than four times that many. Most connect his name with Where the Wild Things Are, but I fondly remember Chicken Soup with Rice and his illustrations in Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear books as well.

Little Bear

Where the Wild Things Are

There are several phenomenal authors of adult books, young adult books, and children’s chapter books here in our little state as well. I will be sharing some information and favorite books from those Connecticut residents in the weeks to come, so stay tuned.