We Recommend: Advanced 4-Year-Old Edition

It's We Recommend, where (when?) you request book recommendations, and we attempt to reach our hands into the rushing river of children's literature and yank out the right book for you (or yours). Want a recommendation? Just email us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com, with the reader's likes, dislikes, loves, interests, reading habits, and anything else you think might be helpful, and we'll do our best. And always, always look in the comments on these: it's where the very best suggestions are.

And so, we return to a well-loved realm: books for the small who love to read, but are, you know, small.

I am looking for ideas for my 4-year-old. She turned 4 this fall, but has been reading on her own for a year or so. She is very sensitive and gets frightened more easily than most children her age it seems (I try to help her avoid dark and scary subjects), but her reading level would probably be considered about a grade 2-3 level. We're almost at the end of the Little House on the Prairie series and I'm not sure what to find her for when we're finished. It was a great series for her at the beginning, but even that is losing its relevance for her as Laura and Mary get into their teenage years. It's hard to find appropriate books for her because most books written for 8-year-olds are too advanced for her in their subject matter – she can read the words, but doesn't understand the concepts or finds them frightening.

She loved the early books in Little House, about living in the woods/family life/nature/animals, and she loves princesses as well.

The only problem with this request is that there are SO MANY perfect books. I know, from having been in a similar situation with a similar early reader. And…well, there are a million, and they rush me back to an earlier time. Interestingly, these books often fall into the same realm as the Little House on the Prairie series, in which we start out right with the characters, but they age so fast! Still, these books are well worth reading, particularly the early ones in the series: I would direct our reader to the Betsy-Tacy books, All of a Kind Family, Ballet Shoes. The list goes on and on. But the rules of the game (in my own rigid mind) say that we must choose 1 (one) book for this person, before we open it up to our most excellent commenters, who will proceed to offer all the rest (Oh! Trumpet of the Swan! Ivy and Bean! OK, this is totally cheating and I will stop.)

Ahem. So, in a surge of nostalgia, I will simply offer the book that a very nice bookstore worker offered Diana when she was a young, hungry reader with a tender heart:


It was just right, sweet and light and such a pleasure to her. But this is only one (or four if we count the whole sweet series). Let's see if we can generate a whole wonderful list in the comments, because this family has many library visits in its future.

15 thoughts on “We Recommend: Advanced 4-Year-Old Edition

  1. You totally stole Trumpet of a Swan from me. So I will say the obvious: Charlotte’s Web and Stewart Little. Take THAT.
    Mary Poppins too.
    Run Away Ralph + Ramona (Beaverly Cleary)
    Pippy Longstocking (my daughter’s contribution)


  2. My Father’s Dragon is my go-to recommendation for very young chapter-book readers (it’s an excellent read-aloud, as well). I also like the Dick King-Smith books– might be especially good for this girl, as she loves to read abut nature and so many of his are about animals and farm life.


  3. Racketty-Packetty House by Frances Hodgson Burnett! Much sweeter and simpler than A Little Princess and the Secret Garden, but with an irresistible charm.


  4. My daughter could not get enough of the Cobblestreet Cousins.
    I would add Wolf Story, Understood Betsy, and Happy Little Family by Rebecca Caudill.
    And at 11 years old, my daughter still falls asleep to the “Messy, Stuff, and Cram Cure.”


  5. I second Ramona, especially the earlier ones. The first Ralph book, I think is Ralph S. Mouse (either way, there are three Ralph S. Mouse the Mouse and the Motorcycle and Runaway Ralph). Also, Socks, also by Beverly Cleary. I read some of these in third grade, so they might be read-alouds still, but I’m not sure.
    Also, it’s been a long time since I read it, but I remember “Mandy” being a kind of more approachable version of the secret garden, but I don’t know how scary it is (I think really not at all). It’s probably still a read-aloud.
    How about the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books?


  6. I read both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, both by Frances Hodgson Burnett to my daughter when she was four (she is now eight). She loved them both dearly. The Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson are also great, if a little unusual at times (if you have ever read Scandanavian novels or watched Scandanavian films, you will understand what I mean).
    Dick King-Smith has been recommended – and I agree – the Sophie books and The Sheep Pig (Babe) are particularly good.


  7. Baby Island? Maybe a tad too advanced- but not much. (Of course later on there is Understood Betsy and a host of other titles.)


  8. Thank you, everyone! (I was the letter-writer.) We have since read Charolotte’s Web and two of the Cobble Street Cousins books, and she has loved them! I have requested the rest of the Cousins series from the library. On to some Dick King-Smith – I am going to check out all the ones you all recommended! Thanks again!


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