Big Fish Little Fish by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway
In this bubbly tale about how eels, hammerheads, tiddlers, and other sea creatures spend their day, fish-shaped cutouts helped hold the attention of our toddler testers. “My 18-month-old used the cutouts to turn the pages, and the story had a nice flow to it,” says one mom. Basic opposites (like slow and fast, sad and happy, and, of course, big and little) make this book relevant into preschool.
TouchThinkLearn: ABC by Xavier Deneux
While the word choices for each letter are clever—U stands for universe—the design is what makes this book stand out. “The raised die-cut letters encourage toddlers and preschoolers to trace them with their fingers,” says Kate Simpson, who manages the children’s department of the Central Library in San Antonio. “Plus, simple styled images are incorporated into some of the letters themselves.”
Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton
Parents appreciated the calming, repetitive phrasing (like “ahhhh, yawn,” and “we’re too tired”) while kid reviewers related to the plot (all the animals are sleepy except Little Bear). “It’s the perfect length,” says one mom of a 4-year-old. “The book feels substantial, but you can finish it in ten minutes.”
The Cookie Fiasco by Mo Willems and Dan Santat
A relatable problem (not having enough cookies to share), familiar faces (Willems’s Elephant & Piggie), and simple yet funny dialogue made this title the category’s runaway winner. Says one mom: “Seeing Elephant and Piggie again helped my boys, ages 4 and 6, transition to the new characters, and they were able to read most of the words themselves.”
Hedgehugs and the Hattiepillar by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper
In this sweet follow-up to Hedgehugs (a tale of two hedgehog friends who try to find a comfy way to hug despite their spikiness), the besties notice “a wriggly, stripy thing” under a leaf. Kids marveled over its transformation from caterpillar to butterfly—and how the pair of hedgehogs get into the act too.
There’s a Giraffe in My Soup by Ross Burach
Kids roared when they heard this silly story about a restaurant that mistakenly put zoo animals inside a boy’s bowl of soup. The kids’ favorite line was delivered by a waiter pushing a whale out of the bowl: “Errrhh…can’t he just eat around it?”
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
This biography of Johnson, an African-American NASA scientist and the inventor of the Super Soaker, begins when he is in grade school. “The kids will love that he built rockets from scratch when he was their age,” says Betsy Bird, collections manager of the Evanston Public Library, in Illinois. Science-related vocab, like prototype, propulsion, and formulated, will lead to discussion beyond the story.
Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell
A Venus flytrap and a goat team up to solve “big deal” mysteries, like the case of Mimi Kiwi’s missing rose plant. Children raved about the cartoonish illustrations (some with comic-like thought bubbles) and the fact that most of the chapters are fewer than five pages.
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Plot twists and turns in this tale of a robot who washes up on an island inhabited only by animals kept kids in suspense. “You’d think one thing was going to happen, but then the opposite happened,” says a 9-year-old.
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
The story about sisters who are new to a seaside town offers more depth (one sibling has cystic fibrosis) and less spookiness than it would seem. Kids related to the family dynamics and picked up on the symbolism. No spoilers!