Our 10 best books as we turn four years old

Now we are four. Where did the time go? No longer a Baby Bookworm but a Big Brother and a Schoolboy to boot.

Books were something of a saviour for us during the pandemic this year, not just as a way of keeping two kids occupied during difficult days but also for staying close to family from afar. Both sets of grandmothers did bedtime stories over Zoom and Baby Bookworm took to this brave new world with gusto and maturity.

We also both found 50 minutes of virtual socialising and fun through our weekly Crafty Tales sessions with York-based Storycraft Theatre, with each class based on a different book. We even raised money for Booktrust as part of the 2.6 Challenge on what would have been London Marathon weekend, reading 26 picture books to represent each letter of the alphabet, and using our collection to create beautiful #readarainbow designs to support our key workers.

Baby Bookworm unwraps this year’s birthday books

As has become birthday tradition, I’ve marked the occasion by picking out ten books that our lad has loved during the last 12 months. Many of the titles from previous birthday lists are still very much adored but I wanted to include fresh titles to inspire your bedtime reads.

All inclusions are books we’ve read on repeat over the last 12 months between the ages of three and four, a mixture of classics and new releases, plus a couple of non-fiction and factual options too.

1. The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers. £6.99 (paperback), HarperCollins Children’s

Oliver Jeffers is a master of putting a surreal spin on a story and this tale about a boy who quite literally devours a book is quite predictably a longstanding favourite Chez Bookworm.

Henry loves books so much that he decides to take a nibble of one, a habit that leads to him swelling his brain power alongside his tummy. But when he overindulges in his literary habit, there are unpleasant consequences and a big decision to make.

Funny, witty and with wonderful artwork created on the pages of old books, this is a classy read. And we especially like the little bite mark taken out of the back page – Baby Bookworm can’t resist having a little try of it himself. Available from Amazon

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2. Baby 101: Engineering for Babies. £5.99 (board book), Caterpillar Books

You are never too young to learn about the world around you, which is the ethos of this cool series of non-fiction board books. Covering everything from Architecture to Zoology, the chunky titles introduce the basic elements of essential subjects with simple language and bold illustrations.

Kids are curious by nature so these books play to that rather than being pushy educational titles for “tiger” parents. They also do the job of explaining things for you should you child have a complicated question about biology or economics.

Baby Bookworm adores the whole range but his favourite is probably Engineering because that’s his dad’s job. They make great gifts for new babies and for toddler birthdays, especially if one of the topics is relevant to the parents. Available from Amazon

Why we love the Baby 101 series

3. Little People Big Dreams: Amelia Earhart by Maria Isabella Sanchez Vegara and Maria Diamentes. £9.99 (hardback), Frances Lincoln Children’s

The Little People Big Dreams series has been a publishing sensation since it launched to celebrate the lives of significant women and introduce them to a new generation. There are now editions about important men, as well as simple board book versions for babies.

This one from the original set was a first birthday present for Baby Bookworm, to inspire him to reach for the stars, and he’s developed an true adoration of Amelia this last year. While the real-life pilot had a tragic ending (she disappeared with her plane during a flight), the story quite neatly skirts around it so younger children aren’t left distressed. Available from Amazon

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4. William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors and Farm Machines by William Bee. £12.99 (hardback), Pavilion

William Bee was Baby Bookworm’s costume choice for World Book Day 2020, such is his love for the geek chic petrolhead.

The oversized book, created by the real life artist William Bee, is packed with accessible facts, detailed yet stylish artwork of farm machines through the ages, plus a cast of cute traffic cones. So good we got the planes and trains version for his birthday. Available from Amazon

What we’re reading: William Bee

5. Baby’s First Bank Heist by Jim Whalley and Stephen Collins. £6.99 (paperback), Bloomsbury

This comic caper about a baby bank robber is a genius mix of madcap plot, catchy rhyme and clever visual gags. It also has a touch of Look Who’s Talkin’ and Stewie from Family Guy, which is no bad thing in my book.

And Baby Frank’s motive for this grand crime? He wants to buy a pet but his parents refuse to buy him one, only rumbling his plot when they spot a rhino in the shed. Naturally Frank has the perfect plan to make reparations – turning the family home into a zoo. Available from Amazon

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6. The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs. £6.99 (paperback), Puffin.

This 1969 story was Baby Bookworm’s most requested bedtime read during his Zoom lockdown calls with his nannie in Wales. Apparently it was a firm favourite with children during her teaching days too and it isn’t hard to see why.

The comedy pairing of the oversized elephant and tiny red-headed baby going “rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta” down the road, leaving chaos in their wake, is beautifully brought to life by Snowman illustrator Raymond Briggs.

We also love the repetitive language, centred on the different shopkeepers who give the Bad Baby food and then give chase, which is an excellent device for helping kids with their memory skills. And the Bad Baby’s terrible crime? Not saying please. Available from Amazon

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7. The Diddle That Dummed by Kes Gray and Fred Blunt. £6.99 (paperback), Hodder

This tongue-twisting comedy about an semiquaver that decides to stand out from the sheet music will have your child is stitches – and your mouth in a muddle. Baby Bookworm loved it from first listen and its especially adored in our house because his granny was a violin teacher.

Anyone who loves Kes Gray’s Oi books will very much appreciate this music-themed tale, which uses the same wacky humour of taking a simple comic idea and spinning out the joke to the silliest of extremes. The illustrations from Fred Blunt are fun and energetic too. Available from Amazon

Why we love the Oi! books by Kes Gray and Jim Field

8. I Want To Be In A Scary Story by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien. £7.99 (paperback), Walker

It’s the classic Halloween dilemma. You want to hear a scary story but not TOO scary, okay? Little Monster goes one further. He wants to star in one but as the narrator attempts to place him in different spooky scenarios, the poor purple creature is petrified.

With its witty dialogue between reader and character, this playful book is a perfect ‘scary’ tale for children of a more nervous disposition. We love the in-your-face artwork by trendsetting French graphic designer Jean Jullien, too. Available from Amazon

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9. The King Who Banned The Dark by Emily Haworth-Booth. £6.99 (paperback), Pavilion

A newly developed fear of the dark was cured this year with the help of this clever modern fable, about a king who never outgrows his dislike and uses his power to ban it.

His subjects initially buy his anti-dark PR campaign and revel in living under a permanent artificial sun. But when they become exhausted from not sleeping and being fined by the Light Inspectors, they revolt and show the King that you need the dark as much as the light.

What’s beautiful about this book is not just the atmospheric black, white and yellow artwork, but the many levels at which the story operates. There’s the obvious topic of fear, but it also includes subtle messages about power, revolution and balance in life. And you can probably put a little Brexit spin on it too! Available from Amazon

Three books to tackle your child’s fear of the dark

10. The Tiny King by Taro Miura. £6.99 (paperback), Walker

Lockdown was a tale of two households, I think. The families packed to the rafters and stepping on each others toes versus the singletons who were left isolated and lonely, with lots of time on their hands. As stressful as the former was, it was generally a happier place to be than in the latter camp.

Taro Miura’s striking book about a Tiny King who has the richest material life you could imagine but an empty heart is beautiful on so many levels. The artwork is a standout mix of collage, colourful graphic design and typography, a true feast for the eyes.

But the message about how being loved and taking joy in others – as the Tiny King does when he meets his Big Queen – will give you a lovely warm glow inside. Available from Amazon

Our best reads from each year…
The 10 best books of baby’s first year
The 10 best books of baby’s second year
The 10 best books of baby’s third year

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