At age 4 to 5, starting preschool, children still love picture books, so most of my choices are in this category. But I also include some chapter books with fewer pictures to introduce children to the idea of simply listening to a story without constant visual stimulation.
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Little Gold Star: A Spanish American Cinderella Tale is a lovely retelling of the Cinderella story with a Catholic flavor! Instead of a fairy godmother, the author has the Blessed Virgin come to Cinderella’s aid. I appreciated how in the end, the evil stepsisters actually repent of their evil ways and live happily ever after too.
If you’re interested in exploring more fairy tales, folk tales, and tall tales with your children, check out my list of Good Fairy Tales, Fables, and Tall Tales for Catholic Kids!
The Billy And Blaze stories are the wonderful adventures of a boy and his pony. Billy and Blaze will teach your child about courage, friendship, and prudence as they save the country from a forest fire, rescue dogs and calves, and blaze new trails. Our favorites in the series are Blaze and the Forest Fire: Billy and Blaze Spread the Alarm and Blaze and the Lost Quarry
King of the Shattered Glass is a lovely allegory about a little servant girl who keeps breaking the King’s precious glass. Despite her fear of punishment, she takes the broken glass to the King, who always forgives her. In the end, she discovers her “mistakes” have been made into a spectacular Stained Glass window! This one really resonated with my kids.
What Can I Give God?, Will You Bless Me?, and Can God See Me in the Dark? are three charming Catholic books by Neil Lozano which answer common children’s questions about God through simple retellings of parts of the Gospels. The sense of love and closeness emanating from the family in the stories is like a warm blanket wrapping around you and your child as you read.
Another book which answers children’s questions about God is Does God Know How to Tie Shoes?. Author Nancy White Carlstrom answers a small girl’s questions about God’s nature and abilities in a creative way by drawing on the Psalms.
For the boy who loves knights, Karen Kingsbury’s Brave Young Knight is a little gem of a story. It offers so many wonderful themes about choosing honesty and integrity, ignoring peer pressure, and unconditional parental love.
Another awesome story about true knighthood, loyalty and service is The Errant Knight. My son loves this story about a knight who teaches true charity by helping each servant of the king he encounters.
The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables is a great version of Aesop’s famous fables accompanied with gorgeous, detailed illustrations.
Thumbelina be Elsa Beskow is a beautiful retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s literary fairy tale. We just love Elsa Beskow’s illustrations.
Elsa Beskow’s Uncle Blue’s New Boat is another of her beautifully illustrated picture books. This one is an ordinary story about a simple family picnic that turns into an adventure.
Wee Gillis is a Scottish laddie who doesn’t know whether to be a hunter like his father’s family or a farmer like his mother’s. But then he realizes his talent is something unique just to him: playing the bagpipes.
Three Little Horses is a fanciful make-believe about three little horses, Blackie, Brownie, and Whitie, who meet an artist and have an adventure.
On the other side of horse stories, Blackie: The Horse Who Stood Still: The Horse Who Stood Still is a mostly true story about a real American horse. Despite- or because of- his tendency to just stand still, this horse became a town mascot and was beloved by thousands.
As an introduction to the saints, I like Ethel Pochocki’s Once upon a Time Saints. These are stories of less famous saints told in a fairy tale style which interests preschoolers. The lesson to be learned is that the saints were real people with real feelings, just like us.
The first loose tooth can be unnerving for a child, so reading One Morning in Maine to prepare for that day is a great preemptive strategy. Sal wakes up one morning with a loose tooth, and has a busy morning helping her father and little sister, losing her tooth, making wishes, and boating to the harbour. In addition to growing up themes, there are good discussion opportunities about kindness to little siblings, bravery, and wishes.
Time of Wonder is another charming Robert McCloskey book. A slower paced nature-focused look at the beautiful Maine coast.
Percy the Park Keeper: A Classic Treasury is a wonderful collection of many of Nick Butterworth’s Percy stories. These are charming tales of Percy interacting with his animal friends and caring for the park. You can talk about observing animals, kindness to animals, friendship, gardening, and stewardship.
Days on the Farm is a good introduction to farm life. This collection of beautifully illustrated stories includes information about sheep dogs, chickens, orphan animals, sheep sheering and herding, and tractors.
We read The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso to introduce our children to the importance of the Mass. The baker in the story is awakened to the value of a Mass when all the goods in his shop prove to weigh less than a scrap of paper with “1 Mass” scribbled on it.
Also by Josephine Nobisso, Take It to the Queen: A Tale of Hope emphasizes the idea of the queen as mediator between the people and king. This is a highly symbolic story which draws on parables and the incarnation, all accompanied by beautiful illustrations.
If you are looking for a book to encourage empathy and appreciation for different personalities, The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personality is the perfect pick. It combines a fun, rollicking search across a land of peppermint waterfalls and blueberry pie trees with a story of friendship, bravery, kindness, and leadership.
Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm combines an informative, down to earth description of each animal on the farm with hilarious, engaging tidbits about its personality. The theme of this book is that no animal is perfect, but they still provide us with entertainment, companionship, and enjoyment.
Saints for Boys: A First Book for Little Catholic Boys and Saints for Girls: A First Book for Little Catholic Girls are beautiful, hard cover books that make great gifts. They include short, simple stories and illustrations of the lives of famous saints such as St. Elizabeth of Hungry and St. Dominic Savio.
Moving Molly is my book of choice for discussing moving. Molly is a bit sad at first to leave her old, familiar house. But she soon finds that her new home has many great things to enjoy: a wonderful yard, plants to water, and even new friends next door!
Five o’clock Charlie is such a sweet story about an old horse who feels abandoned and sad until an old friend gives him a job and opportunity to socialize again. You can take this as an opportunity to talk about the elderly, or just enjoy Charlie’s charm!
If you have never encountered James Herriot before, you are in for a treat with James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small. Herriot draws on true experiences from his life as a vet in the Yorkshire dales to write his heart-warming ancedotes about animals.
Henry Explores the Mountains is a story about courage, self-reliance, and hiking. Henry’s exploring in the mountains takes a hair-raising turn when he discovers a forest fire and must rush to alert the rangers. We also love Henry the Castaway, in which Henry and loyal dog Angus get stranded on an island and come up with creative ways for signalling for help. These books are great for encouraging kids to problem solve on their own, be brave, and stay calm.
Mike Mulligan and More: Four Classic Stories by Virginia Lee Burton includes stories about Katy the Snow Plow, Maybelle the Cable Car, and the Little House. Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel’s race to finish the cellar is so well known that I won’t waste space elaborating. Less famous but also very good are Burton’s other stories. Katy the snow plow perseveres to clear all the roads of the city. The Little House is my favorite in this collection, describing the changes in the world over the course of a century from the perspective of the house.
The Growing Story is a gem both for its simple, peaceful message and illustrations. It follows a little boy, some chicks, and a puppy as they grow over the course of the year. It’s a wonderful story for explaining how children grow slowly (at least it seems like that to them!)
Andy and the Lion is a tale of kindness and friendship between a boy and a lion. Andy helps the lion, and the lion remembers when he gets loose in Andy’s town.
In The Finest Horse in Town, a child recounts three different versions of local legend about his aunts’ legendary horse: the finest horse in town.
I firmly believe every little boy needs to read Steven Kellog’s tall tales Mike Fink, Pecos Bill, and Paul Bunyan. These tales are very tall, but they awake a spirit of courage, adventure, and boldness that little boys need. The illustrations are detailed and funny in classic Kellog style.
The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale is a Russian folk tale retold by Arthur Ransome. The moral of this tall tale about a fool undertaking seemingly impossible tasks is that God loves and cares for simple folks.
The King With Six Friends is in some ways a similar story to The Fool of the World. There’s a similar focus on teamwork, friendship, and quests. But in this version the protagonist is a king without a kingdom and his friends each have the ability to transform into something else such as a tree, a fire, or an elephant.
The Rattlebang Picnic is a rollicking tale by Steven Kellog about a big family and their adventures in their old car. Add a volcano exploding, an inedible pizza, and a flat tire and you have a recipe for hilarity.
We love Shirley Hughes so much she pops up on every book list I make! Tales of Trotter Street includes four of her longer stories, all with a great lesson as is typical for Hughes. Angel Mae adjusts to having a new sister. Carlos learns that receiving a surprise present can be even better than getting what you think you want. Neighbors work together to save the day when the concrete lorry dumps its load a day early.
Little Bear’s Dragon and Other Stories are Jane Hissey’s stories for slightly older listeners, charmingly illustrated as always. In this collection, children learn about putting on a play, camping out, having a race, and playing pretend.
I think it is very important for small children to be exposed to the elderly as fun, relatable people, and how better than by reading about Mr. Putter and his fine cat Tabby and their eccentric neighbors Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog Zeke? Some of our favorites in this series by Cynthia Rylant areMr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake, Mr. Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears, andMr. Putter & Tabby Paint the Porch.
The Jolly Postman is an adorable idea: a book about a postman delivering letters between the different characters of famous fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Kids love how there are envelopes with little letters in them.
Parent warning: one letter is to the Wicked Witch (of Hansel and Gretel fame) and is an advertisement for potions and such. The Wicked Witch is portrayed as mildly scary and bad and the Jolly Postman hurries away.
Tomie dePaola has many good stories to choose from, but we like to begin with his Tomie dePaola’s Favorite Nursery Tales. This collection includes famous fairy tales like “The Princess and the Pea,” unusual folk tales like “The Straw Ox,” and poems such as “The Children’s Hour.”
Most preschoolers are still struggling with the concept of selflessness versus selfishness, so reading about Kermit the Hermit, the selfish shellfish, is the perfect help. Kermit is a selfish shellfish until his life is saved by a boy one day, and he realizes giving a gift to his benefactor is more important and fulfilling than sitting on his hoard of treasure.
Chrysanthemum has a beautiful, unique name, so the kids in her class at school tease her. How will she learn to love her name and stop caring about what the bullies say?
The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh chronicles the adventures of the lovable, huggable Winnie the Pooh. These stories teach friendship, courage, kindness, sharing, and so many other lessons!
Raggedy Ann Stories are American children’s classics that offer some wonderful lessons. Raggedy provides a stellar example of cheerfulness, kindness, and friendship throughout her adventures.
Another fabulous first chapter book for this age is Big Susan. Little girls love this make-believe about a dollhouse family that comes to life and makes a Christmas surprise for their little owner.
A Collection of fairy tales is a much for any home library. My favorite is this hard-to-find collection The Fairy Tale Book.
Have a four to five year old who is ready for more chapter books? Check out my list of The Best Classic Chapter Books to Read Aloud to the Littlest Listeners that’s tailored for this age!
Looking for more specifically Catholic books for 4 and 5 year olds? Check out my other lists.
Working on ABC’s? Check out this list: