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Recommended Books for EYFS

Books for 3 - 4 year olds

Last updated June 24th, 2024

Recommended books for EYFS are selected for high levels of engagement. We have chosen books that work well when shared with an adult or enjoyed in a group or class. They are often performative and participative with familiar narrative structures. Rhymes and traditional tales are especially important for this age group. We always consider representation and inclusivity when making our choices.

Most of the books in this list have full reviews that you can read for more detailed information and our evaluation.

Individual books and special easy-purchase collections are available from our bookselling partner, Best Books for Schools.

The book selection for our recommended reading lists is overseen by Just Imagine Director Nikki Gamble, a former teacher and university lecturer, co-author of Guiding Readers and author of Exploring Children’s Literature. The views of our review panel inform our choices. Our reviews editor, Jo Bowers, is a former teacher and university lecturer specialising in literacy and children’s literature.

Our top picks from recent titles

Where is the Cat?

By Eva Eland. Illustrated by Eva Eland. Published by Andersen Press.

Cat enjoys a quiet life, but when Suzy comes to stay, she has other ideas.  Suzy can’t understand it. Where has the cat gone? Delightful humour that children will enjoy as they spot the white cat on each page while Suzy remains oblivious. The illustrations are stylish but retain lots of child appeal, too. A book that reads aloud well for home or an early years setting.

Our reviewer Sam Keeley writes, ‘The glorious eye-popping neon colour palette is so appealing without being overwhelming. There are spotting opportunities on each page – ideal for young readers to engage with the book.’

Read the full review

Aqua Boy

By Ken Wilson-Max. Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max. Published by Otter-Barry books.

Following Astro Girl and Eco-Girl, Ken Wilson-Max’s latest book tells how Aaron finds the courage to swim underwater with the help of an unusual friend.

Our reviewer Eve Bearne writes, ‘With his trademark strongly defined images, Ken Wilson-Max has created another story about children fulfilling their dreams and drawing attention to how the natural world should be respected and cared for.’

The book includes some information for adults about ocean advocacy, which will provide some interesting talking points. A lovely summer reading choice.

 

Read the full review

The Joy Bringers

By Karin Celestine. Published by Graffeg.

Have you ever been taken by surprise by an idea? Or a long-forgotten memory that brings a sudden smile to your lips? A moment of wonder, a recognition of beauty, a spark of inspiration; we’ve all enjoyed the magic that comes with the unexpected. But where does that magic come from? Who hides it for us to find and puts it where we least expect it.

Karin Celestine’s gorgeously crafted books and storytelling skills shine in this gentle tale, which has depth and will be loved by children and adults alike.

Our reviewer, Eve Bearne, writes, ‘Karin Celestine has the storyteller’s gift of pace, cadence and engagement; it is as though she is speaking to the reader. The language is lyrical and sometimes whimsical, certainly not patronising, and while young readers may focus on the images of small animals as they picnic, play, weave and sew, older readers will find the hidden wisdom of folklore in each page.’

Read the full review

A Little World of Ants

By Cara Rooney. Published by Macmillan.

We adore this first nonfiction book for children from around year 3 upwards. It is both playful and informative. Ants really are the most amazing creatures. They are heavy lifters, and they can also make boats and build bridges. The illustrations are utterly charming, and the book’s creative design is engaging for both young children and the adults sharing it with them.

Our reviewer, Rebecca Simpson-Hargreaves, writes, ‘Facts are explained using easy-to-follow, simple sentences, and interaction is encouraged through questions and lift-the-flap prompts.’

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Dig Dig Digger

By Morag Hood. Illustrated by Morag Hood. Published by Pan Macmillan.

Morag Hood introduces a new, lovable character. This hardworking little digger is bound to find new fans, and if you enjoy this book, look out for the sequel, The Runaway Cone.

Our reviewer Prue Goodwin writes, ‘Sharing this book with children will be a joy. There are very few fiction books for Early Years children about road diggers (and this is possibly the only one with a female protagonist). Both the written text and the illustrations are perfect, not just to accompany the story, but also to prompt discussion, counting, or engaging in all forms of creativity. It is possible to plan a complete PE or dance routine based on the endpapers alone.’

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Rainbowsaurus

By Steve Antony. Illustrated by Steve Antony. Published by Hodder Children's Books.

Join two dads and their three children as they set off on an adventure to find the Rainbowsaurus. On their way, they meet animals that are all the colours of the rainbow who all want to find the Rainbowsaurus, too.

Our reviewer, Tracy Parvin, writes, ‘Steve Antony really does know how to engage very young children (and their nannas!), and there is also a wide range of opportunities to explore colours, numbers. With its well-chosen, well-placed words, which create foot stomping marching rhythms, and repeated phrases and refrains, it is impossible for young children to sit still and listen: this book is a perfect joining in read aloud.’

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Little Wolf

By Peter Donnelly. Illustrated by Peter Donnelly. Published by Hachette.

While all the wolves are getting ready for the Big Howling Ceremony, Little Wolf is afraid to show off his howl. But he soon learns that even the smallest voice can make the sweetest sound.

Our reviewer, Anne Bradley,  writes, ‘This story will resonate with children and adult readers. Everyone has, at some time, felt intimidated by the skills of others and doubted their own abilities when compared with others. Big Wolf is kind and encouraging and enables Little Wolf to find his own special voice. There is a gentle, surprising end to the story, which offers the reader a positive, thoughtful message.

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Snail

By Minu Kim. Illustrated by Minu Kim. Published by Pushkin Children;s Books.

A boy goes on a bike ride with his big brother and his friends, but he can’t keep up! The bigger boys speed off and leave him all alone. The little brother feels miserable, until he meets an unexpected friend, and discovers that maybe going at your own pace isn’t so bad after all…

Our reviewer, Eve Bearne, writes ‘It is poignant that the little brother and the snail both have to go at a slower pace than many but can nevertheless enjoy great riches in the sights and sounds of their surroundings. Minu Kim ends the book with a poem as delicate as the drawings, dedicated to readers, urging them to hear and be happy about the messages brought by natural things.’ 

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Tap! Tap! Tap! Dance! Dance! Dance!

By Herve Tullet. Illustrated by Herve Tullet. Published by Chronicle Books.

Harnessing his love of dance, the passion of his illustrations and the generous trim size of this book, Herve invites you to a very special dance: your hand becoming the dancer and the book the dance floor. Starting with a gentle glide, growing in complexity and animation, and finally building to a crescendo of colour, action, and movement – here’s a book perfect for kids bursting with energy. A celebration not only of releasing emotion but also of carefully controlling motion and dexterity

Our reviewer, Prue Goodwin, writes, ‘Once comfortable with the idea of ‘finger ballet’, performers can improvise their own interpretations. There is so much to talk about, to share with each other and to enjoy. Tap! Tap! Tap! Dance! Dance! Dance! is a must for every Early Years setting.’

Read the full review

Measuring Me

By Nicola Kent. Illustrated by Nicola Kent. Published by Little Tiger Press.

From finding out how tall you are in food tins to how much electricity your body can generate this is a book to spark lots of investigations and measuring activities.

Our reviewer, Liz Broad, writes, ‘ The reception teacher at my school fell on Measuring Me! with great glee, so I think no further recommendation is needed for its addition to the early years library!’

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Whose Dog is This?

By Andrew Sanders. Illustrated by Aysha Awwad. Published by Macmillan Children's Books.

When Albert’s Dad opens the living room door to a scene of total chaos (think: mud-covered sofa, macaroni cheese on the walls), Albert blames it on the dog. The thing is . . . Albert doesn’t have a dog. But there’s definitely a dog in the living room. Will Albert be able to talk himself out of this very sticky situation?

Our reviewer, Ann Cowling, writes, ‘I would highly recommend this picture book to parents and teachers as a joyful and imaginative read – the essence of reading for pleasure. ‘

 

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The Dream Book

By Bia Melo. Illustrated by Bia Melo. Published by Templar Publishing.

Nina is not like the other children. She doesn’t want to stay up late like the grown-ups do. In fact, she can’t WAIT to go to sleep . . . because that’s when dreams happen. She goes on amazing adventures to the jungle, explores cake villages and visits a city on wheels. When she wakes up, she MUST tell everyone . . . but something strange is happening. Her dreams wiggle and twist, shrink and grow until they’re nothing like her dream at all. And then one night, her dream isn’t fun or exciting . . . but quite scary instead.

Join the determined heroine as she captures her dreams once and for all!

Our reviewer, Sam Keeley, writes, ‘This is a fantastic book to share with young readers and could inspire them to create their own dream books. It could also inspire conversation about dreams and help children talk about the bad dreams they may have. There is a handy guide for parents at the end of the book with tips for talking about dreams, making links to their emotions and ideas to support a good bedtime.’

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The Spaces Inbetween

By Jaspreet Kaur. Illustrated by Manjeet Thapp. Published by Templar Publishing.

Have you found the spaces in between? The secret places no one else has been? This beautiful picture book celebrates themes of anxiety and kindness by exploring the hidden places to be found in a busy city. Traffic! Road works! Ambulances! Where do you go when the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much? The Spaces In Between follows one little girl and her father as they seek out the secret spaces where they can go to find peace and quiet.

Our reviewer, Sam Keeley, writes, The Space In Between is a book that would make a lovely addition to any classroom whether it is in a city or not. It could be added to a mindfulness collection and potentially used to support learning in geography about cities. I would recommend it for EYFS and Key Stage One, but I found it a wonderfully affirming read as an adult, too.’

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One Goose, Two Moose

By Kael Tudor. Illustrated by Nicola Slater. Published by Scholastic.

OK, everyone, line up!

One goose, two moose, three goose, four.

Five goose, six moose, seven goose, more.

WAIT!

Welcome to the ice cream shop, where there’s a goose line, a moose line and a slightly bossy goose who wants everyone to be IN THE RIGHT LINE, PLEASE! That sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

Our reviewer, Anne Bradley, writes, ‘This is certainly a book that can be read again and again. Children will ask for the story as they will love the opportunity to participate. They can follow and predict the rhymes, count along with the narrative and spot what is happening by studying the illustrations. The pace is bouncy, and the idea is great fun. There is a very amusing twist at the end!’

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Meet the Dinosaurs

By Caryl Hart. Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin. Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books.

ZOOOOM! We’re off on an exciting journey into the past to meet the amazing dinosaurs that once roamed the earth.

Join in with the rhymes and get ready to spot all the friendly (and not so friendly!) dinosaurs, from the huge Brontosaurus and amazing Diplodocus to the speedy Velociraptor and scary T-Rex. Little ones will have an action-packed time (and be back in time for bed!) in this fun and fact-packed picture book.

Our reviewer, Claire Tidy, writes, ‘This book is a perfect read-aloud with its bold images and rhyming text. Similarly, budding palaeontologists would return to this book again and again to learn all about their favourite dinosaurs and find out interesting facts to share with family and friends.’

Read the full review

Teachers' Treasures

Classic and established favourites

Pants

By Giles Andreae. Illustrated by Nick Sharratt. Published by Puffin.

Meet many different animals, people and sometimes objects, each wearing a different kind of pants – every shape, pattern, colour, size and style you can think of. Hilarious fun – even the word pants will have your three and four-year-olds rolling on the floor with laughter. Infectiously memorable rhyme and Nick Sharratt’s characteristic flat, bright colours make this unmissable.

Rosie's Walk

By Pat Hutchins. Illustrated by Pat Hutchins. Published by Puffin.

The classic story of Rosie, the hen who leads the wily fox a merry dance around the farmyard. Lots of opportunities to practise prepositions, but more importantly, children will gasp in anticipation as they predict the mishaps that befall the hapless fox.

The Snowy Day

By Ezra Jack Keats. Illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. Published by Puffing.

It seems unbelievable that Ezra Jack Keats Caldecott-winning classic was published in 1962. And it is shocking to think that it was banned in the US for depicting a black child as the main character. Times have changed and continue to change – this book serves as an important reminder. Beyond that, it is the most delightful story of a young boy stepping out to experience the magic of snow. A timeless subject and a timeless book.

Banana

By Ed Vere. Illustrated by Ed Vere. Published by Puffin.

A masterclass in how words and images combine to tell stories, Vere has pared back the text to just two essential words. Read this with children, and you could discover that the first word they learn to recognise is banana! Which, of course, is a great encouragement when you can read the entire text. This is also a lovely book for recently arrived children to share with non-English speaking parents without them feeling awkward.

Shark in the Park

By Nick Sharratt. Illustrated by Nick Sharratt. Published by Corgi.

Shark in the Park is a long-established favourite with the Just Imagine team. We love the performative quality of this book. Get the children to roll up a piece of paper like a telescope and add a ‘Jaws-like’ soundtrack before turning the page to heighten the excitement. Novelty die-cut pages add to the children’s delight. Altogether now… ‘Timothy Pope, Timothy Pope…’

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

By Pam Adams. Illustrated by Pam Adams. Published by Child's Play.

Pam Adams brought fresh life to this nursery rhyme 40 years ago, and her book has stood the test of time. Die-cut holes and the turn of the page reveal each of the creatures that the old woman swallows. This is still the best way to introduce this nursery rhyme to children in EYFS – do seek out a musical version and sing it too.

Dear Zoo

By Rod Campbell. Illustrated by Rod Campbell. Published by Macmillan.

A young boy writes to the zoo asking for the perfect pet, but they send him something inappropriate each time. There are clues to each animal before a flap is lifted to confirm the guess. Clear text on the page is great for young children learning the concepts of print. And there are lots of opportunities for prediction and for joining in. Children will quickly learn that the lion is too fierce – so stop to let them supply the word. Simply but perfectly designed for pre-school children.

Meg and Mog

By Helen Nicoll. Illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. Published by Puffin.

The idea of a spell going wrong delights young children – even adults get it wrong sometimes. Pienkowski’s bold illustrations on flat-coloured backgrounds are instantly recognisable. Meg and Mog are likeable characters, and there are more adventures to explore.

The Very hungry Caterpillar

By Eric Carle. Illustrated by Eric Carle. Published by Puffin.

This could well be the most-read book in the EYFS or KS1 classroom. Eric Carle had a brilliant way of taking a concept and making it relatable to young children. In this story, the hungry caterpillar eats its way through copious amounts of food before turning into a cocoon and then metamorphosing into a butterfly. Die-cut pages and a final colourful spread add to the delight.  It’s a lovely story for enacting in the classroom too.

Jasper's Beanstalk

By Nick Butterworth. Illustrated by Mick Inkpen. Published by Hachette.

Young children love Jasper – he’s full of life and well-intentioned but sometimes things don’t work out the way he planned. A repetitive structure and lots of white space for the text, and big characterful illustrations make it was for young readers to focus on what is most important to the story.

Lost and Found

By Oliver Jeffers. Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Published by HarperCollins.

One of Jeffers’ earliest picture books, this story quickly became an established favourite for reading at home and school. The book’s emotional tone is perfectly pitched, evoking empathy without tipping into the saccharine. There are many opportunities for creative work and finding places on the globe or world map.

Monkey and me

By Emily Gravett. Illustrated by Emily Gravett. Published by Macmillan.

Some of the best picture books for young children blur the boundaries between the world of the book and the world of play. This is one of them. It’s an invitation to children and adults to take on the roles of the animals, moving like an elephant, a penguin, a kangaroo and inventing their own movements for their favourite animals.

Good Night Gorilla

By Peggy Rathmann. Illustrated by Peggy Rathman. Published by HarperCollins.

Like Rosie’s Walk and Handa’s Surprise, the pleasure in this book comes from the reader seeing what the zoo keeper is oblivious to. A lovely story to share and a perfect book for bedtime routines too.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear

By Bill Martin Jnr. Illustrated by Eric Carle. Published by Puffin.

A well-loved classic book with a strong rhythm and repeated refrain that encourages children to join in. Each spread leads seamlessly into the next. Eric Carle’s characteristic collaged illustrations are impactful. A lovely book for a class or group read-along and for learning about colours.

Penguin

By Polly Dunbar. Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Published by Walker Books.

Polly Dunbar reigns supreme in her depiction of early childhood. Her observations of movement and expression and her ability to convey a range of emotions are stunning. This is one of our favourite books for preschool children of all time. We are sure it will delight many generations of children to come.