Good Fairy Tales, Fables, and Tall Tales for Catholic Kids

From ancient times onward, parents and grandparents have passed on their wisdom to the next generations through fairy tales, tall tales, fables, and cautionary tales. Each culture has its own special stories, such as the American tall tales, while other stories such as Cinderella are told by many cultures with their own variations. Here are some of my favorite picture book versions of fairy tales, fables, and tall tales both  old and new, renowned and little known, from around the world.


I love the gorgeous illustrations and Medieval manuscript letters in this beautiful version of Sleeping Beauty!


In this version of The Princess and the Pea, the queen and king get a slightly larger role than usual. The side banter between the queen and her son is amusing, and the illustrations take pride of place.


This beautiful version of Rapunzel is so vividly illustrated the witch may scare you! I think it uniquely captures the mixed love and hate the witch has for Rapunzel.


We enjoy this Spanish American version of the classic Cinderella story. Little Gold Star brings a Catholic flavor to this familiar favorite with Marian intercession taking the place of the fairy godmother.


My other favorite retelling of the Cinderella story is Jan Brett’s imaginative chicken-themed version: Cinders. The accurate depictions of a brood of bantam hens are amazingly detailed and gorgeous.


But, if you want the classic, simple Cinderella story, Marcia Brown’s Cinderella is what you’re looking for!


The charming illustrations in this edition of Little Red Riding Hood contrast with this rather dark cautionary tale. True to the original Grimm fairy tale, the wolf eats Red Riding Hood and her Grandma. But in the end, the woodsman cuts them out and saves the day!


E. Nesbit’s fanciful chapter books are favorites of mine, so I am happy to include her retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk on this list. She omits some of the more grisly details of the original tale, but adds in her unique touch with explanations of details such as why Jack’s shutters don’t work.


The Adventures of Brer Rabbit and Friends is a clever retelling of the Joel Chandler Harris Uncle Remus tales. My children love this collection of ten of Harris’ funniest tales, complete with plenty of onomatopoeia and wonderful illustrations on every page.


With The Firebird, you have at once a fairy tale and a ballet (by Igor Stravinsky). This version of the fairy tale contains both a depiction of the ballet and a gorgeous fanciful illustration on each page. Caveat that the evil wizard villain in the story is quite disturbing looking and might terrify very young children.


Another Russian fairy tale of the quest genre, the The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring has some of the most magnificently done illustrations. This tale is about an exciting quest and the winning of a princess, yet also raises questions about listening to your conscience versus blind obedience.


A third Russian folk tale we enjoy is The Magic Nesting Doll. On her deathbed, Katya’s grandma bequeaths her a magic nesting doll which contains animals that will help her break the spell which binds her kingdom in a dark, icy winter. This story has a touch of Narnia and a touch of Sleeping Beauty.


Arthur Ransome’s retelling of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: A Russian Tale deserves a place in any library. My children find this tale about how God watches out for simple folk both funny and inspiring.


The Legend of the Bluebonnet is a sad but beautiful story of self-sacrifice. A little Indian girl gives up her one cherished toy to save her people from famine.


The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush is an old folk tale about finding and pursuing your own particular calling. A young Indian boy feels more drawn to painting the scenes around him then joining in usual hunting activities of his friends.


We love our American Tall Tales, especially Steven Kellog’s fun editions of Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink, and Johnny Appleseed. His detail-rich illustration style brings a wealth of amusing tidbits to these already entertaining tales.


Stone Soup is an old French folk tale about some smart soldiers who outwit a village of selfish people. A lesson in sharing.


Tikki Tikki Tembo has a fun rhythmic cadence that children love. An old Chinese folk tale, it cautions against giving children very, very, very long names.


The Mitten by Jan Brett is a retelling of a Ukranian folk tale, complete with wonderfully realistic illustrations.


The Ugly Duckling is a favorite fairy tale from Hans Christian Anderson. The theme of not judging someone by their outward appearance has a timeless appeal, and Jerry Pinkney’s gorgeous illustrations bring this story to life in a powerful way.


The Pancake Boy is a fun Norwegian version of the tale Americans recognize more readily as “The Gingerbread Man.” In the Norwegian version, a pig devours the gullible Pancake Boy in the end!


Speaking of Gingerbread Baby, we love Jan Brett’s version of this favorite folk tale.


Honey… Honey… Lion! has all of Jan Brett’s trademark attention to detail and beautiful illustrations. In this African tale, Honey Badger learns the hard way not to be selfish and hog all the honey!


The 3 Little Dassies  is an African-themed version of the classic Three Little Pigs tale. Jan Brett uses vivid colors and a variety of desert creatures to bring this story to life in a new way.


Speaking of old tales, The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables is a beautiful version of the traditional fables from the ancient world. Each fable has a wonderful painting to accompany it which captures children’s eyes while a parents reads the fable.


Though a pricey investment, My Book House contains an amazing array of folk tales, fairy tales, and legends from around the world.

Review of “What Should Danny Do?”


Danny Product Shot

What Should Danny Do? is the first book in the new Power to Choose series by husband and wife team Ganit and Adir Levy.  I love so many things about this book, starting with the fact that “Danny” is inspired by their nephew, the real Danny. Ganit and Adir have four children themselves, and their experience as seasoned parents shows clearly throughout this clever story.

What Should Danny Do? is such a neat concept: a story which engages young readers by offering them choices which change the course of the story. One book with a very basic plot about the ups and downs Danny experiences on one summer day. But kids are fascinated with this book because every few pages, they get to choose what Danny does. And each choice changes the story completely. In essence, this is a story about free will explained in such simple terms a four or five year old gets it.

Danny loves superheroes, so his dad tells him he has a special superpower: the Power to Choose. As he goes through the day, he has many opportunities to use his superpower. Will he yell about not getting his favorite plate or ask politely if he can have it tomorrow? When his brother drops his snow cone, will Danny gulp his own down or choose to share? Your children get to choose for Danny and then flip to the page number corresponding to the choice to see the result.


Danny Book 1 Choice Box

I appreciated how the authors portrayed Danny’s parents. They are proactive and intentional in trying to teach Danny virtue. His Dad makes him a special cape to help him remember his power to choose. At the end of a bad day, they encourage him to think back on how his choices impacted his day. His mom suggests he sets up a lemonade stand to earn his own money to buy a skateboard.

Overall, our whole family loved this creative book. Though probably not intended to be Catholic, I think the concept of teaching young children about their power to choose, or free will, is in essence a very Catholic concept. I would judge this book is best for ages 4-8, though our 2 year old actually enjoys it too.

What Should Danny Do? is currently on sale on Amazon. Click here to check it out!

Good ABC Books for Catholic Preschoolers

You may not be surprised that I’ve taken a book-based approach to teaching my preschoolers the ABC’s. This method is super simple: you just make sure to regularly read your toddler or preschooler several ABC books, pointing to the letters and making the sounds before reading the text on each page. My kids have learned letter sounds and recognition easily this way without any formal teaching needed. Here are some of our favorite alphabet books!

Alison’s Zinnia is one of my children’s favorite alphabet books, and mine too! Each page has a detailed illustration of a flower beginning with a particular letter. This is a wonderful way to learn flower and letter recognition at the same time. Also, I really appreciate that even the difficult letters like X have a flower beginning with that letter!

 

 


A Paddling of Ducks: Animals in Groups from A to Z is a really fun book which teaches collective nouns and the alphabet. The illustrations of each letter play on the literal meaning of the collective nouns, which I found hilarious!

 

 


Albert’s Alphabet is a wonderfully creative alphabet book by Leslie Tryon. There is almost no formal text, but my children and I always enjoy narrating our own story about Albert’s clever use of materials to build a super-sized alphabet on the playground.

 

 

 


Kipper’s A to Z: An Alphabet Adventure is both funny and educational. Even my 18 month old appreciates the gentle humor and lively illustrations from Mick Inkpen.

 

 

 

 


Little Bear’s Alphabet is written and illustrated by one of our favorite picture book authors, Jane Hissey. Children who already love Old Bear will enjoy this introduction to the alphabet which features Jane Hissey’s cast of stuffed animal friends.

 

 

 


We all enjoy the incredibly realistic illustrations in A to Z of Animals, a Wildlife Alphabet. This is one you have to buy used, but so worth it! It also includes a section at the end of the book with information about each animal featured.

 

 

 

 

The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta was a big hit with my oldest son at about age 3. He memorized most of the book in no time, and we both learned a lot of the appropriate technical names for large machines!

 

 


D is for Dump Truck: A Construction Alphabet is a story style alphabet book about a family building a tree house. It’s a nice little poetic story about teamwork.

 

 

 

A You’re Adorable is the perfect board book for introducing the alphabet to very young children. A simple little rhyme which reinforces how much we love our little ones!

 

 

 

K Is for Kiss Good Night is a sweet concept of using a calming bedtime routine to run through the alphabet. I like that this is a multi-racial book too featuring children of different nationalities.

 


On Market Street, written by Anita Lobel and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, is a simple story with highly detailed illustrations which my children will spend long periods of time examining.

 

 

 

 


Eating the Alphabet is great for introducing the letters and learning about lots of unusual fruits and vegetables.

 

 

 

 


I also want to mention Catholic Icing, a great Catholic preschool curriculum which combines teaching the ABC’s with religion and simple arts and crafts!

Review of “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”

I remember enjoying listening to my parents reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie when I was young. So I bought several of the “If you give…” books by Laura Numeroff sight unseen. I was quite disappointed when I began reading them to my own kids.

I will admit that my little ones were instantly captivated by these books. Something about the short phrases on each page, the simple, sequential story, or the animals’ antics amuses children. However, I reluctantly had to conclude most of this series needed to disappear in the night from our bookshelf.

The original If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is tolerable in my opinion (though not handsome enough to be a favorite for me). The illustrations are not as realistic and beautiful as I might ask in an ideal world, but do have a certain cuteness. The story line is actually helpful in explaining sequences and causes to very little children. And I appreciate how the little boy tries so hard to clean up after the mouse throughout the story. Of course, the deeper theme about desire following desire in a cyclical fashion is way over the intended audience’s head.

I could nitpick about Numeroff’s later books. For example, the illustrations move from cute and calm to sometimes frantic, as in If You Give a Cat a Cupcake Also, does it bother anyone else how though cookies and milk is an American combination, apple juice and donuts just don’t really go together?

But the book that I really take exception to is If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

Look at this moose.

Image result for pictures of if you give a moose a muffin

Observe the sweater. (Or is it a bolero?) Take note of the daisy.

Image result for pictures of if you give a moose a muffin

Notice the stance. This is a moose who carries a clutch purse. This moose is … a girl, right?

But no. “If you give a moose a muffin, HE’LL want some jam to go with it.” (My italics)

So, we have a male moose wearing a girly sweater with a daisy in the pocket, standing like a girl, carrying a clutch. Am I the only one who prefers my milk and cookies, or muffins and jam, unaccompanied by a homosexual or transgender normalizing agenda?

This book did not find a home on our bookshelf.

Good Picture Books about Emotions for Little Catholic Kids

I know I am not the only mom God has blessed with very strong willed and passionate children! Helping my little ones learn to understand and control their strong feelings is a daily challenge. One of the most successful techniques I have found is reading books to familiarize them with the different emotions, normalize their strong feelings, and teach techniques for dealing with emotions. Here are some of our favorite books about emotions, feelings, social situations, and more.

What Do You Do With a Grumpy Kangaroo? is one of our favorite first books about feelings. Grumpy kangaroo feels a range of emotions from anger to fear to sadness to happiness throughout his day. This book is simple enough to help a one or two year old to name the emotions.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear is not specifically about emotions, but it is easy to pick up the wide range of emotions the mouse feels throughout the story and point out his expressions.

The Rabbit Listened is a powerful lesson for parents and children about the importance of just being there and listening to someone when they’re sad. Toddler Taylor experiences loss, and many animals think they know how to help with words, distractions, and solutions. But in the end, the rabbit is the animal helps the most because he is willing to simply listen to Taylor.

Jilly’s Terrible Temper Tantrums: And How She Outgrew Them is the perfect book for the young child who struggles with terrible temper tantrums. Jilly has to learn to allow her parents to help her manage her strong emotions. I love how Jilly’s parents exhibit patience and calm throughout the story!

When I Feel Scared, When I Feel Sad , and When I Feel Angry are part of a series of books written specifically to help young children identify the emotions they feel and deal with these emotions in healthy ways. These books contain a section at the back with teaching tips, questions to discuss with your child, and further ideas for handling emotions.

Can God See Me in the Dark? takes a Catholic look at a mild fear of the dark by addressing whether God is still watching over children in the dark. We love this series by Neal Lozano!

One Special Day: A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters is not overtly about emotions, but it does offer a good lesson about different situations where different feelings are appropriate to act on. Active, crazy Spencer takes his energy and wild feelings outside so that he can be calm when his new little sister is around.This book is great for reading to new older siblings to help explain how to act around a baby.

Clark the Shark by Bruce Hale recounts the struggles of Clark, a cheerful, boisterous shark who wants to play with others but keeps knocking them over. His teacher helps him learn to control his desire to bump into others so he can make friends.

The Treasure Tree: Helping Kids Understand Their Personality is a wonderful story about four animal friends with very different personalities who use their strengths to together complete a treasure hunt. This book is great for showing children that no matter whether you are strong-willed or meticulous or anxious by nature, you have something to contribute to a group of friends.

We love What Should Danny Do?, a creative book that presents the concept of free will in an engaging manner for young children. Check out my review here!

Not a book, but I’ve had good success playing Q’s Race to the Top Educational Board Game as an extension of reading about emotions and feelings. This game helps children practice skills to deal with emotions and empathize with others.

Good Catholic Books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergartners 

Sometimes you want to make sure that you are providing enough specifically Catholic reading for your children. Here are my favorite books for gently beginning to teach the Catholic faith to our children.

For an introduction to the Bible, I like to use Maite Roche’s The Beautiful Story of the Bible. It is a greatly abbreviated and shortened picture Bible which covers some of the major Old Testament stories and the major events of Jesus’ life. I also use The Illustrated Gospel for Children to provide a more detailed account of the Gospel story. My kids are always enthralled by the comic strip style illustrations, which are tastefully executed.

For general Catholic faith formation, I read Little Acts of Grace, and for an introduction to the Ten Commandments, I read Living the 10 Commandments for Children, which has great practical examples to which little children can relate.

For an introduction to Mary and Marian devotions, we read Just Like Mary. I also love reading Take It to the Queen: A Tale of Hope by Josephine Nobisso as an opening to discuss how Mary intercedes for us to God.

For praying the rosary with preschoolers, I find it helpful to use a book with illustrations for each mystery they can examine, and meditations to read if you can with their attention span. Praying the Rosary with Mary is by a contemporary Italian artist and works well. If you prefer more classical art like I do, then try The Rosary in Art for Children, which is written in the first person as from Mary to the child.

We readThe 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.

For more formal information about the Mass, and for learning the basic traditional prayers, we read Manners in God’s House: First Prayers and First Missal. This is a great book for a preschooler to take to church, with illustrations to help them follow along.

For 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.

Another good introduction to the lives of the saints, 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 and are a favorite with my five year old. They include short, simple stories and illustrations of the lives of famous saints such as St. Elizabeth of Hungry and St. Dominic Savio.

We also loved Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times, a creative rhyming book that features modern saints such as Maximilian Kolbe, John Paul II, Chiara Badano, and Gianna Molla.

Honorable mention for books about saints should be given to Fr. Lovasik’s series. Picture Book of Saints and its sequels provide biographies and pictures of a large number of saints. Fr. Lovasik also has short paperback books on the rosary, Mass, and many other topics.

For general character formation, Devotional Stories for Little Folks from Catholic Heritage Curricula is wonderful. This book is a collection of short stories with lessons featuring a modern day family, the Peterson’s. There are even discussion questions included!

Aquinas Kids Little Books for Catholic Kids Box Set is an adorable little set of board books with simple text explaining topics like the spiritual works of mercy, corporal works of mercy, angels, and so on.

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.

Before I Was Me is the story of a baby discussing his purpose in life with God, who guides the little one to see his own importance.

Good Books for… Catholic 4 and 5 Year Olds

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 few pictures to introduce children to the idea of simply listening to a story without visual stimulation.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

A Collection of fairy tales is a much for any home library. My favorite is this hard-to-find collection The Fairy Tale Book.

Good Poetry for Little Catholic Kids 

Children need to hear poetry and rhymes from a very young age in order to learn the rhythm and flow of the English language. Additionally, exposure to poetry from a young age can help foster a lifelong appreciation for this form of literature.

I like to start my toddlers off with a charmingly illustrated book of nursery rhymes such asNursery Rhyme Treasury or Ring O’ Roses: Nursery Rhymes, Action Rhymes, and Lullabies, both illustrated by Priscilla Lamont.

When they are a bit older, 2 or 3, they love Shirley Hughes’ Out and About: A First Book of Poems, which has poems organized by season. Of course, you also get the benefit of Hughes’ distinctive, detailed illustrations which accompany each poem. Her other poetry collection, Rhymes for Annie Rose is fun for fans of Alfie and Annie Rose, and celebrates sibling play and mundane family life.

Our four year old loves Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses. These poems were intended for children, written with simple themes and commonplace similes that children will readily grasp, but many are still mini masterpieces. They make great first exercises in memorization.

<Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and Girls is a wealth of poems by a large variety of authors to read aloud, handily organized by subject.

Pied Beauty: A Children’s Book attempts with some success to make a wonderful poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins accessible to young children. Breaking the poem down line by line, this book offers imagery and word definitions to help your children understand.

Good Books for… Catholic 3 to 4 year olds 

By age three, toddlers are becoming preschoolers and are ready for longer, more challenging stories. Here are some of our favorites for this age!

If you only buy one book off this list, buy Dogger. In my opinion Shirley Hughes’ greatest work, Dogger tells a humorous and heartwarming story of losing a favorite toy, and big sister saving the day through a sacrifice. I always tear up for this one.
Themes: sacrifice, sibling love, giving

Peter in Blueberry Land is a truly beautiful book by Elsa Beskow about Peter’s quest to find berries for his mother’s birthday. If you’re looking for a gift, An Elsa Beskow Gift Collection: Peter in Blueberry Land and other beautiful books is a cute set of miniature versions of her most popular books.
Themes: giving, imaginary lands, friendship, helping

With The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook, you get four stories plus poems in one book! In this collection, Alfie and Annie Rose build a store, help a cow find its way home, go camping, and visit the seashore.
Themes: enjoying nature, patience, playing together, sibling love

Under the Moon by Joanne Ryder has incredibly beautiful, detailed nature scenes (my kids wanted to eat the blackberries!). Mama Mouse teaches baby mouse to find her way home by using her senses.
Themes: nature, five senses, mother-child love

Make Way for Ducklings is a famous Robert McCloskey story about a mallard duck couple raising their babies in a busy city.
Themes: helping, kindness to animals

Speaking of ducklings the lesser known Lucky Ducklings is a fun story about baby ducklings falling down a storm drain and being rescued in a dramatic manner by fireen and a truck with a tow hitch.
Themes: helping, rescues, bravery

Jane Hissey’s beautifully illustrated Old Bear books about the adventures of a collection of plush animals are definitely worth buying. Her original unabridged stories are difficult to find, but The Old Bear Collection contains most of her charming text and illustrations.
Themes: friendship, sharing, kindness

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown is a layered story about at once an island steadfast through the seasons of the year and a curious kitten who adventures on the island.

The Perfect Pony is a perfect story for horse loving children. It has an amazing theme about patience and kindness mattering more than beauty.

The Apple Pie Tree describes two sisters watching their apple tree and a family of robins throughout the year, eagerly waiting to make an apple pie!
Themes: waiting patiently, observing nature, sibling fun

Tractor Mac, the friendly red tractor, learns about building a barn, patience, and humility in Tractor Mac Builds a Barn.
Themes: patience, humility, boasting, hard work

Charlie Goes to School is a funny story about Charlie the ranch dog’s family starting their school year as homeschoolers. Charlie is such a sweet, amusing, sleepy basset hound he is sure to become a family favorite. You can find more of his adventures in Charlie the Ranch Dog and Charlie Plays Ball .
Themes: starting school, homeschooling, friendship, helping

Percy the parkkeeper is another wonderful character of British children’s literature. In Percy’s Bumpy Ride , Percy invents a flying lawn mower and takes his animal friends for a ride over the park.
Themes: friendship, building machines, kindness

The Brave Cowboy is a tale of a little boy whose days are colored with cowboy adventures courtesy of his vivid imagination. The illustrations are cleverly executed with the boy’s visions in red ink and real life in black ink.
Themes: bravery, imaginative play, the wild west

Another cowboy tale, Cowboy Small rides his paint pony cactus on the range, getting back on even when he hits the dust, in this fun little story from Lois Lenski.
Themes: trying again, bravery, perseverance, wild west

Raven and River is a beautifully illustrated story about a Raven and a winter in Alaska. Simple, beautiful text, poetic in its diction and rhythm, make this book memorable.

Homeplace is a fascinating book about a homestead that has been passed down through seven generations of a family. The detailed illustrations visualize what each generation adds to what begins as a tiny log cabin and ends as a thriving home and farm.

The Seven Silly Eaters is a hilarious rhymed story of a mom struggling to cope with seven picky children until they decide to do something for her for a change. I found it heartwarming, even if the ending is far fetched, and kids love the detailed illustrations.
Themes: picky eating, helping out, big families

Eric Carle’s Pancakes, Pancakes! is stellar for starting preschool minds thinking about from where food comes and appreciating the work that goes into a simple meal. Jack wants a pancake, and his mother will make it if he gathers all the ingredients himself!
Themes: hard work, perseverance, where food comes from, earning something makes it sweeter

Doctor Dan the Bandage Man is the story of Dan learning from his mom’s care of his own cut to care for the hurts of his sister, pet, and even dad.
Themes: caring for others, helping, bravery

As I add yet another British classic to the list, I’ll confess a weakness for British children’s books! Mick Inkpen’s Kipper Story Collection introduces Kipper, the sweet-natured dog, whose gentle adventures with his stuffed animals and real animal friends make soothing bedtime stories.
Themes: friendship, kindness

The Mitten in its unabridged form is a fine lesson for children in caring for their belongings. Nicki loses his mitten despite his grandma’s warnings, and when he finds it is stretched out from a tangle of animals using it as a den.
Themes: good stewardship, sharing

Another favorite Jan Brett, Annie and the Wild Animals features adorable Annie, who is searching for a new pet after her cat Taffy disappears.
Themes: perseverance, friendship, loneliness

Home Sweet Home is a beautiful book both both in its detailed illustrations of different animal habitats and in its simple message of God blessing all things.
Themes: appreciating nature, blessings

The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 75th Anniversary Edition is, to me, a good book in essence as long as one adequately discusses George’s disobedience and its negative consequences. These original stories by the Reys are funny and have good lessons about obedience, impulse control, and friendship.
Themes: obedience, actions have consequences, helping, self control

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business is a funny kid favorite based on a Russian folk tale.
Themes: stealing, cleverness

Reading Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book is a great way to start instilling a positive view of good manners.
Themes: obedience, kindness, good manners, sharing, kindness

Pond is a beautifully illustrated book that combines an introduction to the seasons with the concept of creative outdoor play.

Please also check out my list of specifically Catholic books for Catholic Preschoolers and Kindergartners

Good Books for… Preparing Catholic Kids for a New Baby

A new baby on the way is an exciting time for a Catholic family, but sometimes the toddler or preschooler is a little less than enthusiastic. Or they may be excited, but still anxious. These books can help answer their questions, put a positive picture of big brother or sisterhood in their minds, and reassure them they are still special.

Regina Doman’s Angel in the Waters is a beautiful account of life in the womb and birth from the unborn baby’s perspective.
Themes: guardian angels, unborn babies

When the Teddy Bears Came is a sweet story about a little boy helping his baby brother with all the teddy bears friends give the baby, then realizing the couch is getting too crowded for him. It ends with a special message that there is always still room on mom’s lap for the older sibling!
Themes: helping, sharing, there’s enough love to go around

Spencer is a little boy with a lot of energy, but he learns to be gentle when his little sister comes home. One Special Day (A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters) has some of the cutest illustrations, and a great encouraging message for active little ones! We also love its sequel, One Busy Day: A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters, in which Spencer discovers it is much funner to play with his sister Mia than alone.
Themes: enjoying nature and activity, being gentle around babies, playing together

In Annie Rose Is My Little Sister, Alfie describes his little sister in a touching manner, matter of factly acknowledging her faults, but focusing on the fun of playing with her.

“And we’ll go on like this forever, even until we’re all grown up, because Annie Rose will always be my little sister.

Themes: little siblings are a gift, siblings will always be there

Big Brother, Little Brother is a celebration of the special bond between siblings. Big brother and little brother occasionally disagree, but overall take care of each other.
Themes: empathy, taking care of babies, sharing, including little siblings