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. Wufflesby 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 KnuffleBunny is loved. Somehow Pigeon wound up with Brooklyn accent. Creepy Pair of Underwear andCreepy 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. Davidseries 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 Girlby 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.
A great picturebook is one that has a perfect pairing of illustrations and words. It should have a story that is interesting to most age groups, and artwork that makes you want to go back for more. Sometimes however you find a picturebook that has such wonderful illustrations that it could be wordless or a reader could ignore the words all together simply because of the perfection of the illustrations. Here are some picture books that have great stories and concepts, but truly stand out because of the fabulous artwork that helps to tell the story.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas
A small boy tries to discover the meaning of “memory” so he can restore that of an elderly friend.
Blueberry Girlwritten by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess
Rhyming text expresses a prayer for a girl to be protected from such dangers as nightmares at age three or false friends at fifteen, and to be granted clearness of sight and other favors.
Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth When Stillwater the bear moves into the neighborhood, the stories he tells to three siblings teach them to look at the world in new ways.
On Market Street written by Arnold Lobel, pictures by Anita Lobel
A child buys presents from A to Z in the shops along Market Street.
Owl Moon written by Jane Yolen illustrated by John Schoenherr
On a winter’s night under a full moon, a father and daughter trek into the woods to see the Great Horned Owl.
You might not know it, but the children’s cataloging office is a very busy place to be. It can also be quite a bit of fun! The number of fantastic picturebooks that cross our desks is absolutely astounding. Sometimes we are so impressed by a book, or so entertained by it, that a staff storytime must be held and some of the new favorites shared. Here are some of the favorites from recent staff storytimes.
Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Olé
Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Olé is one of many books we have enjoyed from Judith Byron Schachner. In this book about everyone’s favorite Siamese cat that pretends to be a Chihuahua, we see him wanting to perform his high-wire act in the circus. If you get your hands on a copy of this, or any Skippyjon book, with the CD of the author reading the story to you I highly recommend it!
Swim, Swim by Lerch (also known as James Proimos) is a picturebook about a fish named Lerch. He is very lonely and in search of a friend. After trying to befriend some unreceptive, inanimate, and unusual creatures he finally finds a friend.
The hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School
Then there is The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson. The hair of this young girl reminds me of my daughter’s – thick and unruly. This young girl’s talented, but mostly untamed, tresses do not impress her strict first-grade teacher, who has rules for everything, including hair.
Otis and the Tornado
One of our most recent favorites is Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long about Otis the tractor. When a tornado threatens the farm, Otis tries to save all of the animals, including the unfriendly bull.
Some other authors that frequent our storytimes are Bob Shea, Mo Willems, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Do you have a favorite picturebook or picturebook author?