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Picture Books You Don't Want to Miss

Below are tips for choosing books to read aloud. Titles were selected by Bank Street Librarians. All are available in the Bank Street Library.

  • Young Threes

    Short sentences with rhythm and rhyme are essential for this age group. "Nine, ten, big fat hen." Reflecting back the child's own experiences are the keystone of the literature of early childhood.

    Take a look at Be Gentle with its quiet phrasing, broad pictures and every child theme. Books that spark a conversation, "What does the chick say?"

    This is the time of introducing concepts such as numbers and colors. Don't worry if the child doesn't sit for the whole story. Just put it down and say, "We will read the rest later."

  • Three/Fours

    As children develop around three-years-old they are ready for a meaty story. This is the time to retell "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" in your own words wherever you are, at night at bedtime, in the car, on the grocery line, and waiting for the train.

    Repetition, repeated phrases are a joy to this age group, encourage the children to join in with a chorus of "You monkeys! Give me back my caps!" Some children are not ready to speed ahead. That's fine. Enjoy the mastery of a concept like the alphabet with the rousing refrain " Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom!" And everyone has the experience of the favorite book being read over and over. Ask the child to turn the pages and retell the story to you.

    Illustrations are rich with information concerning the story. Ask the child to point out details. Are there clues to what might happen next? This is the period of development that children are very concerned with their families and every day life. Children may ask for books about babies or doctors or pets.

  • Five/Sixs

    A crucial time for reading aloud. For this age group hearing vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. Keep reading folktales, the children are ready for more complicated themes of friendship, generosity, honesty and trust.

    Now is the time to introduce them to traditional characters like the trickster, Anansi. Choose multi-cultural stories. Children are interested in the world around them. At this age children have a great sense of humor and will enjoy the absurdity of a dog who speaks after eating vegetable soup or a police officer who is jealous and angry at his dog for stealing the limelight. And again, we are still relishing repetition.


Baker, K. (1997). Big fat hen. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Mama hen and her chicks act out the familiar nursery rhyme, "One, two, buckle my shoe."
Call# J P B

Bang, M. (1983). Ten, nine, eight. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.
An African-American father cuddle his daughter as they enjoy counting together. Rhythmic language and vibrant colors.
Call# J P B

Carle, E. (1987). The very hungry caterpillar. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
The very hungry caterpillar eats his way through the week, then goes to sleep to awaken as a butterfly. Collage illustrations.
Call# J P C 1987

Crews, D. (1987). Parade. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Simple text and bright illustrations depict the anticipation, enjoyment, and letdown that are part of a parade.

Fleming, D. (1998). Mama cat has three kittens. New York, NY: Henry Holt.
Fluffy and Skinny have fun with Mama Cat while Boris naps. Boldly dyed torn paper illustrations.
Call# J P F

Freeman, D. (1968). Corduroy. New York, NY: Puffin Books.
A not-so-perfect teddy bear finds a home with a loving little girl.
Call# J P F

Harper, I. (1994). My dog Rosie. New York, NY: Blue Sky Press.
Illustrated by Barry Moser. While grandpa works nearby, a three-year-old girl reads to, plays with and feeds his big dog. Appealing pictures.
Call# J P H

Martin, B. (1983). Brown bear, Brown bear, what do you see? New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Illustrated by Eric Carle. Rhyming text and vivid collage introduces children to animals and colors
Call# J P M

Miller, V. (1997). Be gentle! Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Bartholomew, an enthusiastic young bear, discovers how to make friends with a small black kitten.
Call# J P M

Numeroff, L. (1985). If you give a mouse a cookie. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Illustrated by Felicia Bond A circular tale of a mouse who has many requests.
Call# J P N

Tafuri, N. (1983). Early morning in the barn. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.
A group of adventurous chicks visit their friends.
Call# J P T


Bemelmans, L. (1939). Madeline. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Madeline, the smallest of the twelve girls in a Parisian school, has many adventures, not the least of which is a trip to the hospital to have her appendix out.
Call# JPB

Gag, A. (1928). Millions of cats. New York, NY: Coward-McCann.
An old man and an old woman and their search for a cat make a rhythmic picture-tale of rich humor. A favorite of several generations.
Call# J P G

Johnson, C. (1955). Harold and the purple crayon. New York, NY: Haper & Row.
A spunky imaginative boy draws himself in and out of adventures.
Call# J E J

Keats, E. J. (1964). Whistle for Willie. New York, NY: Viking Press.
Peter wanders through his city neighborhood trying to whistle for his dog. Vivid collages
Call# J P K

Krauss, R. (1973). The carrot seed. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
A small, determined boy plants a seed and nurtures it to maturity despite the discouragement he receives.
Call# J E K

Martin, B. Jr., & Archambault, J. (1989). Chicka chicka boom boom. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Illustrated by Lois Ehlert Rhythmic text and bright collage illustrations introduce the letters if the alphabet in an unforgettable manner.
Call# J P M

McCloskey, R. (1941). Make way for ducklings. New York, NY: Viking Press (also Puffin Books).
In search for a quiet place to raise their family, Mother and Father Duck encounter turtles, bicycles, and traffic.
Call# JPM

McGovern, A. (1995). Too much noise. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
The well-known cumulative story of a very noisy house
Call# J 398.2 M

McFarland, L. R. (2001). Widget. New York, NY: Farrar Straus Giroux.
Widget is a homeless dog who wants to be part of a family, but he must act like a cato to fit in.
Call# J P M

Rey, H. A. (1941). Curious George. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
The adventures of a lovable monkey who behaves like a mischievous boy. First of the series.
Call# J P R

Slobodkina, E. (1947). Caps for sale. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
A humorous story about a group of monkeys who steal a peddler's caps. An old favorite and great fun!
Call# t428.6 H-C 11 (big book), Call# JES


Aardema, V. (1975). Why mosquitoes buzz in people's ears: A West African tale. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon A moral tale of jungle justice imposed on a foolish and,
Call# J 398.2 A

Brown, M. (1947). Stone soup: An old tale. New York, NY: Scribner.
Spirited retelling of the tale in, which soldiers trick villagers into making "stone soup." Delicious.
Call# J 398.2 B

Cooney, B. (1982). Miss Rumphius. New York, NY: Viking Press.
A quiet and deeply moving story about Alice Rumphius who succeeds in her dream to make the world more beautiful.
Call# J P L

Kimmel, E. (1988). Anansi and the moss covered rock. New York, NY: Holiday House.
Illustrated by Janet Stephens, Anansi learns a valuable lesson when the animals he had tricked turn tables on him.
Call# J 398.2 K

Meddagh, S. (1994). Martha calling. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
A lovable dog speaks her mind after eating alphabet soup in this warmly humorous story.
Call# J P M

Rathman, P. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York, NY: Putnam's.
Officer Buckle is surprised to learn how talented his dog, Gloria really is. A funny story with equally humorous drawings.
Call# J P R

Sierra, J. (1999). Tasty baby belly buttons. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
Illustrated by Meilo So. Brave Uriko gathers allies to rescue her village's babies who have been stolen by the wicked, giant Oni. Humorous watercolors in a traditional Japanese style.
Call# J 398.2 S

Soto, G. (1992). Too many tamales. New York, NY: Putnam.
Illustrated by Ed Martinez. Maria loses Mama's diamond ring in the tamale dough then has to find it. A warm humorous story, illustrated with Richly colored paintings.
Call# J P S

Viorst, J. (1972). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. New York, NY: Atheneum.
Illustrated by Ray Cruz. Everyone will empathize with Alexander when he recalls his truly catastrophic day.
Call# J P V

Wood, A. (1987). Heckedy Peg. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Illustrated by Don Wood A mother's love save her children from an evil fate.Sparely told, lushly illustrated.
Call# J P W