Illustrated classics for 4 year olds
December 22, 2019 4:30 AM   Subscribe

For my niece, age 3.5, my brother has suggested an illustrated Aesop's Fables. I'm wanting to augment it with another book in this vein -- a nice, classic, well-illustrated book that is worth owning in paper format and that she can grow into.

I've more or less rejected Grimm's Fairy Tales as a little too dark (though she kind of likes dark? She's really into Maleficent).

I couldn't find anything Shakespeare adapted for this age.

Alice in Wonderland is my best idea right now, but it still feels a bit old.

Greek or Roman myths?

A modern classic?

She's at the age of still wanting pictures on every page. As long as there are pictures, the adult reader can shorten the text to suit the attention span.

Any suggestions?
posted by Spokane to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
D’Aulaires book of Greek Myths is exactly this. There is some light bowdlerization of gods impregnating mortals. The illustrations are lovely and the stories are probably just about the length that a four year old can handle.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:07 AM on December 22, 2019 [13 favorites]

Seconding D’Aulieres.
posted by sallybrown at 5:29 AM on December 22, 2019

Winnie-the-Pooh (or, better yet, a boxed set of the two Pooh books and the two Milne poetry books) has the advantage of being something she can start enjoying right now.
posted by Redstart at 6:38 AM on December 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest looking for an illustrated collection of Beatrix Potter stories. Her drawings are delightful.
posted by belladonna at 7:29 AM on December 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Something illustrated by Paul Galdone?
posted by emmling at 8:28 AM on December 22, 2019

the books of wonder editions of the oz books.
posted by brujita at 11:43 AM on December 22, 2019

There's several British authors and illustrators I would regard as classic, though I may not be understanding what you mean by that. Because a 3 year old probably wouldn't get that much out of a book for an 8 year old, but in my experience 8 year olds can still love the books they grew up with to an extent. So going by what I think a 3 year old would enjoy, here are some that have gone down well with two generations of small children I know.

Jeanette and Allan Ahlberg, Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum. Peepo! is set in the 40s so it may actually be less visually familiar to children than Each Peach which is set in nursery rhyme land.

Shirley Hughes, Up and Up

Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, Bear Hunt

Pat Hutchins, Rosie's Walk and One Hunter. One Hunter is a counting book.

Ahlberg, Hughes, Oxenbury and Hutchins are highly regarded illustrators and it may be well worth while looking for other books by them. Hardback copies of Maurice Sendak classics might also suit what you are looking for. And Edward Gorey; not everything he wrote was macabre and there are some uncreepy children's stories like Sam and Emma. There's some lovely illustrated books by Steven Kellog as well.

In a way I think you're better off visiting a physical bookshop if you can, and asking the staff there - something might grab your eye or be absolutely iresistable; you'll get an idea of the physical feel of the book as well, whether it's too fragile for a 3 year old, or too heavy, or too big for little hands. They will point you to more contemporary books and styles of illustration as well. I think there is a case for children having access to very precious books, but I have to mention, a book that is well-loved tends to be falling apart before the kid is grown.
posted by glasseyes at 12:06 PM on December 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I knew I'd forget somebody: Judith Kerr died this year, she wrote and illustrated a series about a cat called Mog, starting in the 70s. It's a beloved series.
posted by glasseyes at 12:12 PM on December 22, 2019

The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh (ISBN 0525467262) is a nice edition.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:38 PM on December 22, 2019

Also came in to say D'Aulaire's. I loved it at this age and imprinted on it for life.
posted by babelfish at 7:46 PM on December 22, 2019

Usborne has an Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare that looks like it might be perfect for what you want?

They also do Dickens and Austen.

I own none of the above so cannot vouch for their appropriateness for a four year old.

More contemporary is the Illustrated Harry Potter books, which are STUNNING, but still a bit out of the reach of my four year old.
posted by kellygrape at 8:13 PM on December 22, 2019

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