Five books to…make your preschoolers happier

Five books to make your preschoolers happier

One of the best things about having kids is being able to hang out in the children’s section of Waterstones, oohing and ahhing at the picture books, without looking like an idiot. Assuming you’ve remembered to bring your kids with you, which I don’t always.

To parents that are reading the same five-page horror seventeen times a day, fist bumps to you, my friend. I’ve been there. Some children’s books are boring. Some are badly written, and you’d better hope your little loves don’t get attached to a book that’s both.

But just occasionally we find one that’s not only exciting and well plotted, but actively happy-making. A book that shows your preschooler things that will make them a better, more well-adjusted person. Whenever we find one of these I make a note, and buy them in for birthdays and Christmas.

Here are five of the best.

My Many Coloured Days, by Dr Seuss

many coloured days

‘You’d be surprised how many ways I change
on different coloured days’.

The best of the Seusses, the very best. It’s a gorgeously-illustrated ramble about how different days come with different feelings…which feel like animals and colours too. So on green days you feel cool and quiet like a fish, purple days are like a sad and lonely dinosaur, and on black days you howl and scream like an angry wolf.

Why it’s great:

Is there a better message for the volatile, volcano-ish under-fives than ‘hey, emotions are ok’? They’re like that kid from Mean Girls who ‘just has a lot of feelings‘. I think a lot about raising emotionally literate boys in particular. This book makes them feel like it’s not the end of the world to have a wolf day.

 

Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds

ish

‘And Ramon lived ish-fully ever after’.

Ramon has a problem: he’s an artist, but he’s so worried about drawing everything perfectly that he can no longer draw at all. It takes a word from his little sister to make him realise that drawing ‘something – ish’ is more than good enough…and all of his ideas come flying out again.

Why it’s great: 

This is a beautifully relatable story about creativity and sibling support…with an extra message about imperfect, messy things being the best of all. The illustrations are lovely, too.

 

Picasso’s Trousers, by Nicholas Allan

picssostrousers

‘He liked BLUE so he decided to paint pictures all blue. “You can’t paint ALL BLUE pictures”, they said’.

I flipping love this book. We just got it from the library, and I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to give it back. A story about Picasso, who did all sorts of brilliant things, because when everyone said ‘no, no, NO, Picasso!’ he said ‘yes!’ and did them anyway. Even when it came to his fashion choices.

Why it’s great:

A hilarious introduction to Picasso, Cubism and painting, plus some good stuff about following your bonkers dreams? Where do I sign up? H laughs all the way through, and he can now pick a Picasso painting out of a line up (‘look, Mummy, they are facing front and side at the same time!’).

 

Tadpole’s Promise, by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

tadpoles promise

‘Where the willow meets the water, a tadpole met a caterpillar’.

At the beginning of this dark and hysterically funny book, a tadpole falls in love with a caterpillar. The caterpillar makes him promise never to change…but, being a tadpole, that’s not so easy. An unusual love story with a jaw-dropping twist at the end. Tony Ross and Jeanne Willis are husband and wife, I hear, and they must have had many a belly laugh cooking this one up late at night.

Why it’s great: 

Seems a bit odd, perhaps, to include a black humour book on a list to make kids happier. Maybe it’s not for the very young or sensitive, but I think it’s great for them to hear stories occasionally where not everything works out at the end. And watching them find out that stories can take them to genuinely surprising places is a delight.

Aside: this couple also wrote ‘Grill Pan Eddy’, which was our best find of last year. Amazing rhymes. 

 

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water, by Gemma Merino

the-crocodile-who-didnt-like-water-978144721471702

‘What he really liked was climbing trees! But nobody else did’. 

This one is a joy from start to finish. A little crocodile tries desperately to fit in with his swim-club-loving siblings, even saving up his money to buy himself a rubber ring, but he just doesn’t like water. Then comes the day when he finds out who he really is. The illustrations work as well as the words: the whole thing is funny and beautiful.

Why it’s great:

I’m about to out myself as a big loser, but when I get to the line ‘And this little crocodile wasn’t born to SWIM…’, and put all the discovery and wonder in my voice I want them to hear, I get a little tear. How many times might they feel like their talents don’t match everyone else’s? What kind of incredible thing might they be born to do instead? Gemma Merino is the writer and illustrator, and it’s her first book – on this evidence I’ll be looking for her second. She dedicates the book to ‘all those who still haven’t found their hidden talents’. AND THE TEAR IS BACK.

I’m planning to make ‘Five books…’ into a new series this year. Hope you like it, and look out for the next one! 

Also, if you liked this (or you just want me to stop going on about it), I’d be mega thrilled if you’d vote for me in the BiB awards Writer category! Click below and look for Make a Long Story Short!

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7 thoughts on “Five books to…make your preschoolers happier

    • And there are so many mediocre ones, aren’t there!
      I can’t believe how big she is now. Seems like two minutes since she was a newborn.
      Have you been to the Tate Modern gift shop, by the way? They have the most beautiful collection of children’s books – all with lovely illustrations, as you’d hope at an art gallery! x

  1. Great idea for a new series! I’m very pleased that we have another bookworm in M, but English-language books are obviously a bit of an investment for us here in Italy (and in a few months, Sweden). This means I want them to be good and I usually uhm and ah about what to buy for ages. Some good recommendation will really help, Thanks!

    • Ooh, of course! We normally weed out the bad ones by finding them at the library and buying them later, but when you’re in a different country that’s not really an option 🙂 A quest to find excellent children’s books sounds like something I would love – I will keep at it! x

  2. I love this series and am especially keen to hear if you have any suggestions to help prepare pre-schoolers to become “schoolers” and to help emotional Mummy’s to get her head around it too! I have had The Kissing Hand recommended but would love to know if you have any suggestions. Thank you as always for sharing. x

  3. Pingback: Five books…to help your kids love words | Make a Long Story Short

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