26 Picture Books, Loved by a Mom and Her Four-Year-Old


A mom reading a book to her children.I have always loved taking my children to the library.

I have vivid memories of stuffing the storage basket of my stroller with dozens of books when I had an infant and a toddler. Once those two kids aged out of the stroller, I started bringing a beach bag to our weekly visits. My shoulder would ache as I lugged the dozens of books, but my heart was full. Reading was a sacred activity, and they were excited by the latest books we had checked out.

At that point, my local library had a program called Leap into Reading, which encouraged parents to read 1000 books to their children before they entered kindergarten. A full wall was devoted to a pond of progress. For every 100 books read, the child’s name would be written on a lily pad, and when they reached 1000 books, they would get to choose a brand new book to keep forever.

I can still see my oldest daughter beaming with pride when she “leaped” to that final lily pad and took home a pristine copy of How This Book Was Made. She was still four years old and would be starting kindergarten in a little over a month. (Her little brother earned Last Stop on Market Street a few weeks later.)

The Leap into Reading program no longer exists, but my youngest, still four and about to enter kindergarten, has certainly read the recommended 1000 books. With her, I take two large totes to our weekly visits since she borrows, on average, 26 books.

A special sort of magic happens when you read to kids on the verge of kindergarten. Something on each page captures their attention, be it certain words or illustrated details. They vocalize their observations and questions, amazing you with their insight. It is an experience I wish I could bottle up forever.

Below are 26 of my daughter’s recent favorites, alphabetized by author. Most of the books I am including were published within the last few years.

  1. Famously Phoebe by Lori Alexander: This book follows a little girl who relishes her role as the adorable kid constantly photographed by her family. That is until her newborn sister upstages her.
  2. Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better by Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman: Truth be told, I had no idea who this man was until we read this accessible and engaging biography. To learn about history alongside your children (while my youngest chose the book based on the cover art, my older kids were intrigued by the title, longing to discover answers) is humbling.
  3. Balloons for Papa by Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia: This is a touching story about how a son helps make sense of his father’s depression and how he tries to cheer him up.
  4. Invasion of the Unicorns by David Biedrzycki: What a fun way to look at the day-to-day life of humans from an alien perspective.
  5. In the Neighborhood by Rocio Bonillo: In this humorous story, a medley of characters jump to conclusions about their neighbors based on what they see and hear coming from their homes. You can guess the lesson—don’t make assumptions!
  6. When Things Aren’t Going Right, Go Left by Marc Colagiovanni: We have read this uplifting and clever story about quieting our insecurities on repeat.
  7. Where is Bina Bear? By Mike Curato: Bina is a shy bear who tries to keep herself hidden at a party. Her friend seeks her company on every page.
  8. Grandpa and Jake by Julie Fortenberry: Simply put, this book is an ode to libraries.
  9. Dress-Up Day by Blanca Gomez: My daughter regularly wears pajamas to preschool and does not care what anyone says. In this story, a little girl dresses up in a costume on the “wrong” day, and she does momentarily care about the reaction.
  10. From Archie to Zack by Vincent Kirsch: Two boys like each other but are nervous about expressing their feelings openly. Fortunately, their friends help them find their way to each other.
  11. Love Made Me More by Colleen Rowan Kosinski: This is a beautiful story about a paper crane and how it follows a boy throughout his life.
  12. What’s the Rush? by Yiting Lee: Patience, preparedness, perspective, and presence are the concepts that the tortoise teaches his friend, the hare.
  13. Once Upon a Book by Grace Lin and Kate Messner: Books allow us to travel to new lands, as evidenced by the vibrant illustrations in this book.
  14. I’m Not Scared, You’re Scared! by Seth Meyers: In this light-hearted story, a nervous bear is hesitant to join his bunny friend on wild adventures, but he forgets his fears during a perilous scene.
  15. Sometimes Love by Katrina Moore: We all know the expression, “a boy and his dog,” but this book centers around the deep bond between a girl and her dog. When the girl’s mother is deployed, their love remains, even though they are continents apart.
  16. Skater Baby by Jack Noel: This is a silly book full of high jinks when a baby escapes her stroller!
  17. Teddy, Let’s Go! by Michelle Nott: Try not to tear up with this one as you watch a little girl mature alongside her stuffed bear.
  18. Nubby by Dan Richards: Follow the stuffed bunny as he hops away from home, only to realize home is where he belongs.
  19. Penny and Penelope also by Dan Richards: This book stars two dolls, a dare-devil and a princess, who lean into their very different strengths and personalities as they go on adventures.
  20. Love, Z by Jessie Sima (and honestly anything by her): Love is hard to describe, and the little robot in this story is particularly perplexed by what it means.
  21. Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures by Tricia Springstubb: A heart-warming tale about how a young boy and an old man bond inside and outside their multi-family house.
  22. What I Am by Divya Srinivasan: This book emphasizes how our identity cannot be verbalized in a few adjectives.
  23. Sometimes I Grumblesquinch by Rachel Vail: This book has prompted the richest conversations about what we do when feelings are tucked away only to build and build until they come roaring out.
  24. Amadou’s Zoo by Rebecca Walsh: My daughter noticed that Amadou is the only human in color from the very first page. This story reminds us of how gray life can be when we subdue our imagination.
  25. The Adventures of Qai Qai by Serena Williams: Not shockingly, Williams inspires any little girl who reads this book to believe in themselves.
  26. More than Peach by Bellen Woodard: Read this true story to learn how one girl changed the art world, advocating for the creation of crayons in everyone’s natural skin color.

How many of these books have you read? What other titles would you recommend? 

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