This Top 10 picture book list is handy to take to the library, or to keep handy for birthday or Christmas presents.

As kids approach 4, they are starting to have longer attention spans and can listen to a slightly longer story.

Generally they will have some number and letter recognition and be starting to understand colours and shapes. They will be full of questions and most likely want to turn the pages themselves to find out what is going to happen next.

Books make a great gift, they take up so much less room than toys, and are so much quieter!

So without further ado… here is my top 10 books for children age 4:

1) Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

Naughty child gets sent to bed without any dinner and conjures up an imaginary world of adventure and monsters until he starts to miss home. This is Maurice Sendak’s legacy to children everywhere and has won a bagful of awards.

The monsters in this one aren’t for the squeamish or faint hearted yet seem to have kind faces.

The detail in their illustration is particularly amazing. It is a pleasure to read aloud and we love the message that home amongst those who love you is really best.

2) Olivia and the Missing Toy, by Ian Falconer

Olivia has one toy that she loves more than anything. She feeds him, dresses him and takes him everywhere. So when he disappears, Olivia is FURIOUS! She looks under the rug, under the sofa, under the cat. She shouts at Ian and baby William, she cries, she stomps… all to no avail. Then, one dark and stormy night, Olivia hears a noise… Clutching a candleabra, she creeps bravely into her bedroom, and sees a huge menacing shadow on the wall. Who is this monster, and what’s that hanging from his jaws? Ages 4+

This is a cute story about our favourite slightly high maintenance pig, her favourite slightly disheveled toy and a dog. It is full of suspense and of course finishes beautifully with Olivia tucked up in bed. Another Olivia classic.

3) Pete the Cat and his four Groovy Buttons, by Eric Litwin & James Dean

Pete the Cat is wearing his favourite shirt, the one with the four totally groovy buttons. But when one falls off, does Pete cry? Goodness no! He just keeps on singing his song, after all, what could be groovier than three groovy buttons? Count down with Pete in this rocking new story from the creators of the bestselling Pete the Cat books. This is a New York Times bestseller and honour book in the Theodor Seuss Geisel awards 2013.

This is a bright and colourful funky cat. He counts, sings, and has a positive attitude to life regardless of its little set backs.

4) A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C Stead

Amos McGee, the friendly zookeeper, always makes time to visit his good friends, the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros and the owl. But one day – Ah-choo!!- he wakes up with the sniffles and sneezes. He doesn’t make it to the zoo that day, but he does receive some unexpected guests.

This is a delightful story about a kindly zookeeper whose animals come to take care of him for a day. Card playing elephants, owls who are afraid of the dark, a random red balloon – there are some truly lovely moments in this one. Erin Stead’s woodblock illustrations are really pretty.

5) Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson

The witch and her cat fly happily over forests, rivers and mountains on their broomstick until a stormy wind blows away the witch’s hat, bow and wand. They are retrieved by a dog, a bird and a frog, and each animal asks for a ride on the broom. One after the next climbs on, until the broom is so heavy that it snaps in two! What will happen next as they tumble into a bog and meet a greedy dragon?

Not for the feint hearted, this rhyming rollicking tale is great fun to read aloud. As long as your little one has no fear of storms, witches, or dragons they will love this tale of a goofy old witch as she and her animal friends out smart the dragon.

6) The Game of Shadows by Herve Tullet

You’ll need a grown-up’s help to play this game of shadows, in the dark, use your torch and embark on a magical night-time adventure! Mysterious shadows will appear on dark walls. From the fabulous creator of “Press Here”.

We have a love/hate relationship with this book. Master 3 fell in love with it the minute he got his hands on it. The first 6 or so airings were fun. Getting woken up with it before the sun was up to read again was not so much. Rarely have I seen him so engaged in a book. It beats my terrible hand puppet shapes on the wall any day.

7) The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr

This classic story of Sophie and her extraordinary tea time guest has been loved by millions of children since it was first published over 30 years ago and has sold more than a million copies.

The doorbell rings just as Sophie and her mummy are sitting down to tea. Who could it possibly be? What they certainly don’t expect to see at the door is a big furry, stripy tiger! This modern classic picture book is perfect for reading aloud, or for small children to read to themselves time and again.

This is a classic story enjoyed by generations. It has an old fashioned UK setting with milkmen, grocery deliveries by bicycle and fathers that wear hats add a touch of nostalgia. This is a great book to read aloud with just the right touch of sillyness.

8) Elmer by David McKee

Elmer the patchwork elephant proves it’s ok to be different. This book is published in 20+ languages and has sold over 2 million copies. It’s the first in the Elmer Series.

Elmer learns an important life lesson and is a bit of a practical joker which makes this one a favourite in our house. Your child will love shouting out “Boo!” along with Elmer.

9) I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen

The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently and politely, he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as it he begins to lose hope, lying flat on his back in despair, a deer comes by and asks a rather obvious question that suddenly sparks the bear‘s memory and renews his search with a vengeance.

A fib telling rabbit and a fib telling rabbit eating bear make this a fun story to read aloud. It’s quirky and witty and will amuse adults as much as it will kids.

10) My Big Shouting Day! By Rebecca Patterson

“Yesterday I woke up and my baby brother Bob was crawling around my room licking my jewellery, so I shouted GET OUT OF MY ROOM! And that was the start of MY BIG SHOUTING DAY!”

Bella is having a bad day – everything is going wrong and all she can do is shout! But bad days don’t last for ever, especially when Mummy’s there to hug you and love you anyway – and Bella even learns that special word….

Rebecca Patterson perfectly captures a day of tantrums in a grumpy child where just nothing goes right. This book manages to be both funny and reassuring that bad days don’t last forever. The story line will no doubt be familiar to may.

So that’s it, my Top 10 for 4 year olds. Do you have a favourite we’ve missed? Tell us in the comments below – what was your 4 year old’s favourite story?

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  • Ive only read 2 of these. But then I dont have under 5’s any more.


  • So many wonderful books and classics amongst them too.


  • Some really fantastic book recommendations


  • We don’t own any of those books….yet ;)


  • I just love kids books.


  • What a great list of books! I have the first one in my collection already. The second one, Olivia, looks a bit scarey on the cover. The others look brilliant!


  • Some fun reading here and the kids like them too!


  • where the wild things are was always one of my favourites as a child.


  • My son will be turning 4 in the new year so this was a fantastic read for me.
    As an avid reader myself I enjoying sharing my passion with my children & there are some books listed here from my own childhood that I had completely forgotten about!
    Thank you, I know have some new titles to add to our book shelf.


  • Just wanted to mention that Dr Seuss books are also great for four year olds.


  • We are avid book readers in our house (with six children) but most of these we haven’t read. We also love the very cranky/hungry/itchy bear stories too!


  • ha ha ha nice collection.


  • Our 3 1/2 year old is taking an interest in books, including the alphabet with pictures. He knows how to spell his name as it is only 6 letters. His favourites are about animals -especially farm and zoo animals, trains and dinosaurs. I suspect his Dad encouraged the Dinosaurs but he won’t admit it. He likes us to read the same book over and over again.
    One of them he knows the title and says it repeatedly every time he sees it. “Robots, Robots Everywhere.” I am almost tempted to hide it for a couple of weeks. I have some hidden that will be suitable when he is older.


  • Some of these we have, and some I haven’t even heard of! Thanks for the list. Will come in handy!


  • Being a Mum of 5, I decided a while ago to join the closest library. My kids love to read & I encourage it as it helps them to learn different aspects of life. I will definitely be searching for some of these titles next fortnight when we go back :)


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