Kindergarten books so great, they made a movie
by: Julia Donaldson, illustrated by: Axel Scheffler - (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1999) 32 pages.
The hook: The Gruffalo is a creature with “terrible tusks in its terrible jaws.” But don’t you know? There’s no such thing as a gruffalo. In this rhyming story, a brave little mouse walking through the forest uses the threat of the gruffalo to scare away predators. Little does he know that he’s about to come face-to-face with his own creation! Full of age-appropriate thrills, this not-too-scary story is a great read-aloud choice for preschoolers and kindergartners.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2011 animated short film, which is entertaining enough for early readers but mild enough for the youngest viewers.
Perfect for: Kids who are drawn to mild monsters.
Find The Gruffalo at your local library.
Lost and Found
by: Oliver Jeffers - (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2005) 32 pages.
The hook: A young boy finds a lost penguin on his stoop and embarks on a journey to help the penguin find its way home. But after a big trip in a tiny rowboat — all the way to the South Pole — the boy realizes that the penguin was never lost; he was just lonely! This tale of an unlikely friendship, with watercolor illustrations that are both lush and simple, is off-the-charts adorable.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2013 short-but-sweet film adaptation (it clocks in at less than 30 minutes).
Perfect for: Helping kids understand the value of friendship.
Find Lost and Found at your local library.
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.
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.
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.
The Polar Express
by: Chris Van Allsburg - (Houghton Mifflin, 1985) 32 pages.
The hook: A young boy begins to doubt his belief in Santa Claus. But then he hears the whistle of a train on Christmas Eve, and he’s whisked away on a gorgeously illustrated train trip that restores his belief in the magic of the season. A modern Christmas story by the author of the imaginative tales Jumanji and Zathura, The Polar Express has a powerful message about the Christmas spirit and growing up that appeals to kids and adults alike.
Want to see the movie? The 2004 animated film comes close to capturing the feeling of Van Allsburg’s illustrations, though sensitive young viewers may find it a bit too suspenseful.
Perfect for: Kids who love Christmas, and Santa, all year long.
Find The Polar Express at your local library.
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: A.A. Milne, illustrated by: E.H. Shepard - (Dutton, 1926) 176 pages.
The hook: Did you know that Christopher Robin and his bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, are inspired by the author’s son and his teddy bear? The tales of their adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood have been charming kids since 1926. The original book and its companion, The House at Pooh Corner, follow the bumbling Pooh, the wise Christopher Robin, the timid Piglet, the silly Tigger, and all of their animal friends through a series of small, everyday adventures. The reading level will be too challenging for most kindergartners, but the books’ themes and pacing make them appealing read-alouds for this age group.
Want to see the movie? The 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the 2011 Winnie the Pooh are faithful adaptations of the original books that will especially appeal to preschoolers and kindergartners.
Perfect for: Kids who like to imagine their stuffed toys coming to life.