10 best books for 4 year olds

Whether your 4 year old likes friendly animals, playful toys or memorable nursery rhymes, they'll love all these books...


The Enormous Crocodile

By Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake, Puffin, RRP £5.99


What’s the story: He loves to eat juicy, delicious children, but the other animals are tired of his schemes so they hatch plans to stop him from guzzling any children.

Why we love it: Dahl is famous for his mock-violence, and there’s plenty of detail here about the particular taste and texture of children as imagined by the greedy crocodile. This could only occur in the absurd world of Dahl where children are threatened in the most beastly way by monsters with cheeky grins and twinkly eyes, making them a lot less scary than they should be.

First published: 1978


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

By Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, published by Walker, RRP £5.99

What’s the story: Small children adore playing imaginary adventure games and this book really does take you on an adventure. A father and three children set off in search of a bear. They all swish through long grass, splash through a cold river and squelch through a field of mud. When they finally come across the bear all four decide to make a hasty retreat all the way back home to safety.

Why we love it: This is a gorgeous picture book with alternating illustrated pages in black and white and colour which captures the dramatic and delightful apprehension of going on a search for something fearsomely exciting.

First published: 1989



By Shirley Hughes, published by Red Fox, RRP £5.99

What’s the story: Dogger is the endearing story of how Dave’s beloved stuffed toy was lost and found. Winner of the 1977 Kate Greenaway Medal, Dogger is a timeless classic which, in simple words and detailed pictures, shows the distress the loss of a toy causes a child, as well as the reality of family life.

Why we love it: Filled with humour and Shirley Hughes’ deft touch in her text and drawings, this is a book for them to tackle by themselves, as well as a delight to read aloud by a grown up.

First published: 1977


The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark

By Jill Tomlinson, illustrated by Paul Howard, published by Egmont, RRP £5.99

What’s the story: Plop is a baby barn owl who’s just like any other barn owl except for one thing – he’s afraid of the dark. Plop’s mother and father decide to solve the problem by sending him off to ask a variety of humans and animals who adore the darkness. Each one gives Plop a special reason for loving the darkness and finally Plop is convinced and joins his parents for some companionable night hunting.

Why we love it: Children will learn too that the dark can be just as fun as the day. You can see fireworks and play games round the camp fire or look up at the stars in the dark.

First published: 1968


The Book of Moomin, Mymble and Little My

By Tove Jannsson, published by Sort Of Books, RRP £9.99

What’s the story: The magic of Tove Jansson’s bestselling Moomin picture book was re-crafted in English to launch Sort of Children’s Classics (for readers from four to infinity). Follow Moomin’s adventures in verse, through amazing full colour, cut-out pages as he helps Mymble find her little sister My.

Why we love it: This is a magnificently imaginative and entertaining children’s book. For those already familiar with Jansson’s Moomin books, this beautiful book will astonish you with its superbly detailed illustrations. The text is in the form of rhyming poetry, which has been newly re-composed in English by Sophie Hannah from a literal translation.


First published: 1952

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