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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

10 books to read aloud to your four-year-old, picked by a mom

After reading The Library Lion, Tisya told me, “I wish I had a tail, Mumma, then I could swish and wipe my chalkboard without having to search for the duster.”

Updated: August 2, 2018 9:51:11 am
Balambika and Tisya Balambika with her daughter Tisya

Here are top 10 book picks from a mom who reads aloud to her four-year-old daughter!

By Balambika Hariharan

Story time with my four-year-old daughter, Tisya, is our best bonding time. We go through several different emotions with every book. It’s the time when we have those deep insightful conversations and the time when we also try finding answers to those hundreds of questions that pop up with every book that we read. In short, it’s a very special time I share with my daughter and something we both look forward to everyday. Over the last four years, we have read so many books and my Amazon cart almost always has some more books that we wish to read. Out of all the books that we’ve read together, these are our favourites, the ones that have stayed with us longer, the ones we go back to more often than the others.

So here our top 10 picks, the list of books that we have found truly amazing:

1) Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

This story has everything that a booklover loves—a library, a strict librarian, books, stories, story time, some drama and a lion, or rather a book-loving lion! All these interesting elements, along with a very valuable and useful life lesson about breaking rules, make this a must have in any little reader’s library. With the gorgeous illustrations and well-defined characters that touch your heart, this is one of those books that will stay with you forever. In one of the pages, there is a cute picture of the lion dusting the books with his tail and, looking at it, Tisya told me, “I wish I had a tail, Mumma, then I could swish and wipe my chalkboard without having to search for the duster.” So go ahead and read the book to find out what a lion was doing in a library other than dusting the books with his tail!

2) The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

We know that out of the tens of colours in a crayon box, every child has her own favourites. So, what happens if one day the crayons decide to voice what’s on their minds? It results in an entertaining, fascinating, humorous, thought-provoking and fun encounter with the different colours in the box. Through the interesting conversations of the crayons, the author manages to question the stereotypes (like pink being a girl’s colour or brown being boring). The book ends with images of a pink dinosaur, purple dragon and black rainbow thereby bringing out a refreshing new outlook on colours thereby highlighting the beauty of our imaginations. Believe me when i say that Tisya started using the black and brown crayons in her box only after this book !! Now she proudly says, “it is just that pink is my most favourite colour but i like all the colours. even yellow and brown” Power of stories!

3) The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson (illustrated by Rebecca Cobb)

This is about the endearing, brave and memorable journey of a little girl’s paper dolls. The way they overcome all the dangers until, finally, they are snipped by a mischievous boy’s evil pair of scissors. It is a sinusoidal journey which takes you to the peak of joy, then breaks your heart, only to takes you back up to the heights of joy again! It’s a story about how the paper dolls continue to live on in the girl’s memory in spite of their fate, how nothing in this world is actually perishable if they can still live in your memories. It shows how memories are timeless and priceless, come whatever may, how we can still hold on to our beautiful memories and live them all over again!

Tisya almost cries every time we reach the part where the paper dolls are cut into tiny bits of paper. Though I hate to see her upset, it’s also deeply satisfying to see how she picks up the story, the words and pictures so beautifully and experiences that emotion. Julia Donaldson is truly splendid with words!

4) Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson

Bulls are rough, they are fierce. They like to butt their horns, exhibit their strength. All of these maybe broadly true, but what if amongst all the bulls there is one bull that doesn’t like to do any of these and instead likes to sit peacefully under his favourite cork tree and smell the flowers. That was Ferdinand, the biggest, strongest bull who didn’t like to fight. The bull who stood his ground and did not fight, no matter what. Isn’t this the biggest lesson we all try to teach our children, that they should always have the courage and gumption to do what makes them happy and more importantly, to get to that in the most peaceful manner!
When Tisya and I first read this story, at the end of it I told Tisya, “So that was the story of Ferdinand, a bull who was very big and strong but did not like to fight. He loved to be happy and smell the flowers.” Immediately, Tisya remarked, “Mumma, that’s like Tisya. Tisya is also big and strong and does not like to fight.” There couldn’t have been a more joyous thing she could have said.

5) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

It’s a narrative about how we humans selfishly keep taking things from nature and how Mother Nature continues giving us more and more selflessly. While on one hand it brings out the joy of giving and the concept of unconditional love, on the other it also opens our eyes to the wrong in exploiting a relationship of pure love. This is a timeless classic and a must have.

6) Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

How do you convince your child that it’s alright to make mistakes? How can you explain that mistakes are simply possibilities to make something beautiful? Read them this book and be sure that you’ve made a good, impressive start. Every page and every line in this book beautifully and colourfully explains how mistakes can lead to more beautiful things. Mistakes are nothing but opportunities to make things better. On a lighter note, there are times when these books could actually work against you. I remember once when Tisya broke a bottle in spite of me repeatedly warning her not to play with it. After we were done cleaning the mess, she innocently tells me, “See Mumma!, mistakes are possibilities to make something beautiful. Look how beautiful my room looks after we have cleaned it up.” Oh, and this quote does come up every time she makes a mistake and it’s always prefixed with “Didnt you tell me, Mumma, that mistakes are…” Ha!

7) Giraffes can’t dance by Giles Andrea (illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees)


A cute story about a giraffe who is made to believe that he is the most awkward dancer, by everyone around him, until one day he finds the music that he loves. Then he dances and what a dance! The joy that spreads on my daughter’s face when the clumsy Gerald finally stuns everyone with an amazing performance is truly priceless. Simple rhyming text, bright and colourful illustrations and a jungle with chimps, lions, hippos and rhinos are sure to make the book an all-time favourite with little ones.

This book reminds me of a hilarious incident that happened last to last New Year’s. Now, everyone in my circle knows that I have two left feet. So when Tisya saw that I was the only one not dancing at the party, she told me, “Mumma, you can dance. Just ask Daddy to play the music that you love. And then you can dance too.” I burst out laughing, but didn’t risk it!

8) Press Here by Hervé Tullet



Now this book is truly very different from any other book you would have come across. I cannot think of any other that falls in this category. This is an interactive book, like a mobile app except that this isn’t a game app or any electronic media. This is a book. Wow! Isn’t this amazing? It has instructions the child needs to follow and every page gives the child a sense of accomplishment and keeps her fully engrossed till the end. In the end, when the book asks if you want to do it all over again, I can bet that every child would shout out nothing but an emphatic yes. Tisya and I almost go into a loop because of this question at the end because every time the answer is a “yes” and so the book never gets over! We have done it back to back up to 10 times at a stretch. Now think seriously about whether you want to buy this one ;)

9) The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein

This is a book for little perfectionists, like my Tisya, who want to get everything right every single time. That pressure of getting things right can be overwhelming for little ones. So this book shows children the lighter and fun aspect of making mistakes. It tells them through the humorous story of Beatrice Bottomwell how wonderful it feels to actually stop worrying about making mistakes and how everyone, however perfect, does make mistakes…and it’s perfectly okay!

10) The Most Magnificent Thing, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires

It’s a book about a girl with a dream to build a magnificent thing. It deals with varied emotions, her earnestness in making it, her anger and frustration when things go wrong, her increasing urge to give it up midway and finally her determination and perseverance in successfully completing it. It also shows the wonderful bond of love between the girl and her dog. I like this book a lot also because it touches upon the science and art of building things, the engineering behind it and the little girl’s vision to make something so magnificent. These are the kind of subjects we don’t find very often in children’s books and it’s something I want every child to experience and appreciate—the joy of actually building things.

(The writer is a former market researcher, interim wedding planner, entrepreneur, beginner crafter, a dreamer and an aspiring storyteller. She loves reading to her daughter Tisya, which has actually led to her discovery of a love for storytelling. Follow her on Facebook @TiandI and YouTube as Tisya’s Storyland.)

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