50 Amazing, Engaging Books for Small Children

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Our boys love books!

As an English teacher, I couldn’t be happier that I can share my love of books and my love of reading with our two little ones. With our large library of books, and our frequent trips to our local library, I have compiled our list of favorite books for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Originally, I had sorted the list into age groups, but I decided to just list these books as one list. Why, you might ask? Because your kids will surprise you. Babies can often listen to more sophisticated books, and preschoolers still enjoy simply board books. Expose your children to a wide variety of books and, as they respond to, and engage with the stories, you can determine which books will be the best fit.

These are just some of our favorites:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip Stead. What do the animals do when their zookeeper comes down with a cold and has to stay home sick for the day? This is one of our favorite stories.


All Through My Town, by Jean Reidy and Leo Timmers. This is one of the many books that I can recite from memory, because we have read it so many times. The illustrations are beautiful, and rich with details that we love to explore, even after the story is over.


Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman. This story is a P. D. Eastman classic. This has been a favorite since Brooks was very little. Before he was reading, he knew when to recite his favorite line: “Down, down, down, plop!”



Bathtime Mathtime, by Danica McKellar. Maybe I wanted this book just because I was a fan of The Wonder Years, and Winnie Campbell. Luckily, this book is such a fun read about numbers in our daily lives!


Bear Has A Story to Tell, by Erin and Phillip Stead. We absolutely love the story about a caring, forgetful bear as he waits for his friends to return after winter. The cadence of the story makes it a great choice for bedtime!


Big Fish Little Fish, by Jonathan Litton. This board book is visually appealing, it has a fun cut-out through the center that Jack just loves, and it teaches little readers all about opposites!


Big Words for Little Geniuses, by Susan and James Patterson. This is our second book from the Pattersons. Brooks really enjoyed page after page of very long, difficult to pronounce words. The best part, however, is hearing him use these big words (like jabberwocky), in conversation!


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, by Bill Martin and Eric Carle. We first heard Brown Bear, Brown Bear during library story time. When we saw it at the store. Brooks had to have it. It is a great mix of colors and animals. And, in one day, we’d read it so many times, that he could tell the story on his own.



Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin. The boys love the song, and they love the book. This is one of the first books that Brooks began reading on his own. It’s a great introduction to the alphabet for small children, but the lyrical structure makes for such a fun read.



Cuddly Critters for Little Geniusesby Susan and James Patterson I had heard about these James Patterson Little Genius books, but I was skeptical. I must admit, we were pleasantly surprised. This book is full of fun facts about some of the most unique animals in the world. And it led us to research more to see what these cuddly creatures really looked like!


Dear Zoo, by Rod Simon. This is another book that we first heard during story time at the library. It’s a fun “peek-a-boo” story, and a great way to introduce zoo animals to the tiniest readers!


Diggersaurs, by Michael Whalte. Diggersaurs tells the story of different construction vehicles, and what they do. But, in this story, they are transformed into dinosaurs. We had so much fun reading this story, looking for the tiny construction workers hidden on the page, and making the sounds that each diggersaur makes!


Does A Cow Say Boo? by Judy Hindley. Both boys love this book so much that it has a permanent home on my nightstand. Jack is learning animal sounds, and animal names, and Brooks loves reading the story aloud. This should be a staple in any library.


Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library, by Julie Gassman. There are so many reasons to love this book. First, the story itself is sweet, as the librarian explains why bringing a dragon to the library is a very bad idea. But, the best parts of this story are the illustrations. The children in this story are diverse in every sense of the word.


Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin. Who doesn’t love tacos? And who wouldn’t love a dragon taco party? What I love about this story is how it is written, as if the narrator is speaking directly to the little reader. It is fun, engaging and unique.


Giraffes Can’t Danceby Giles Andreae. We love the message behind this sweet board book. Everyone, including Gerald, is convinced that Gerald can’t dance. In the end, he overcomes being picked on and excluded, and proves everyone wrong.



Goodnight, Dragons by Judith Roth. Of all of the books we own, this has always been (and continues to be) my favorite. In this story, we realize that dragons aren’t so scary at all. Maybe they just need chocolate milk.



Hello World! Solar System by Jill McDonald. Brooks is obsessed with the solar system. He knows all of the planets, their order from the sun, and the unique features of each one! This book was a great foray into the world of planets. I love the fun facts that are woven throughout the story.


Hello World! Weather by Jill McDonald. This was the first Hello World book that we read, and Brooks loved it! After borrowing this book from the library, Brooks didn’t want to give this one back. Don’t worry, we did. This is a great introduction to the different types of weather, through beautiful vivid images and vocabulary.


Hello, World! Construction SiteJill McDonald. When we go to the library, it is Brooks’ job to pick books for Jack. On our last library trip, he chose this book and it was a hit! Jack really enjoyed learning about the different vehicles you might see at a construction site, and what each vehicle does!


Hoot, by Jonathon Litton. Like the Little Fish, Big Fish book, this book features a fun cutout in the center of the book that Jack just loves. And this book is also educational, as we learn both colors and numbers as the owls play a game of hide-and-seek.

If Animals Kissed Goodnight by Ann Whitford Paul.  This sweet book spends a ton of time in our bedtime story rotation. Its poetic structure makes this a great choice for a read aloud, and there are tons of fun onomatopoeia throughout the story.

I Love My Daddy, by Sebastian Braun. I love this book. It is simple, but such a sweet story about a daddy bear and his cubs. Brooks and Jack both love this book, and it is nice and short so it is a great choice when you need a quick read.

I Love You Just Like This, by Sesame Workshop. We love all things Sesame Street, and we really love this story. Elmo’s mommy tells him all the ways she loves him. The authors weave numbers, colors, opposites and seasons all through the story. And it is so fun for the boys to read a story with characters they recognize, and love.


If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, by Laura Numeroff. The If You Give… series from Laura Numeroff is so fun (we have Happy Easter, Mouse! too). Mouse is a messy little guy in this story, and he can’t find his homework!



I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug, by Caroline B. Cooney. How many different hugs can you think of? Whether its a squishy, slimy bug hug, or a safe and cozy bear hug, this books takes us through all types of hugs. And it is one of our favorites.


Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle. I love the story of The Little Blue Truck. The blue truck and his animal friends help a big, intimidating dump truck.  But, what I love the most are the illustrations. This book is just beautiful.  What Brooks and Jack love the most are the animal sounds!

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas, by Alice Schertle. Reading through the list, you will see that we really love this Little Blue Truck series. The Christmas version follows Blue as he delivers Christmas trees to his friends. But this book has a fun little surprise at the end, perfect for the holiday season!


Little Blue Truck’s Halloween, by Alice Schertle.  Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. We have tons of Halloween themed books, but this is by far the most loved. Blue’s animals friends dress up for a Halloween party, and there are fun interactive features throughout the story!


Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan. I love how this story teaches us about nocturnal animals, as Little Owl explores at night! We learn what nocturnal animals are and what they do at night, while the rest of the world is sleeping. This story, too, has a gentle cadence that makes it perfect for a bedtime story.



Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal. Poor little pea is forced to eat his least favorite food for dinner–candy! We love this story, as little pea struggles through eating his candy, so he can enjoy his favorite dessert (which is a fun, silly surprise).


Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anne Dewdney. We have a number of books from the Llama Llama series. But the original is, by far, our favorite. Poor little llama struggles to go to bed by himself. This book is a great tool to use when helping your little one to sleep on their own, too.


Monty’s Magnificent Mane by Gemma O’Neal. This book was a gift from my cousin, who found this at a library sale. What a find! Monty learns a tough lesson about vanity and friendship when a crocodile takes a big bite out of his beautiful mane.


Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. This book is a bit longer, and more complex, than most others on this list. Jack can’t sit still while we finish it. But, I had to include it on the list because a) Brooks loves this story and b) the message is so powerful–you can do anything you want to do, no matter what challenges you face…you just have to make the right choices.


On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. I feel like this is one book that everyone has in their library. I’ve read this book to Brooks from the time he came home from the hospital. And, now, to Jack as well. The illustrations are beautiful, and whimsical. And we love the message of the story, that each being is valuable and loved.


One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl. This is the silliest story, full of tongue twisters, making this a great book to read aloud. Throughout the story, animals are always being left out of fun activities. But, in the end, they learn that sharing is a great solution to the problem!


Parts by Tedd Arnold. The is the first book that we read to death. And I mean…to death. I can recite this story from cover to cover, without skipping a beat. The pages are torn, and worn. But, through this silly story we learn about some of the weird things that happen in our body (i.e., boogers, belly button lint, etc.)


Penguin On Vacation by Salina Yoon. We love all things Salina Yoon. But we really love this sweet story of an unlikely friendship between a penguin and a crab!



Pig the Pug, Pig the Star, Pig the Stinker and Pig the Winner by Aaron Blabey. One day, Brooks came home from preschool, so excited to tell me about the book they had read that day… Pig the Pug. Pig is a pain. In this series of books, we learn lessons about sharing, being greedy, being clean, being kind…and ultimately, being a good friend. And Pig’s friend Trevor, teaches us about being kind, patient and…being a good friend. This is such a great, fun series.

Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen. The Pout Pout Fish is a grumpy guy. His friends all beg him to cheer up, but he just not interested. He is just a grump…until, a special stranger appears and turns his world upside down.  This books has a fun chorus, too, that is easy readers to learn and recite, so they can read with you!


Special You by Jonny Lambert. This is a sweet, short read about a sweet little elephant who is fascinated by all of the interesting, unique animals around him. The elephant learns the hard way that he is perfect just the way he is.




The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton. I love Sandra Boynton books. This was one of Brooks’ first books, and one of our favorite bedtime reads. The animals prepare for bed, as they float in a boat in the middle of the ocean. What always cracks me up is that they like to exercise after taking baths and brushing their teeth.


The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This book is so beautiful. Written in 1962, this Caldecott Award winning story follows a little boy as he explores his snowy neighborhood. This is one book that every little one should have. Fun fact: The Snowy Day was featured on the USPS’s holiday stamps this year (2019).


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Eric Carle books are special, for so many reasons. The artwork is unique, and the stories are timeless. This is one of the first books that Brooks learned to read, but it was also one of the first that he committed to memory, reciting the story from his carseat on our daily drives.

What Should Danny Do? by Adir Levy. Recently, my mom found this awesome “choose your own adventure” style for Brooks, and I was thrilled. In this story, young readers explore Danny’s behavior, challenges and consequences by choosing what Danny should do in each situation. It is really a great exercise in learning how all actions have consequences, positive or negative. It is a bit too advanced for Jack, but Brooks loves this one!


Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. As I write about each book, I’m noticing that we really love the classics. I worried that this might be a bit too scary for Brooks, but he loves the story of a little boy who journeys to an island of seemingly unruly monsters.


Where’s Spot by Eric Hill. Our copy of Where’s Spot is so loved, that I am probably going to need to get a new one. Little readers lift flaps on each page in search of little spot, only to find a house full of wild animals. At this point, our book is ripped, bent and missing a few flaps. It is safe to say it is a family favorite.


What are some of your favorites? What would you add to the list? Share your favorites in the comments section, below!


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Hi! I am Amy, the creator of RunawayTeacher. I am a mom to two boys, and I married to my best friend. I love mom life, crafting, and blogging. Read More.

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