Favorite Books for Preschoolers
Our panel of children's book experts recommends these great books for your preschooler.
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).
There are many books about animals for children, but none that provide information about their relative sizes in such a meaningful way. Caldecott-winning author Jenkins uses his unique cut- and torn-paper illustrations to show readers the "actual size" of a collection of animals. Smaller creatures like the atlas moth fit comfortably on the page, but the head of the saltwater crocodile requires a fold-out, and the head of the Siberian tiger extends off of two large pages! Text is minimal, usually restricted to statistics about the size of each of the creatures illustrated, but there are additional notes about each of the animals at the end of the book. 34 pages.
Interest grade level: K-5. Ellen Phillips
The Adventures of Max and Pinky, Best Buds by Maxwell Eaton III (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2006).
Max, a boy, and Pinky, a pig, capture the imagination of young readers. This book is very easily read by children, but teachers and parents will also enjoy reading it in class or at home. Max and Pinky has the engaging universal theme of friendship. 32 pages.
Children's Choices
Anatole (50th Anniversary Edition) by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone (Knopf, 2006).
Anatole is a story of honor and one anthropomorphic mouse's search for self-respect. Just a simple family mouse, Anatole is a hard-worker and gentle friend with high ideals. Rather than giving in and accepting what seems to be the lowly lot of mice in Paris, which would be the easy thing to do, he is determined to become something more honorable. Intent on earning what he eats, he becomes a "mouse of action!" and gains the respect of everyone around him. The first of ten Anatole adventures, Anatole was originally published in 1956 and won the Caldecott Award. 40 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Read aloud: Age 4, Read alone: Age 8.
Common Sense Media
Angelina Ice Skates by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig (Viking, 2007).
When Holabird and Craig teamed up to create the first Angelina Ballerina picture book in 1983, no one could have dreamt how long this little mouse with big dreams would endure. This lovely tale about New Year's Eve party plans gone awry doesn't disappoint. Still filled with dancing (this time on the ice) and friendship, Angelina's newest escapade is sure to fill your child with winter wonder. 32 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss (Random House, 1949).
Hilarious Seussian text and zany pictures to match. A great pleasure to read aloud. Questions the wisdom of tampering with nature. May prompt discussion about weather. The merits of apologizing are pointed out through well-crafted writing. 48 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: 4-8, Read Aloud: 4+, Read Alone: 6+. Common Sense Media
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert (Simon and Schuster, 1989).
When "a" tells "b" and "c", "d" and "e" to meet at the top of the coconut tree, all of the alphabet joins in the rollicking adventure. Too many vowels and consonants bring a crash that calls mamas, papas, uncles and aunts (the capital letters, of course) to the rescue. Skit Skat Skoodle Doot, Flip Flop Flee, no sooner are the little letters comforted and consoled than the rhyming tale begins anew with a moonlight challenge: "Dare double dare, you can't catch me. I'll beat you to the top of the coconut tree!" Dr. Jan LaBonty
Corduroy by Don Freeman(Penguin Putnam, 1968).
Corduroy offers children a feel-good story line, a memorable main character and charming illustrations. Bright, loosely drawn pictures feature scenes familiar to many children: shelves of toys, department stores and bedrooms. The characters' facial expressions of sadness, curiosity and joy are drawn so that even the youngest children can understand much of the story simply by looking at the pictures. This classic book also offers the added benefit of subtle lessons in good behavior. Lisa, the kind little girl who buys and befriends the teddy bear, Corduroy, doesn't fuss and cry in the toy department when her mother tells her that she may not buy the bear. When Lisa returns to buy Corduroy the next day, she does so with her mother's blessing and the money from her own piggy bank. Lisa looks past Corduroy's missing button and sees a friend to love. 32 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Read Aloud: Ages 0-4.
Common Sense Media
Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed? by Barney Saltzberg (Candlewick Press, 2005).
Cornelius P. Mud takes care of bedtime rituals in a very unusual way, by feeding cookies to his fish and putting his toys in the refrigerator. Children love the illustrations that tell what Cornelius does when he answers mother's question. 28 pages.
Children's Choices
Escape of Marvin the Ape by Caralyn and Mark Buehner (Puffin, 1999).
Marvin the ape has escaped from the zoo and is fitting into everyday life quite nicely. Will the zoo find him before one of the other animals follows suit? 32 pages. Krisha Roach
Flower Fairies of the Winter by Cicely Mary Barker (Warne, 2002).
The fairy folk of the winter season are celebrated in this beloved classic passed down from generation to generation. First published in the 1920s and now reissued in a keepsake hardcover edition, Barker's original artwork and poetry are preserved in this unique combination of naturalism and fantasy. Both a charming read-aloud and a book your young one will choose as a lifelong favorite. 80 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
A Good Day by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 2007).
When each animal faces a moment that threatens to ruin his day, we can all empathize. The sad eyes of the bird, dog, fox and squirrel look up at us, stunned at the fact that something has gone wrong in each of their worlds. And we feel for them. But then ... "But then" are two words that change the world. Life does move on, things turn around and what seemed like a bad day is suddenly good. And, to top it all off, what had created the fleeting disappointment in one world actually adds to happiness in another. What a great lesson! And what a beautiful book! Keith Henke is an award-winning author/illustrator who knows how to zero in on important lessons and is not afraid to try new things. His creative works range from the simplicity of this book for tots to the bubbly, well-loved Lily books to moving stories for older kids. This is among his best. 32 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Read Aloud: Ages 2+, Read Alone: Ages 4+.
Common Sense Media
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norman Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka (Michael Di Capua, 2006).
It's easy to see why this book about a young girl's trips to her grandparents' house was awarded the Caldecott Medal for best picture book illustrations. The bright, mixed-media images capture both a childlike energy and the warmth of a loving family. Young readers will recognize their own favorite family rituals as they watch the unnamed narrator count stars with her grandma from inside the kitchen window, or see her grandfather very seriously preparing her oatmeal for breakfast. This is a charming book that you and your kids will want to say hello to over and over again. 32 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Read aloud: Age 2, Read alone: Age 6.
Common Sense Media
How to Be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Laurie Kransy Brown and Marc Brown (Little, Brown Young Readers, 1998).
Fun dinosaur characters explain important facts about friendship. Through silly illustrations, the authors explore different ways to make friends and appropriate ways to cope with difficult situations and emotions such as arguments, bullying and rejection. 32 pages.
Reading Level: K-2.
PBS Bookfinder
I Knew You Could by Craig Dorfman, illustrated by Christina Ong (Grosset & Dunlap, 2003).
A sweetly written nostalgic book. Singsong rhyming verse combined with the familiar blue engine helps us remember that anything is possible if you persevere. Younger children may need help understanding the greater meanings behind each rhyming verse. This book encourages children to believe in themselves. Darlene Kenny
May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, illustrated by Beni Montresor (Aladdin, reprint edition 1989).
This gentle, rhyming story about a boy who is a regular visitor to the king and queen is sure to be one of your child's favorites. Each time he goes for a visit, he politely asks to bring a friend. Each time the king and queen tell him that any friend of his is welcome - though his choice of friends will surprise and amuse your child. Caldecott Medal, 1965. 48 pages.
Reading Level: K-1.
PBS Bookfinder
Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2007).
Millie the Cow loves to scare the mailman every day. When Millie's tricks leave him in a mess, she learns to love something new. Children make many text-to-self connections to Millie and her silly tricks and hiding places. 32 pages.
Children's Choices
Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster, 2008).
Books that encourage a child to interact with the text are the perfect way to foster a love of reading. In Monkey and Me, a little girl and her toy monkey love to imitate animals. The book employs a rhyming refrain and charming illustrations that encourage the reader to play along. Start by reading Monkey and Me together and be amazed when you see your child reading it alone again and again. 32 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann (Roaring Brook Press, 2002).
With its strong artistic lines, simple text and uplifting message, My Friend Rabbit is a book that should be a part of every young child's library. How to play with the big kids, how to share a treasured toy and how to solve problems for yourself are the primary themes. Whether or not people will still be your friends when you mess up is another. All of this is addressed in the simple, supportive friendship of Rabbit and Mouse. Their relationship and Rabbit's shenanigans bring to mind other mischievous but well-meaning characters such as Curious George, the Cat in the Hat and, of course, the Froggy from the series by Jonathan London. Caldecott Award winner. 32 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Read aloud: Age 4, Read alone: Age 6.
Common Sense Media
On Earth by G. Brian Karas. (Putnam, 2005).
Karas takes readers on "a giant ride in space/spinning like a merry-go-round" With minimal text, the book explains in words and colorful pictures the Earth's daily and yearly cycles. Although the concepts are complex, children will get a rudimentary explanation of the orbit, rotation and tilt of planet Earth, gravity, why we have seasons, and what happens as day turns into night. Vocabulary is simple for early readers, but because the scientific concepts are complex, some adult explanation will be welcome. 32 pages.
Reading grade level: 3 (or Read Aloud for Kindergartners), Interest grade level: K-3. Ellen Phillips
The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend, illustrated by John Manders (Candlewick, 2007).
This is a story about Jack, a cat who builds the perfect nest to get the perfect egg for his omelet. However, Jack winds up with more than he bargained for. Students will enjoy making predictions about what they think will happen next. 40 pages.
Children's Choices
Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae, illustrated by David Wojtowycz (Tiger Tales, 2001).
Preschoolers and kindergartners are sure to fall in love with this rhythmic read aloud. If your little one is mesmerized by animals of the jungle, then this book is a must have. Travel on a jungle adventure with a small group of ants and see what wild animals you may encounter. Could it be a lion, a zebra or an elephant, too? Look inside and a surprise is waiting for you. Jennifer Thompson
Snow by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998).
Snowflakes fall one by one, slowly covering the city in a beautiful white blanket. Your child will enjoy this story as one boy celebrates the joys of a new snowfall. Simple text and wonderful illustrations make this award-winner perfect for a young audience. Caldecott Honor Book, 1999 PBS Bookfinder
The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett (Putnam, 2007).
No one illustrates the cozy comforts of winter better than Jan Brett. In her newest picture book, she retells the favorite children's story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with an Arctic Inuit twist. As is Brett's practice, intricately drawn side panels convey more details of the story. This is a book to be read and discovered again and again. 32 pages.
Danielle Marshall and the Kids' Team at
When Mama Comes Home Tonight by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jane Dyer (Simon and Schuster, 1998).
Don't all parents and toddlers wish bedtime went this smoothly! Although the rituals are romanticized — devoid of tantrums or battles of wills — children will love the tenderness and safety this story provides. The simple, flowing text encourages children, even those with limited language skills, to repeat rhyming words and peaceful passages. Calming illustrations capture universal rituals of snuggling, playing, eating, bathing, a bedtime story and a lullaby song. Children and their working parents will find this ideal environment comforting. 32 pages.
Read the complete review on the Common Sense Media Web site.
Recommended Reading Level: Baby-Preschool
Common Sense Media
Meet Our Experts
Children's Choices, a project of the International Reading Association and The Children's Book Council, is an annual list of favorite books chosen by children.
Common Sense Media is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping parents make informed media and entertainment choices for their families.
Jennifer Thompson is a Reading Specialist for the Manassas City Public Schools in Virginia. She was recently awarded the Washington Post's Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Jennifer has 18 years of teaching experience, a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Reading Specialist License for K-12.
Krisha Ashley Roach is an early education administrator. As a former book seller for over 16 years she created reading lists for K-12 teachers. Krisha is the mother of three boys,
ages 13, 10 and 2.
On PBS Parents, a section of the PBS Web site, you'll find a feature called Bookfinder, where you can discover books geared to the age of your child.
From a storefront in 1971 in Portland, Oregon, Powells Books, an independent family-owned bookstore, has grown into a mecca for book lovers with six locations in the Portland area and an award-winning Web site.
Updated February 2009

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