Don’t you love reading picture books to your 4- and 5-year-olds? Because now they’re getting all the humor and they’re learning ALL THE THINGS. It’s such a blast, right?! Here are favorite picture books to read to your preschool-age kids and students…that they will LOVE!
And don’t worry, there are PLENTY more amazing books than on this list. If you want more book ideas by topic, go to this comprehensive book list by topic.
Favorite Books for 4- and 5-Year Olds
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and James Dean
4- and 5-year olds love to sing their own catchy tunes or listen to the author’s melody for: “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes . . . ” It will get stuck in your head — and you won’t mind one bit! This story is all about going with the flow …”‘cause it’s all good.“
Hello, World! by Ethan Long
Welcome to Happy County where the charming animal characters are living their lives — at the dog park, ball park, school, town, and country. The characters are busy, busy living their lives similar to Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town. Look at all the things happening on Farmer Dell’s farm! Then maybe you can help Mr. Grizzles and Ms. Green find the birds they’re searching for. There’s so much going on in this busy community which makes this book a treasure trove with labeled objects and lovable characters.
Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood
The lower case letters find the missing “x” and encounter the villainous capital letter “M” — this is a four- and five-year-old favorite to read over and over again.
Everyone’s Awake by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Shawn Harris
What a crazy night! The entire family is awake and doing all sorts of imaginative, random things. “Grandma’s at her needlework. Dad is baking bread. My brother’s making laundry lists of every book he’s read.” Rollicking, rhythmic verses plus neon-bright action-packed illustrations capture the exuberance and activity of this busy night.
Hippos Are Huge! by Jonathan London, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Excellent writing and illustrations make this one of the best nonfiction animal picture books. Bigger text pairs with smaller factual text to give younger readers tons of information.
King Hugo’s Huge Ego by Chris Van Dusen
You will LOVE this funny rhyming book about a king who thinks VERY highly of himself and, as a result, is cursed by a witch. The curse means that every time he utters more self-important words, his head inflates. Surprisingly, the king doesn’t mind because that means there is more of him to love. How will the king ever learn his valuable lesson in humility? Kids love this delightful story with a fantastic moral. (We read this book EVERY night for months.)
Quest by Aaron Becker
In this enchanting and imaginative picture book written only in pictures that will transport four- and five-year-olds to a magical world. My kids and I poured over every beautiful detail in the pictures and so will yours. Follow a boy and girl with a purple (magical) bird on their quest to save the king and his kingdom.
Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O’Byne
What could be a very sweet story about the Ugly Duckling quickly turns very silly, er, scary when a CROCODILE sneaks onto the pages. Gasp. Watch out! First, he eats the letters, then whole words, and finally, the sentences. It’s up to you, the reader, to get rid of him. (You might even draw a tutu on him!)
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Lucy yawns while her mother reads her a bedtime story and drifts off to sleep. Later, she wakes up suddenly in the dark, realizing that she doesn’t have her special stuffed bear, Molasses. As she makes her way back to bed with Molasses and her friends, readers will help count her yawns. Can you count all twenty? Beautiful illustrations perfectly set the tone for this comforting bedtime story.
A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Mariona Cabassa
A little girl excitedly explores the market to find her Amma a gift. She notices the colors — orange saffron and marigolds, white jasmine and goats, pink lotus flowers and sweets…I love how many senses the author engages from sights to sounds and tastes and smells. “Tumeric yellow like sunshine dust, Plenty of powdery spice at home. A yellow rickshaw pedals by — Ding-a-ling! I scoot to the side.” Beautiful illustrations perfectly illuminate the celebration of the market’s colors and the girl’s excitement.
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is ready to jump off the diving board. Mostly. His dad tells Jabari that he feels scared too, and sometimes after a deep breath and telling himself he is ready, the thing stops feeling scary and feels like a surprise instead. I really like this advice. And it works for Jabari, too. Beautiful illustrations, perfect text to picture ratio, and a helpful, relatable story with a diverse main character make this book a must-read.
Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
An alphabet book with a twist! Kids love this hilarious alphabet book about a very impatient moose and his kind friend, Zebra.
Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler, illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Sleepy the Goodnight Buddy by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Scott Campbell
This kid, Roderick, has impressive sleep stalling strategies. So his parents get him a stuffed animal named Sleepy. Who talks. Who is even more of an expert in sleep stalling strategies than Roderick. In a hilarious role reversal, Roderick gets Sleepy a glass of water, reads him a story (The Day the Crayons Quit), checks the closet, and does all the things that Roderick’s parents used to do for him…until Roderick is exasperated. With that, Roderick falls asleep. Look carefully at Sleepy’s expression–what satisfaction!
The Whole Story by Vivian McInerny, illustrated by Ken Lamug
Zia falls through the hole in her pocket. She makes the hole into whatever she needs — a fishing hole, a swimming hole, a watering hole (for the cloud animals), and even an elephant trip. It’s a twisty-turny, creative adventure of imagination!
Snubbed by the trains, the new wooden train tracks decide they’ll show the other tracks fun ways to play — like hide and go track, tick-track-toe, tracks stack towers, dominoes, and so much more. These creative play ideas will get your kids thinking of their train tracks in many new, inventive ways. One of my new favorite picture books for 4- and 5- year olds, this one is a kid-favorite keeper.
Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
Goat is very irritated when Unicorn moves to town and seems to shows up Goat. Goat made marshmallow squares but Unicorn makes it rain cupcakes. That makes Goat feel very jealous. But when Unicorn prances by, he’s amazed by Goat’s cheese, goat’s ability to eat garbage, his ability to head-butt the soccer ball and his cloven hooves. And before you know it, the two are best friends. Goat says, “You know something, Unicorn? I had a feeling we’d be friends.” HA.
We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
After a rough first day at school where she eats her classmates, gets scolded by the teacher, spits them out, and doesn’t make any friends, Penelope’s dad explains that “children are the same as us on the inside. Just tastier.” HA. The next day, Penelope eats her classmates again. (She just can’t stop herself!) However, when the class goldfish chomps on Penelope’s finger and it HURTS, she realizes that it’s no fun to be someone else’s snack. EMPATHY!! 🙂 So even when her classmates look delicious, Penelope tries to remember what it felt like…and she resists eating them. Which means now she has friends and playmates at school. Talk about a great life lesson — do unto others…
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebastia Serra
You’ll have a blast reading this cheerful, lyrical bilingual story! The farm maiden hangs the piñata. Who is it for? How did it get to be ready? You will see in this clever cumulative tale how the farmer, his family, and the animals helped to prepare the piñata and the birthday party festivities. Spanish words are in bolded capital letters and supported with lively illustrations so readers can infer what each word means. The repetition will help reinforce each new word. You’ll learn the piñata song at the end of this story, too — in English and in Spanish and directions to make your own piñata. A glossary of Spanish words at the ending should also help for any clarification. I love this sparkling celebration of culture and family!
I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
When a classmate is being bullied, what can you do? This wordless picture book shows that sometimes it’s about showing someone that they are not alone. You can do what this girl does: show kindness and walk home with a lonely, hurting person. Added to: Picture Books About Kindness
We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Julia Cairns
Gentle rhymes, some repetitive text (LOVE), and plenty of gorgeous safari vistas make you feel as though you’re along with this Maasai family as they spot (and count) wildebeests, lions, warthogs, and more animals on their safari. Absolutely lovely.
Hooray For Amanda & Her Alligator by Mo Willems
George and Martha books are some of our favorite books so when we read Hooray For Amanda and Her Alligator, I felt like I was reading an homage to George and Martha but with a girl named Amanda and her stuffed alligator. Told in 6 1/2 vignettes, the stories are all about surprises — a surprising surprise, an un-surprising surprise, a surprising tickle, a surprising value, a surprising . . . you get the idea. Both funny and poignant, this is an essential picture book for your 4- and 5-year-olds.
You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown
I love how hilarious this book is! Really seriously funny. Lucy, God-love her, is very enthusiastic about making friends with a forest critter. Her good intentions go awry and soon Lucy is yelling at animals — “Come back here and have fun with me” and “You WILL be my friend.” A sit turns out, that isn’t such a great way to make friends, either. Will Lucy ever make a friend?
I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt
This zany preschool counting book with all the worms is a laugh-out-loud adventure in neon pink, yellow, white, and black. The narrator explains that he can only draw worm so that’s exactly what he does –draws lots of worms. Ten worms actually with super funny commentary.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Curious Ada loves questions and thinking just as much as she loves science experiments. Even when in time out, Ada is thinking and wondering . . . all over the wall. I love this spunky science-loving character of color and know you will, too.
You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Liz Climo
Get the inside scoop as our narrator breaks down the perils of unicorn as pets. They can’t be house-trained, they have really big unicorn parties, the horn is very destructive, especially after jumping, . . . it’s just not as awesome as you might think. What a helpful cautionary tale! (added to: 22 Magical Children’s Books About Unicorns)
Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman
Good thing for this farming family that their chickens will help with EVERYTHING! Except on Sunday. A delightful adventure that reminds kids of the days of the week, too.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
Don’t miss this unpredictable and side-splitting story, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. In this remix, we have Dinosaurs instead of bears; Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway. And “one day, for no particular reason, the three Dinosaurs made up their beds, positioned their chairs just so, and cooked three bowls of delicious chocolate pudding at varying temperatures.” Also, in this story, the dinosaurs eat little succulent children. Oh, and there is some sarcasm. And by some, I mean a lot.
Blanket: Journey to Extreme Coziness by Loryn Brantz
Grab a blanket and get ready for a cozy trip of your imagination! First, a child explains to you about cocoons and butterflies then tells you how to make your own blanket cocoon, step by step. The child explains that you use your imagination to go places. When you’re ready, you wonder what will happen when you get out — because you know it could be an exciting transformation. Beautifully designed and illustrated.
Greatest Animal Stories chosen by Michael Morpurgo
ANIMALS / FABLES
Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
A little girl sits sadly on her porch steps thinking about the colors of the rainbow and how black isn’t in the rainbow. Poignant, lyrical metaphors and luminous illustrations tell readers what black is in the girl’s world — a crayon, a feather, braids, rhythm, blues, trains, dreams, and so much more. “Black is the color of ink staining page. Black is the mask that shelters his rage. Black are the birds in cages that sing– Black is a color. Black is a culture.// …My color is Black.” Her narration wholeheartedly celebrates black culture, showing pride, context, and history. She ends with the statement that in her box of crayons, black is a rainbow, too. Every single part of this incredible book is meaningful, beautiful, and memorable.
Saturday by Oge Mora
Everything on their special day goes wrong but the mom and child acknowledge it’s all okay still because they’re together. What an important message about spending time with someone you love. Also, the ART — I can’t get enough of Mora’s collage artwork, it’s vibrant and beautiful.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault
A classic favorite of childhood, this picture book is a rhyming story of alphabet letters having fun.
Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex
HILARIOUS — and a guaranteed new read-aloud favorite for your preschool kids. The narrator is trying to find out if Darth Vader is scared of anything. Maybe when this wolfman pops out? Or bites him? Or a vampire? Or a ghost? Black cats? “I AM NOT SCARED. I WILL NEVER BE SCARED. WHO COULD POSSIBLY SCARE LORD VADER?” Apparently, nothing will scare Darth Vader. There’s an unexpectedly tender moment when Darth Vader reveals that he is cursed…and seems sad. Then a surprise ending with what actually displeases, er, scares Darth Vader. What do you think it is? And there’s a second surprise ending, too!
Another by Christian Robinson
In this exuberant celebration of imagination, a little girl is asleep in her bed when an oval door opens into the wall. She follows her black cat and the new cat into what seems to be another world of topsy-turvy colorful dots and rectangles, more oval doors, many diverse kids, and another girl and her cat that look exactly like them. The white space and repetition of shapes feel playful and fresh. A feast for the eyes and mind!
You might also like: Meaningful Activities with Wordless Picture Books.
Poor Puppy and Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
You’ll be laughing through this silly alphabetical story about Puppy and Kitty and their playful adventures.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
4- and 5-year-olds immediately “get” the humor in the illustrations. As Sam and Dave dig their hole and dig and dig, they find nothing. But their dog, he’s sniffed out the world’s biggest diamond. Dogs know what’s up. Your kids will giggle their way through this favorite story!
Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Edlridge
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong
My daughter says this is SO MUCH better than the original Goldilocks and the Three Bears because in this story of a young Chinese girl named Goldy. Goldy returns to the scene of her crime to apologize and help fix things. This is a better ending. I agree.
It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
Festival of Colors by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Don’t miss this delightful book showing a sequential day filled with the many happy possibilities at school including storytime, recess, playing with new friends, and a kind teacher. Because today you’re going to be the King of Kindergarten! Rich imagery filled with hyperbole and metaphors harmoniously complement the lush illustrations, creating a festive atmosphere filled with exuberance and bravery.
Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Bear discovers that observation of small moments can turn into big adventures with friends. He isn’t aware that he’s on an adventure until he’s floating down the river on a log with Froggy on his head soon to be joined by Turtles, Beaver, and Racoons who don’t know they need to be careful until they run into Duck. With a wonderful circular ending and after a fun-filled fall of the waterfall, the friends realize they’re sharing life together…because the river came along.