Best book series for preschoolers – ever
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.
Clifford the Big Red Dog
by: Norman Bridwell - (Scholastic, 1985) 32 pages.
The hook: When Emily Elizabeth first got Clifford, he was a tiny red puppy. But Clifford grew and grew — and now he’s bigger than a house. This beloved series starts with Clifford the Big Red Dog and follows Emily and Clifford through adventures, sleepovers, starting school, holidays, and more. Spanning more than 50 years and 75 books, this series appeals to children with its cartoonish illustrations and sweet storylines about a gentle red dog who’ll never fit into a regular-sized doghouse.
Want to see the movie? Check out Clifford’s Really Big Movie (2004) or the PBS Kids series Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Perfect for: Kids who love pets.
by: Don Freeman - (Viking Press, 1968)
The hook: Corduroy, a teddy bear who has always wanted a friend, goes searching all around the department store (where he lives) for the missing button on his overalls. Happily, his new friend Lisa finds him, delivers him to his new home, and sews on a new button. In all of his little adventures into the big world, Corduroy finds the wonder in everyday things — even mattresses and laundry mats.
Perfect for the curious little bears in all of us.
by: H.A. Rey - (Houghton Mifflin, 1969) 64 pages.
The hook: Curious George is a mischievous little monkey who lives with his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat. Kids today may question why the Man with the Yellow Hat would remove George from his life in the jungle, but they’ll enjoy George’s zany antics as he escapes from jail, goes for a balloon ride, visits the hospital, and more.
Want to see the movie? Check out the 2006 adaptation, which combines the plot of several of the classic books, or try the long-running PBS Kids series.
Perfect for: Kids whose curiosity gets them into unexpected situations.
Elephant and Piggie books
by: Mo Willems - (Disney-Hyperion, 2010) 64 pages.
The hook: This hilariously conceived series stars two friends who couldn’t be more different: stodgy, harumphing Elephant and optimistic, zanny Piggie. Each tale deftly explores the nuances of friendship and human (well, animal) foibles to brilliant effect. It’s also a wonderful tool for teaching fluency: Because the text involves lots of repetition as the characters pass back ideas or argue — “We’re in a book.” “We’re in a book?!” — no child can read this text in a dull monotone.
Perfect for: Early readers (and their parents) with a sense of the absurd.
George and Martha series
by: James Marshall - (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1973) 48 pages.
The hook: George and Martha are hippos and best friends. Every bite-sized story (there are several within each book) is wry, sly, and ingeniously simple, teaching lessons that are never didactic and always funny about having good manners, and most of all, being a good friend.
Perfect for: Hippo-lovin’ early readers with a sense of humor.
Good Night Our World series
by: Adam Gamble - (Our World of Books, 2006)
The hook: Leave the “great green room” behind and expand your child’s bedtime repertoire with these wonderful stories that take place in different cities and states around the country.
Perfect for: Kids who like bedtime 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.
Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity
by: Mo Willems - (Hyperion Books for Children, 2007) 48 pages.
The hook: Anyone who has ever treasured a special doll or stuffed animal will understand Trixie’s feeling as she trots off to school to share “her one-of-a-kind Knuffle Bunny.” Her eyes are wide with excitement as she tugs her father behind her along the Brooklyn Streets, and she can hardly breathe as she lists the names of all the kids with whom she is going to share him. They also will understand her dismay and unhappiness when the day doesn’t turn out as she expected, and why she cannot sleep at night until the case of mistaken identity is solved. Once again, Mo Willems has created a masterpiece that will engage kids and parents alike. He has set simply drawn, yet colorful and expressive, cartoon characters against real black-and-white photographs of Brooklyn. The effect is captivating! On top of that, the language is straightforward and somewhat understated, which completes this perfect package.
Perfect for: Kids who like mysteries.
by: Anna Dewdney - (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2012) 40 pages.
The hook: This little llama has some big problems — or at least they feel big to a typical preschooler. Learning to share, having a temper tantrum, and other llama dramas are deftly handled with age-appropriate rhymes that are silly, but never condescending. Expressive illustrations perfectly capture the llamas’ moods, from bright and bubbly to just about to blow.
Perfect for: Little kids with big emotions.
Lola Reads to Leo
by: Anna McQuinn, illustrated by: Rosalind Beardshaw - (Charlesbridge, 2012) 28 pages.
The hook: Lola loves reading, especially reading with her mom and dad every day before bedtime. One night, Lola gets super excited when the book is about a girl with a new baby brother. When Leo arrives, Lola helps out by reading a book to him for every occasion: a duck story when he’s in the bath, a potty book when he’s being diapered, and a sleepy story when it’s his bedtime. Then it’s Lola’s turn. At the end of the day, Leo’s big sister still gets to cuddle and read with her parents. Vibrant, cheerful illustrations and simple, lively text make this and other books in the Lola series a joy to read.
Perfect for: Big brothers and sisters who want to share something they love with the new kid in town.
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: 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.
The Pigeon series
by: Mo Willems - (Hyperion Books for Children, 2003)
The hook: This series about a persistent pigeon draws in young children by making the bird’s adventures (and hilarious tantrums) relatable. A fun read for both parents and preschoolers.
Perfect for: Kid who likes humor books.
How Do Dinosaurs…? series
by: Jane Yolen, illustrated by: Mark Teague - (Blue Sky Press, 2000)
The hook: Do good little dinosaurs clean up their rooms with a shovel or broom? Or spit out their broccoli partially chewed? No, of course not! Kids love seeing dinosaurs behaving badly in this funny series, which smartly introduces the concept of opposites by comparing bad behaviors to good with silly (but scientifically correct) illustrations of dinosaurs. Written by two of the most prolific children’s writers of our time, this entertaining series deftly teaches kids manners and tackles common fears, like going to the doctor, while never getting sappy or preachy. As a result, this series is a proven hit with the under-6 set.
Perfect for: Kids who like adventure stories.