These books are perfect for newly independent readers in preschool and kindergarten who aren’t yet ready for longer chapter books with (sometimes daunting) paragraphs.
Mouse and Mole books, Wong Herbert Yee [Amazon | Bookshop] — Sweet, magical, gentle stories, reminiscent of Arnold Lobel.
Narwhal and Jelly books, Ben Clanton [Amazon | Bookshop] — Narwhal is excitable and confident, while Jelly is a bit sarcastic. Extremely cute and wildly silly, this easy graphic novel-style book pairs goofy antics with cool animal facts.
Fox and Chick books, Sergio Ruzzier [Amazon | Bookshop] — Another lovely graphic novel series, again working with a funny dynamic between two quirky friends, in the tradition of Mouse and Mole and Frog and Toad.
Frog and Toad books, Arnold Lobel [Amazon | Bookshop] — Some of the loveliest books ever written for children, filled with humor and empathy.
The Disgusting Critters series, Elise Gravel [Amazon | Bookshop] — These non-fiction books feature animal facts alongside goofy illustrations and speech bubbles. Some of the vocabulary here is slightly more advanced than in other emerging readers books, but the books don’t have a lot of text and are so silly and engaging that many children will want to persevere.
Peter and Ernesto books, Graham Annable [Amazon | Bookshop] — More funny adventures with two very different friends: one outgoing sloth and one sloth who is very, very worried about everything.
Uncle Elephant, Arnold Lobel [Amazon | Bookshop] — Gentle, poetic stories from Lobel, about a young elephant who goes to stay with his inventive, fascinating uncle after his parents go missing at sea.
Adventures in Cartooning knight books, James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold [Amazon | Bookshop] — Silly adventures with a knight. These books also include step-by-step instructions for drawing the characters in an assortment of poses, so they’re like a mini-lesson in cartooning, too.
Pigsticks and Harold books, Alex Milway [Amazon | Bookshop] — Pigsticks is very confident and hungers for adventure, and his sidekick Harold the hamster is, well, there. (And often a bit confused.) These very funny books are slightly denser than some on this list, so they’re good for a bit of a challenge for early readers.
Owl at Home, Arnold Lobel [Amazon | Bookshop] — Poor owl is having a hard time. But it’s okay to laugh: it all works out in the end.
Yasmin books, Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly [Amazon | Bookshop] — In this cheerful series, adventurous and eager Yasmin gamely tries her hand at all sorts of hobbies and professions: zookeeping, cooking, designing, experimenting, gardening… The books also introduce readers to Urdu vocabulary and Muslim traditions.
Arlo & Pips books, Elise Gravel [Amazon | Bookshop] — Like Narwhal and Jelly, these books pair a quirky friendship with animal facts. Arlo the crow loves to brag, but Pips is there to deflate him a bit, too, from time to time.
Little Bear books, Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak [Amazon | Bookshop] — Gently humorous stories about a bear and his mother, good for fans of Mouse and Mole and Arnold Lobel.
Elephant and Piggie books, Mo Willems [Amazon | Bookshop] — Modern classics that make kids roar with laughter. These are perfect, too, for reading aloud and reading expressively: a parent takes one role and the child the other.
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