We Recommend: Bedtime Boy Book Edition

Yes, it's time for We Recommend again, which you'll be seeing a lot more of for the next while as we've let something of a backlog develop (sorry, everyone!). Anyway, here's where you write in asking for a book recommendation for some young person you know, and we magically come up with the perfect book, and when you guys help out in the comments. Without further ado…

I have been avoiding this particular post for a while, because for some reason I just keep reading it and coming up empty. I don't know why—it's not particularly complicated or anything, it's more that I have some sort of inexplicable block. So I am going to have to rely on you readers for help.

I have a request for book suggestions for my 4 year old boy.  He can read if he wants to but he prefers his pre-bedtime books to be read to him.  He can sit through a book without many pictures but he likes books with at least some pictures.  We have torn through the Jack and Annie Magic Treehouse series — all 40+ of them.  We have read Poppleton, Nate the Great, Marc Brown Arthur chapter books, the Magic School Bus chapter books, Iris and Walter, Mercy Watkins, and are currently cruising through The Littles series.  His favorite series of all times is the Dinosaur Cove series by Rex Stone.  He likes boy adventure books (but ones that won't give him nightmares).

He has looked at the Laura Ingalls series and said that he isn't ready for it.  I've rejected Thirteen Clocks until he is a bit older.  And he appears to be uninterested in Beverly Cleary.  I don't think he is ready for Narnia yet, but I imagine he'll love that series in a few years.

Why is this hard for me? I don't know. I suspect myself of having a hidden lingering mourning for a certain type of sleepy reading. Nonetheless, we have a job to do.

What I really like about this request is the sweetness of it. This guys not looking to swim in the rude and fart-y sea of Captain Underpants, but just wants a story. Adventure, sure, but nothing crazy. He craves that awesome-ly comforting sensation of being read to.

I thought of Secrets of Droon, which my kids were so addicted to, but it's not quite good enough. The great thing about reading aloud is you can read something with a sophisticated story and complex language. So I'm thinking about adventure, but tame adventure, with complex language and bedtime sweetness. And I'm going classic:


I loved reading this book aloud. Adventure? Sure—is there anything better than fixing up your own canoe, then chopping down a dandelion for the milk and having dinner? Or racing your boat across the pond? But sweet—so sweet! And episodic—each chapter is its own discreet story within a larger whole, making it perfect for bedtime.

Looking at it here sort of breaks my heart; it's just right for only a certain time, and then no more.

But I will stop looking out the window at the beautiful rain and feeling wistful and melancholy. And no doubt you will come up with cheerier, peppier, more modern stories that will be exactly right for this guy (and please do! We need you!).

But for my money? This is just a perfect pleasure of a book.

15 thoughts on “We Recommend: Bedtime Boy Book Edition

  1. My daughter wasn’t really ready for Stuart Little at 4 (she listened, but didn’t really get into it). But she loved, loved, loved Charlotte’s Web.
    What about the Wizard of Oz books?


  2. Why not try Farmer Boy (the most boy-centric of the Little House books), or the Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? At our house we have to have a balance between boring for parents to read and fun for kids to hear.


  3. I know she said he was uninterested in Beverly Cleary – but I wonder if she tried the mouse books?
    Also Dick-King Smith is great and has a huge number of titles to choose from. A Mouse Called Wolf is a good place to begin with him because it is a little shorter than some of the others.
    Have they read A to Z Mysteries yet? Four seems a little young, but maybe not based on others she said she’s read w/ him.


  4. Rold Dahl? I’m thinking maybe James and the Giant Peach. Although, come to think of it, the hippos gave Brynna nightmares. I would also concur with Charlotte’s Web.


  5. My Father’s Dragon (and two sequels) seems perfect.
    What about the Moomintroll books? My 5 yr old (daughter) has not yet wanted to read them, but some precocious (and not into scary) boys I know really loved them.
    My daughter also has really enjoyed reading aloud bedtime stories from story collections (you can read more than one depending on their length). “Stories for 4-year olds” and “Stories for 5-year olds” are good, with a nice amount of variety in terms of genre and topic. The same publisher (Kingfisher?) puts out other books of themed stories (“animal stories,” etc.) but in my opinion, these are not as good as the year ones.


  6. What about the My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett? Our son loved that for a bedtime story. Plus it has frequent pictures.
    He also loved the Adventures of Dr. Doolittle around that age. It had enough adventure to keep him engaged, but not enough suspense to keep him from falling asleep.


  7. And one more Beverly Cleary recommendation, Henry Huggins! Henry and Ribsy is a right sized adventure with bicycle repair, fishing, and bubble gum entrepeneurship. And I also second (or third)the My Father’s Dragon.


  8. I second both My Father’s Dragon series and the Moomintroll series! I also remember loving the Cricket in Times Square at about this age.


  9. I’ll add to the chorus of voices suggesting “My Father’s Dragon”.
    My big suggestion is “Wolf Story” by William McCleery -a father telling his 5 year old son a story (or attempting to) funny and boy centric.
    Also the numerous Freddy the Pig books.


  10. How about the Moongobble books? My son *loved* those when he was four, and they’re a bit adventurous but mostly sweet and just fun. Sounds like a really good fit.
    I also second the Farmer Boy suggestion — don’t try to read in order, just go straight to the chapter where Almanzo feeds candy to the pig, Lucy, and poor Lucy’s mouth gets glued shut until Almanzo rescues her. Then you can read the whole thing to him. I guarantee he’ll be hooked after he reads about Lucy. 🙂


  11. Thank you, thank you ALL!!! Great suggestions. Diamond, you hit the nail on the head about a sweet adventure book. I’ve ordered a bunch of the books suggested from the local library.


  12. Not sure if the mom would even look for new comments at this point, but I haven’t seen the Far Flung Adventures series recommended yet. We’ve only read the first one so far, Fergus Crane, but my boys love it. Full of adventure, nifty inventions, talking penguins – with an illustration on almost every page.


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