Best book series for kindergartners
Angelina Ice Skates
by: Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig - (Pleasant Company Publications, 2001) 32 pages.
The hook: 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.
Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.
The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant
by: Jean de Brunhoff - (Random House, 1960) 56 pages.
The hook: After his mother is killed by hunters in the jungle, young Babar makes his way to the city where he meets a rich benefactress who teaches him the ways of the civilized world. When Babar returns to the jungle a sophisticated adult elephant, the other elephants make him their king. The books have some old-fashioned moments and dated messages about colonialism, but Babar’s kind, hard-working attitude and the author’s gentle treatment of darker themes (such as the death of Babar’s mother) make this colorfully illustrated series still worth reading.
Want to see the movie? Check out Babar: The Movie and the TV series, Babar, both of which capture the elephant king’s generous spirit while introducing new adventures.
Perfect for: Kids who appreciate a dapper, green-suited elephant.
by: Colin Meloy, illustrated by: Carson Ellis - (Balzer + Bray, 2012) 576 pages.
The hook: When her baby brother, Mac, is kidnapped by a murder of crows, 12-year-old Prue McKeel must enter the Impassable Wilderness to try to get him back. Along with her friend Curtis, they discover an enchanted world full of battle-ready coyotes, talking birds, and other strange creatures who are shockingly different from the animals they’re familiar with in their sheltered life in Portland, Oregon. While the pair work to rescue Mac, they soon find a missing baby brother is just the beginning of the dark goings-on in Wildwood. This compelling and imaginative trilogy — written by the lead singer and songwriter of the quirky folk-rock band The Decemberists — features whimsical Edward Gorey-esque illustrations and a gothic feel that’ll appeal to fans of darker tales, like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Coraline.
Perfect for: Tweens who like dark and whimsical tales with a Victorian flair.
The Day the Crayons …
by: Drew Daywalt, illustrated by: Oliver Jeffers - (Philomel Books, 2013) 40 pages.
The hook: A box of crayons has taken some serious abuse from their owner, Duncan, and they’ve had it! In a series of letters, each color supplies a litany of complaints, like getting used too much (red does all the heavy lifting) and not getting used enough (poor beige is only used to color wheat, and what kid actually colors wheat?). This incredibly creative concept, which is continued in an equally engaging sequel, hooks in kids and adults alike.
Perfect for: Kids with colorful imaginations.
Bonjour Butterfly and the Fancy Nancy series
by: Jane O'Connor, illustrated by: Robin Preiss Glasser - (HarperCollins, 2008) 32 pages.
The hook: Nancy is back and fancier than ever. Once again the team of O’Connor and Glasser have swirled together another elegant Nancy tale with the glamour and humor that have characterized their past Nancy endeavors. After Nancy and her friend Bree become captivated with butterflies, the two girls decide to throw a butterfly party. Everything is going well until Nancy learns that she can’t go to the party because she has to attend her grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party. Thoroughly convinced that she won’t have a good time, Nancy soon learns that her grandparents are indeed just as fancy as she is. Familiar sparkly cover aside, this book is sure to please current Nancy fans. Newcomers to her world will love it too and want to go back and read the rest of her “mah-velous” tales.
Perfect for: Kids who like humor stories.
If You Give…
by: Laura Numeroff, illustrated by: Felicia Bond - (HarperCollins, 2015) 40 pages.
The hook: If you give a mouse a cookie, you never know what might happen. That mouse might want a glass a milk, and then he may need a straw, and then who knows where the story will go. All the books in this sweet and silly series, which have won numerous awards, are written in a circular format. Kids love that the books end right where they began. The short, repetitive phrasing and energetic illustrations help young readers connect with the words.
Perfect for: Kids who can’t wait to know what will happen next.
by: Else Homelund Minarik - (Harper & Bros., 1957) 32 pages.
The hook: Old-fashioned sweetness. Little Bear loves his Mom, Dad, Grandparents, and friends (Duck, Cat, Owl, Hen, and a little girl named Emily). While the stories are simple, they manage to steer clear of syrupy sentimentality and Maurice Sendak’s expressive pen-and ink-illustrations evoke the humor and innocence of a child’s world-view.
Perfect for: Young kids who love simple adventures.
Charlie and Lola
by: Lauren Child - (Candlewick, 2003) 32 pages.
The hook: Lola is absolutely certain about what she likes (strawberry milk) and doesn’t like (tomatoes and going to school), but her older brother Charlie isn’t so sure. With unfailing patience, he uses his wily wit to convince the stubborn Lola to come around in a series that was eventually turned into a TV show. Young readers love Lola’s exaggerated speech when she makes declarations like “I will probably still be perky at even 13 o’clock,” and her imaginative antics, which are presented in scrapbook-style artwork that’s eye-catching and fun.
Perfect for: Kids who are patient (or could be more patient) with their younger siblings.
by: Ludwig Bemelmans - (Viking Press, 1967) 54 pages.
The hook: “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived 12 little girls,” including Madeline, an orphan whose spunk has enchanted young readers since 1939. Beginning with the Caldecott Honor winner Madeline, the six-book series kicks off with little red-haired Madeline waking in the night at her boarding school with a terrible stomachache. But the girl who isn’t scared of tigers won’t let a case of appendicitis get her down. Kids love Madeline’s gutsy attitude and the book’s musical rhymes and quirky illustrations of 1930s Paris.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 1998 live-action adaptation, which is a charming amalgamation of many of the books in the series and stars Frances McDormand as Miss Clavel, or try the TV series Madeline and The New Adventures of Madeline.
Perfect for: Kids who love little adventures.
Max and Ruby series
by: Rosemary Wells - (Viking Books for Young Readers, 1997) 48 pages.
The hook: Ruby, the older sister, has a leg up on just about everything. Although Max, the baby brother, can’t yet speak, read, or write — and is constantly messing-up — in the 25-plus books, he always gets what he wants (much to Ruby’s annoyance), be it the coveted chocolate chicken or the dragon shirt.
Want to see the movie? Check out the Nickelodeon series, which nicely portrays Max and Ruby’s charming sibling bond.
Perfect for: Siblings who drive each other crazy.
by: Rosemary Wells - (Hyperion Books for Children, 1997) 32 pages.
The hook: Set in the 1930s, this vibrantly illustrated series of 10 books follows McDuff, a white Scottish Terrier who escapes from a dogcatcher’s truck in search of a loving home. Though he finds one in a young couple who feed him rice pudding and sausage slices, the little dog struggles with the same sort of problems a young kid might – from dealing with a new baby in the house to causing a ruckus at a relative’s house.
Perfect for: Energetic creatures who mean well, but get themselves into harmless trouble.
by: Hallie Durant, illustrated by: Tony Fucile - (Candlewick Press, 2011) 40 pages.
The hook: “Mitchell was three years, nine months, and five days old when he got his license.” It was the only way his father could get him to go to bed. Instead of chasing Mitchell around the house each night at bedtime, his dad came up with a clever solution: Mitchell could drive to bed, and dad would be the car. Through rollicking illustrations, Mitchell hops into the driver’s seat (on his dad’s shoulders) and with a lead foot takes a wild spin around the house to his bedroom. The trip leaves Dad more tired than Mitchell. This book and Mitchell Goes Bowling show the lovely bond between dad and son with wit and warmth.
Perfect for: Your rambunctious, cars-and-trucks-loving preschooler.
by: Ian Falconer - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000) 40 pages.
The hook: Olivia is a big sister, she has a dog and a cat, and she’s really good at “wearing people out” — including herself. Stark charcoal illustrations with just a splash of color, along with artwork by famous artists such as Degas and Pollock, accompany the stories of Olivia’s adventures as she torments her little brother, saves the circus, paints a mural on her bedroom wall, builds a spectacular sandcastle, forms a one-pig band, and muses about being a ballerina. The adventures of this exuberant pig perfectly capture the irrepressible energy of the preschool set. Both kids and adults appreciate the deadpan humor.
Want to see the movie? Check out the Nick Jr. show, which stays true to the stories and illustration style of the books.
Perfect for: Kids who really know how to wear themselves out.
Pinky and Rex
by: James Howe - (Atheneum, 1996) 48 pages.
The hook: Without a heavy hand, Howe’s stories teach kids that boys and girls can be whoever they want to be. What’s more, they can solve many of the challenges that young kids face — confronting a bully, performing in a school play, or competing in a spelling bee.
Perfect for: For boys who love Pink, girls who loves dinosaurs, and kids who follow their own star.
The Poppy Stories
by: Avi - (Avon Books, 1999)
The hook: Poppy is a mouse who lives with her family at the edge of a forest. If this sounds like the premise a lot of saccharine kiddy books with winsome characters whose minor adventures follow well-worn paths, well, think again. Like E.B. White and other literary giants, Avi imbues his little animals with complex characters and heartrending struggles. No spoiler alert here, but the story offers a rare fictional portrayal of death inside a family.
Perfect for: Kids ready to confront a little nail-biting drama.
Splat the Cat
by: Rob Scotton - (HarperCollins, 2008) 40 pages.
The hook: Splat the Cat has a lot of worries. He’s not sure if the first day of Cat School is going to be any fun. And what if Santa doesn’t bring him any presents, even if he’s really, really good? And what if Spike breaks all of his toys during their playdate? Kids will relate to Splat’s fears and how he overcomes them. And the bold, engaging illustrations will bring on the giggles as Splat bumbles his way through each new experience.
Perfect for: Kids who tend to worry.