The Best Books for 4-Year-Old Boys

The BookDepository

This month my oldest son is 5-years-old. To celebrate I thought I’d share the books he has most enjoyed in the last year.

Adam owns almost as many books as me and he also gets books from the library, so in the past year we have probably read several hundred picture books together. Most go straight back on the shelves, but a few are memorable and come out over-and-over again. Here are the books we have most enjoyed reading in the last year:


The Gruffalo Jigsaw Book by Julia Donaldson

The Gruffalo is the best children’s story I’ve found and the The Gruffalo DVD will entertain your whole family. I think this jigsaw version is the most beautiful edition, although I prefer it if they don’t attempt to do the jigsaws!


Where’s Wally? The Solid Gold Collection by Martin Handford

Some four-year-olds get frustrated by these books as I think they are aimed at older children, but my son loves spending time examining the beautifully illustrated pages and gets enormous satisfaction whenever he finds Wally. I think it is a great way to teach patience – if you can get them to sit still enough to find their first Wally!

Man on the Moon by Simon Bartram

A lovely story about a man who works on the moon. He doesn’t believe in aliens, but children love spotting the tiny space creatures hiding on each page!


Thomas and the Blackout

There are lots of different Thomas books available (you’ll probably find yourself reading the entire series anyway!) and so I thought I’d highlight this lesser known book. Thomas and the Blackout features special plastic pages which can only be viewed using Harold’s searchlight. Children love moving his light to reveal the pictures on each page.

Where’s the Dragon? by Richard Hook

This book is beautifully illustrated, with dragons hiding in the scenery of each page. Children love the way that the grandfather fails to notice the dragons all around him!


The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss

First published in 1957 it is easy to see why this book has stood the test of time. The simple words are great for those just starting to read, whilst the funny story will appeal to everyone. Fantastic!


What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry

Each page of this book is packed with detailed illustrations of various workplaces. Children spend ages studying the pictures and then ask great questions about the numerous jobs adults do. A great discussion starter.


The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

A classic book that young children find very entertaining. I did get a few questions about how a tiger could drink all the water in the taps, but it is probably best not to mention that!


Aliens Love Underpants! by Claire Freedman

I’m afraid that boys love talking about bottoms, but this means that they love this slightly naughty book. It is a very funny story which includes every kind of underwear you can imagine!


Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae

Pirates and dinosaurs combine with vibrant illustrations to grab the attention of little boys. The whole series is good, but I think this one is the best.

Harry and the Dinosaurs Collection by Ian Whybrow

Boys seem to have a fascination with dinosaurs and this is the best series I’ve found – it even taught me a few dinosaur names!


Stinky! by Ian Whybrow

This is such a lovely story. It is all about how a smelly warthog finally found a friend. The rhyming makes it easy to read and children find it very funny.


Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

A wonderful book that encourages children to try new things. The rest of the series is great too.


Q Pootle 5 in Space by Nick Butterworth

A book in which dangerous aliens are persuaded to be blown up like balloons which then fart off into space –  the sort of thing young boys find very funny!


Fidgety Fish by Ruth Galloway

A sweet story about an inquisitive little fish. Great for learning about all the different sea creatures too!


Calm Down Boris! by Sam Lloyd

A book and a hand puppet in one. What’s not to love?!

Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas

A children’s classic that you shouldn’t miss out on. The whole series is great, but the original is the best. A fantastic story which is beautifully illustrated. Wonderful!


The Story of the Little Mole – Plop-up Edition by Werner Holzwarth

I’m afraid that young boys often have an obsession with poo. If you’d like to encourage this (or want to an amusing present!) then this book is perfect! It compares the shape and size of various animal poo, leading to interesting?! inspections of any poo you might find when you’re out and about.

Usborne Phonics Readers – 12 book box set by Phil Roxbee Cox

This is a fantastic set of books for children who are just starting to read. They get enormous satisfaction from reading their first words and children who can’t quite manage the words can still enjoy looking for the Usborne duck on each page. If you decide to only buy one book then I recommend Ted’s Shed - it is the easiest to read and I think it has the cutest story.


Harvey the Carpenter by Lars Klinting

A fantastic series of books that teach children all about different jobs. If you’re child is a fan of DIY then this is for you!

Cat’s Cake by Richard Fowler
Cat bakes a cake, but all the other animals keep adding their favourite food to the mixture, resulting in a disgusting cake that only goat will eat! Children find this one really funny and it helps to teach them about which foods do taste nice together.


The Puffin Book of Fantastic First Poems

Lots of silly rhymes and poems to entertain young children. I guarantee they will be repeating them to you after a few days.

Mr. Men: My Complete Collection by Roger Hargreaves

Four-year-olds are just old enough to begin appreciating the Mr. Men stories. Some of the more complex ideas go over their heads, but I think it is worth investing in this classic series now, before they become too old – you wouldn’t want to miss out on reading these wonderful stories to your children.

Can you recommend any other books I’ve missed?

Which of these does your 4-year-old enjoy most?


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48 Comments

  1. Beth F says:

    What a cool post. I remember reading these kinds of books (and some of the same books) to my nephews when they were young. My neighbors have two young boys (1 and 3) and they love books. I’ll have to give them this list.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I love reading picture books! I hope your neighbours find the list useful :-)

  2. Hi,
    We have Where’s the Dragon – great fun! The Cat in the Hat was a great read on the plane and since then we are big fans of Dr Seuss books. Captain Flinn, Aliens and Harry are warmly recommended on Curious Book Fans site by reviewers. Fidgety Fish is almost the most visited children book page on our site which was surprising to me.
    Not well known gems I would recommend are:
    Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda by Margaret Atwood and Dusan Petricic
    Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes by Margaret Atwood and Dusan Petricic

    1. Jackie says:

      CuriousBookFan, I am surprised that Fidgety Fish is one of your most popular pages too. It is a very good book, but my children think it is something very special – perhaps because they enjoy knowing something the fish doesn’t?

      I haven’t read any of Margaret Atwood’s children’s books. I’ll have to see if I can find a copy as I’m intrigued now.

      1. Forgot the first in the series by Atwood/Petricic – good old story of Enormous Potato. I am Serbian and grew up on books with Petricic’s illustrations. He is really great illustrator. Not sure if these books are published in the UK but we ordered from Book Depository or Amazon.com, I think.

  3. Sandy says:

    These books bring back the days of sitting and down and reading with my kids. I loved their books at that age. And you are right, boys are obsessed with all bodily functions. One particular favorite was a series about Walter the Farting Dog. They also loved the Click Clack Moo books and its sequels.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I haven’t heard of Walter the Farting Dog, but until my boys learn about farting (somehow we’ve managed to avoid mention of it?!) I’ll avoid it. I’m sure hey’d love it though :-~

      I don’t think I’ve come across Click Clack Moo books either. Thanks for the recommendation :-)

  4. We gave The Gruffalo (and the Gruffalo Trunki case!) to our three year old nephew last week; he enjoyed it but I think he was a little scared as he is quite sensitive. They immediately went to the library and borrowed another Jill Donaldson book (one about a dragon whose title I can’t remember just now).

    I started both my nephews and my friend’s little boys on Doctor Seuss from babyhood as I think they appreciate the rhymes from an early age and then grow to understand the storyline and enjoy it even further; Seuss books are definitely gifts that keep giving and are classics that belong in every collection.

    The Tiger Who Came to Tea is one of my favourite books from childhood as were Dogger by Shirley Hughes; Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr; My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards and others.

    We’ve been wanting to buy the complete Mister Men for our nephews but it is a headache trying to get the boxset to Vancouver; we did buy the complete Beatrix Potter earlier this year though and sent it over with the grandparents when our youngest nephew was born. I’m looking forward to them being old enough for the complete Roald Dahl.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, My 3-year-old is very scared of The Gruffalo too. He is starting to like it, but at Christmas the film terrified him and he used to run and hide at the mere mention of the word Gruffalo. I’m sure that your nephew will love The Gruffalo soon.

      I think most Julia Donaldson books are really good. I also really like Room on the Broom – especially as Halloween is coming up.

      I remember loving Mog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea as a child – it is so nice to pass on the same books and I agree with you about Roald Dahl – I am really looking forward to reading all those again!

  5. JoV says:

    There are so many books here! My boys like the stories from the creator of Gruffalo, but not Gruffalo. I thought the Tiddler fish who is always late is nice and both my sons love whales and sharks and sea creatures. They also love Harry and the bucket of dinosaurs a lot. Mr Men is also their favourites, at least they laugh about names like Mr. Uppity, Mr. Lazy, Mrs Grumpy etc. so that they don’t grow up to be like them!! LOL…

    Your 5-year-old is such a big boy now! I like this post and most probably do one about my 5-year-old favourite books, except my memory often failed me, but I’ll try. :D

    1. Jackie says:

      JoV, I do like Tiddler, but there are a couple of sections that are quite difficult to read aloud. I agree that the illustrations are great though – lots of different fish to identify!

      My five-year-old is very grown up. He has always looked older than he is – last week a lifeguard almost let him on the water slides for those aged 8+. We had to jump in and stop him!

      I hope that you decide to post about your favourite children’s books – it would be good to compare notes as I’m sure I’ve missed a lot.

  6. Verity says:

    Great post – I have bookmarked it as I need to buy a book or two for my cousin who turns 5 in December :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I hope you manage to find the perfect book for your cousin – I love giving books to children!

  7. Dorte H says:

    What a nice post! I even recognized several of the authors.

    But the favourites of my own children? Dear me, the youngest is twenty, but I am sure Astrid Lindgren´s Pippi Longstocking must have been a favourite around that age.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, I keep hearing about Pippi Longstocking, but I’ve never read a book about her. I’ll have to seek one out. :-)

      1. Dorte H says:

        Jackie, you must!

        And here you can see the “real” old Pippi:

        http://bibliotek.kk.dk/ting/object/710100%3A21080888

        1. It's cold up here says:

          We borrowed some of the Pippi movies from the library for my 3 1/2 year old – SHE LOVES her. I think it will be a little while before we read the books though…. thanks for all the other great book suggestions on here. She often requests to wear her striped tights and to be called pippi.

  8. Dr. Seuss rocks, as does Thomas the Tank Engine. I used to love my Thomas Ladybird editions some twenty years ago :)

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, I don’t think anyone can beat Dr. Suess!

      As an adult I find I am growing to hate Thomas and the endless stories of being “useful” and avoiding “causing confusion and delay” but the boys love him so I guess that is all that matters!

  9. Your son is so cute and looks like he has some great books as favorites –I love kids books :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Bibliophile By the Sea, I don’t think I will ever tire of reading children’s books either :-)

  10. Jenners says:

    Love this post!! I adore children’s books, and some of these are favorites in our house as well. Some I haven’t seen and plan to seek out.

    I adored Richard Scarry as a child, and I’m so happy new generations still love his work.

    And I’ve found my son adores books that hide things on each page to find … whether it is Wally (he is Waldo here is the U.S.), dragons or space creatures.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I haven’t heard of Richard Scarry – it is amazing the variety out there. I’ll have to see if my library has any of his books :-)

  11. Karen says:

    Thanks for this post Jackie – my nephew turns 5 in November so I will keep an eye out for some of these for him!

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I’m sure you’ll find a few present ideas here :-)

  12. Mome Rath says:

    Very cool post, and congratulations on your son’s birthday! I hope he develops a great love of reading from all of these books!
    Have you read any of Graeme Base’s oeuvre? His illustrated books are amazing. Animalia and The Eleventh Hour are his most well known (the latter is for slightly older readers), but all of the ones of his I’ve seen are very enjoyable with great illustrations.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mome Rath, Both my boys love reading. I really hope that that love stays with them as they grow.

      I haven’t read anything by Graeme Base either :-( I have just looked him up and the illustrations look beautiful. It looks as though he writes for older children so it is good to find out about him now :-)

  13. Annabel says:

    What a good collection – I can confirm that girls like books about poo and farts too – My daughter loved Q Pootle 5! SHe’s now 10 but I’m glad I kept a stack of her picture books – the other week, we re-read some of them in bed together – The Gruffalo, Farmer Duck, Kipper (my fave), the Daisy books by Kes Gray (Daisy is a tomboy), and Slinky Malinky & Hairy MacLary – fab rhythmic rhyming tales about a cat and a dog respectively by Lynley Dodd. It takes you back …

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, And I thought girls were above that sort of thing :-)
      I have seen all the books you mention and I liked them, but they didn’t capture the imagination of my boys – I wonder if it is a gender thing? I’d love to see a list of books that girls like the best.

  14. Tracey says:

    Hi Jackie,

    Have you met my trolls yet? Guaranteed to make children giggle and bring out the little troll in us all!
    ‘The Grunt and The Grouch’ are two hygienically-challenged trolls who cause havoc wherever they go. Available as a picture book and in a newly published young fiction series; they’re sure to make storytime trollific fun!

    1. Jackie says:

      Tracey, I haven’t come across your books before, but I love those trolls!! I’m sure my boys would appreciate their disgusting habits :-)

  15. Lorraine says:

    Lovely to see what your little boy enjoys, and my son who is just 4 enjoys many of these. An absolute favourite, however, is The Children Who Smelled A Rat by Allan Ahlberg and and Katharine McEwen. It’s a great introduction to ‘chapter’ style books and my son just can’t get enough of it. Pleased to say thoroughly enjoy it too so that’s a bonus!!

    1. Jackie says:

      Lorrane, Another one I haven’t heard of! My son hasn’t started on chapter books yet so it is good to know these titles now. It will be interesting to see how many of these suggestions end up on my ‘Best Books for 5-year-old boys’ post this time next year!!

  16. What a brilliant list! I shall keep these in mind for Christmas for my little cousin. I already bought him Calm Down Boris (couldn’t resist the furry puppet aspect of it). The Q Pootle 5 book sounds kind of gross and amazing at the same time!!

    1. Jackie says:

      Novel Insights, Calm Down Boris is so cute – I have bought it for others in the past.

      Disgusting books really appeal to this age group and it is a great way to get them interested in books – I think you’ll enjoy reading Q Pootle ;-)

  17. sakura says:

    My four year old nephew loves The Gruffalo and Thomas the Tank Engine. Myself, I’m a huge fan of Richard Scarry! There are some titles I haven’t seen so it’s handy come Christmas!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sakura, It sounds as though I’m missing out on Richard Scarry – I’m going to have to get my hands on some of his books.

  18. Hi, thanks for the great post. My son is just 4 years old and loves books. We already have some of the ones you’ve mentioned like The Cat in the Hat, but I’ve just been and ordered three of your recommendations. He loves Thomas so will be ecstatic when Thomas and the Blackout arrives. I also bought him Where’s the Dragon and Winnie the Witch (well it is Halloween nearly).

    Thanks again. It’s great to read a childrens book review that’s perfect for my sons age group.

    1. Jackie says:

      The Slowest Bookworm, Winnie the Witch is perfect for Halloween! I’m going to have to see if I can find some of the other books in the series in the library to read at Halloween – they are a wonderful way of introducing witches without scaring them!

      I’m sure your son will love Thomas and the Blackout and Where’s the Dragon. Thank you for the kind words :-)

  19. Carin B. says:

    Oh I love this post! I loved the Mr. Men series when I was a kid. I am going to write some of these down for my nieces. One of them is a princess girl, but the other is definitely a little tomboy! They would probably both love some of these books though. I’ve been looking for some reviews of children’s books for Christmas idea. Thanks for this! :)

    One other thing. Where’s Wally is Where’s Waldo in the U.S. I wonder why they change it between countries? Weird! Those are fun books though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carin, I’m sure all girls will love some of these books, but I’m afraid I have very little experience with girls and so I have no idea which would be the best. I hope you find some good Christmas ideas here. Good luck!

      I have no idea why they changed Wally’s name, but it is confusing the way titles are changed between countries. :-(

  20. Amanda says:

    My kids LOVED those Thomas books!!

    What an adorable picture of him. :D

  21. Pirate dinosaurs? If only they drove monster trucks, too!

  22. Amy C says:

    Loved this post! I don’t have any boys, but my little girls just love reading. Of course, with 4-year-old and 2-year old girls, our house is full of books about princesses and ballerinas and Fancy Nancy, but they also really enjoy the silly, crazy books too. I’m jotting down a few good ideas from your list so I can get them from the library and see how they like them!

  23. I find this really useful, as I too have a 4.5 year old. Great reference, thanks for sharing.

  24. JackieS says:

    Hi Jackie

    A saying in our house is “your a wombat in a bathhat!” ut I could not remember the name of the book so whilst searching for it found your post. We have been read most of the books on your list.
    My son is now 7 but his favouraite book for years has been Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus by Tony Titton and Guy Parker-Rees. First I read it and he learnt the bit that’s on each page and would repeat it before he could read it. Now he reads it to his younger brother. We also loved the Pirate Dinosaur and the aliens love underpants books.
    His current favourites are Dinosaur Cove books and he also reads my old favourites of Brer Rabbit.

    1. Jackie says:

      My oldest son is now 7 too – I should do another one of these posts for 5/6 year-old boys. At 7 my son is also loving Enid Blyton – although he is working his way through the Enchanted Wood/Wishing Chair series – I’ll have to get Brer Rabbit from the library once he’s finished.

      Thanks for recommending Dinosaur Cove – that isn’t a series I’ve come across, but I’ll look out for it now.

  25. amy says:

    Thanks for all your ideas for fun books! The pirate cruncher is also a fun one, Man on the moon: a day in the life of Bob, My Dad is Big and Strong but, (he’s afraid of the dark) by Colalie Saudo, King Bidgood in the bathtub (and The Napping House) by Audrey Wood, A Circus Ship, by Chris Van Deusen, Patrick’s Dinosaur, Puff Puff Chugga Chugga, by Christopher Wormell. We loved all these and more.

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