Books for a boy
July 26, 2007 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me come up with a set of books suitable for a 4 year old boy that are classic (even new "classics" are welcome), offer a good narrative, and will be a nice counterpoint to his shelf of truck related books.

I'm drawing a blank, all I can think of are the Berenstain Bears and Frog and Toad. This would be a birthday gift for my godson. He's drowning in toys so I only want to get him books.
posted by chickaboo to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Dr. Seuss? My 4 y.o. will read anything, but still requires lots of pictures. His favorite book right now is a Time/Life Western Series book titled The Cowboys. (But he's autistic and quite erm. . . eccentric).
posted by CRS at 7:44 AM on July 26, 2007

How about getting and reading to him The Wind in the Willows? Maybe 4 is a bit young, but I just remember having it read to me when I was really little.
posted by Durin's Bane at 7:48 AM on July 26, 2007

This blog post may help you.
posted by sharkfu at 7:49 AM on July 26, 2007

Zen Shorts I love that book.
posted by moonshine at 7:51 AM on July 26, 2007

Bread and Jam for Frances is fun, and definitely a classic. Amazon gives the reading level as ages 4-8.
posted by teleskiving at 7:53 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble? To be honest, any William Steig is aces. I especially loved Dr. DeSoto.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day might be a little old for him, but maybe not. Finally, Caps for Sale is the bomb.
posted by sneakin at 7:56 AM on July 26, 2007

As a disclaimer, I am not a parent have not been a four year old for a couple decades now and have no idea what is appropriate for that specific age. I also second the idea of reading books to them, since it gives you a chance to introduce them to books at a little higher level than they might be able to read alone.

That said: Curious George, Babar, Beatrix Potter, Winne the Pooh, maybe Lewis Carroll, Where the Wild Things Are, would all seem like good bets to me if you're looking for classics.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:56 AM on July 26, 2007

Teleskiving is right. The Frances books are all fab. I still remember running away to under the table (like Frances does in "A baby sister for Frances").
posted by handee at 7:58 AM on July 26, 2007

Most 4 year olds still enjoy good, old fashioned picture books. Dr. De Soto is a classic, anything by David McPhail is genius. My guys also liked Burnt Toast on Davenport St., Lyle the crocodile, Little Bear, Truman's Aunt Farm and this fantastic compilation of stories illustrated by Garth Williams.
posted by Biblio at 7:59 AM on July 26, 2007

For old classics, I loved Frog and Toad as a kid and my kids love them today. You also can't go wrong with Pooh.

For newer stuff, we liked Cynthia Rylant's Poppleton, Mr. Putter, and Henry and Mudge books.

Oh, oh, also Kevin Henkes.
posted by qldaddy at 8:04 AM on July 26, 2007

Seconding Beatrix Potter and the original Milne Pooh books. Also the Harry the Dog series, and don't forget a collection of Mother Goose. Doesn't get much more classic than that.
posted by jquinby at 8:05 AM on July 26, 2007

I think my favorite at that age was Go Dog Go, but anything by P.D. Eastman would be appropriate. You might also consider A Family Treasury of Little Golden Books, which has 46 of those books you may remember with the gold edge in one big volume. Lots of reading material in a bookshelf and budget friendly volume!

Now to get slightly off-topic. Do you think either of his parents have the patience for Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons? Because this is *the book* for teaching someone to read IMHO.
posted by ilsa at 8:10 AM on July 26, 2007

Oh now how the heck could I have forgotten to mention Danny and the Dinosaur?
posted by ilsa at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2007

All the Madeleine books - excellent pictures, good stories.
posted by frobozz at 8:22 AM on July 26, 2007

How about Harold and the Purple Crayon and Goodnight Moon?

50 and 60 years old respectively. Classics!
posted by bullitt 5 at 8:30 AM on July 26, 2007

Captain Underpants to the rescue.
posted by caddis at 8:34 AM on July 26, 2007

Although it may be a while before he gets the Latin puns, Asterix and Obelix generally goes down well with young boys - they like the general stories and the cartoon-ish violence long before they can comprehend much of the humor. Plus, teaches history! Err, sort of!

One other direction that you may care to take is giving a simple, colorful children's encyclopedia. I don't have a (current) specific example in mind, but I can remember being fascinated by both the photographs and the trivia and tidbits about natural science, engineering, foreign countries, etc. in our Book of Knowledge set from a very early age.
posted by Wavelet at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2007

From my experience with my 4-year-old (on the run, so no amazon links, sorry):

any Richard Scarry (a drag to read, but Lord does he love it)
Little Bear
Frog and Toad
The Little House
Beatrix Potter
Cowboy Small (and Fireman Small, etc.)
Any Jan Brett books (esp. Gingerbread Baby)
I Spy books
Tana Hoban's books

I'll post links for these two because my son and I love these so much:

The Year at Maple Hill Farm and Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm -- just exquisite, in their way.
posted by argybarg at 8:41 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

My son loved the Gruffalo - and all of the books written & illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
posted by mattr at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2007

Harry the Dirty Dog and its sequels. Susan Meddaugh's Martha books and Mo Willems' pigeon books
posted by brujita at 9:22 AM on July 26, 2007

Mr. Wolf's Pancakes is great.
Also - and pardon me if there's a certain theme emerging here - consider a book and CD combo of Peter & The Wolf. It was a big success with my nephew at that age and it was so very cool seeing him pick up on the instruments' sounds and themes as they related to the story.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:48 AM on July 26, 2007

The kids I babysit love "Click, Clack, Moo", "Duck for President," and the other books by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.

Also, if you want to start with chapter books that can be read to him, The Phantom Tollbooth and also Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are classics.
posted by radioamy at 9:49 AM on July 26, 2007

Once again with the Pooh. I make sure every new baby in my circle of friends gets a set.
posted by booth at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2007

One of the best resources I found for books was Chinaberry Books. They have three things going for them: 1. They are very thoughtful about the books they include in their catalog - books that nurture the soul, not just ones that sell. 2. They give nice long descriptions so you get a good feeling for each book. 3. Best of all, they give really good age estimates based, not just on reading level but also content. They will also specify "read aloud" ages and "read by themself" ages that are much more accurate than the publisher's age ranges.
posted by metahawk at 10:03 AM on July 26, 2007

If you're looking for chapter books, try the Oz books. I read every single one to my son beginning at about that age and he ate them up. I also will recommend the Moomin books although you may want to wait a year or two for those. I'd say he's probably a little young yet for Phantom Tollbooth and Charlie and one thing I found to my sorrow is that if you introduce a book too soon, it may make him never like it. Argybarg pretty much nailed it for picture books but let me add the Stupids or, actually, anything by Allard & Marshall.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:03 AM on July 26, 2007

Roald Dahl books. He may be too young for them now, but they'll be good for him soon.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:13 AM on July 26, 2007

George and Martha books... James Marshall is the author, and the latest collection of all of those wonderful hippo stories has a lovely forward by Maurice Sendak.
posted by Arch1 at 10:30 AM on July 26, 2007

Anything by Bill Peet.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2007

Does he read? That makes a big difference. Many of the books listed here might be too young for him, if he's going to have them read to him -- most of Dr. Seuss, for example, or Go Dog Go. I love 'em, but they're a bit babyish. Maybe. Depending on the kid. Still, you're safest getting books that he might be too young for, since his parents can read them to him now or just put them aside until he's older.

My four-year-old son's current obsessions are Garfield comic books and the Choose Your Own Adventure series, though, so who am I to give advice?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:34 AM on July 26, 2007

Where the Wild Things Are
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Some Chris Van Allsburg, if you're going to read to him.
posted by dagnyscott at 10:42 AM on July 26, 2007

Seconding "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." That was a favorite in my household for a good five to ten years. In fact, I'd still read it!
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2007

The most memorable books from my childhood where the Value Tales series. Four is a bit young but I'd say a 7- or 8-year old would have no problem reading them. It's a great way for a kid to discover positive historical role models to aspire to emulate.
posted by eiramazile at 12:25 PM on July 26, 2007

These are such great ideas. thank you!!!! I've emailed his mom a few of my favorites from your suggestions to make sure he doesn't already own any of these.
posted by chickaboo at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2007

The Winnie the Pooh books and the Arthur series are excellent for kids (Arthur even has some starring his little sister to start younger readers out). And Where the Wild Things Are always wins for its illustrations!
posted by misha at 1:25 PM on July 26, 2007

Where the Wild Things Are.

I second Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. Those are all fabulous choices.

I also loved the Ruby & Max books by Rosemary Wells when I was 4-5. I still love them now...

Kudos on buying the tyke books. That's all I ever buy my nephew, who's now almost 6.
posted by ahimsa at 1:39 PM on July 26, 2007

A children book that I've read and loved (which has also won some awards) is Adele & Simon. Aside from having beautiful art, it has a wonderful message that I can summarize as "whatever you lose on your journey, you will get it back at the don't worry!"/
posted by howiamdifferent at 2:06 PM on July 26, 2007

There are some wonderful older narrative books pick up on little boys' obsessions with trucks .. such as Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

joining in the chorus for Pooh and Madeleine and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
posted by Rain Man at 3:19 PM on July 26, 2007

Get him "Where the Sidewalk Ends." It's classic, it's giggle-provoking, and my sister hasn't stopped loving "Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too" between the ages of four and twenty-six.
posted by Cricket at 4:15 PM on July 26, 2007

Anything by Robert Munsch rules! eg Paperbag Princess, Mmm Cookies, Angela's Airplane, We share everything- but also there are hardback anthologies. My truck boys love them (but then again they too are autistic and a bit ... erm eccentric! Nah, these are just great books.)
posted by kch at 8:35 PM on July 26, 2007

It does seem kind of old, but my brother got the first Harry Potter for Christmas as a five year old. It was a huge hit, and he got a chapter read to him every night before bed (in fact, he and my 14-year-old 'books are stupid' brother got obsessed and read it together every afternoon). So you can go for pretty 'old' books if someone is going to put in the reading aloud effort.
posted by jacalata at 8:50 PM on July 26, 2007

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