The summer before preschool is all about discovering a love for books—books that tell silly stories, teach kids how to express themselves in constructive ways, and inspire conversation.

Our team searched the shelves high and low for brand new titles that do just that. Here are our picks for a solid gold summer of reading with your preschooler. We have a hunch that they'll become cherished additions to your bookshelf the whole year round.

Our 2012 Preschool Summer Reading Picks

Mooksha, A Quilt Story by Julie Paschkis. Karla loves her quilt Mooshka, sewn together with dozens of scraps of fabric, each tied to a family memory. And the best part is that when all is quiet, Karla can hear the quilt whispering each story. This book, full of vibrant illustrations with a folkish feel and simple, but evocative text, strikes the perfect balance of non-saccharine sweetness. A wonderful present for a child with a new sibling, but a memorable read for any preschooler on your list. (Peachtree Publishers, $13.03)

More by I.C. Springman, Illustrated by Brian Lies. Expressive illustrations and masterfully sparse text tell the story of one magpie with way too much stuff. Luckily, the magpie’s mice friends help him find out what it means to have “just enough”. This is at once a lighthearted book about a silly bird, and an important lesson about wants and needs. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $11.55)

Scary Mary by Paula Bowles. Scary Mary rules the roost! She squawks and hoards, declaring herself boss of the barnyard, but Mary soon realizes that it's lonely at the top. It's only when the kindhearted animals give her a second chance that Mary begins to see and appreciate the importance of friendship. With playful text and action-packed illustrations, this book is perfect for reading aloud to young children, who will delight in Mary's antics and identify with the book's message. (Tiger Tales, $11.01)

Mole's Babies by David Bedford. This gentle story finds expectant father Morris the mole searching high and low for the secret to keeping babies happy. He watches the farm animals and tries to do what they do, all to no avail. Morris is defeated, but vows to carry on until he finds the answer. The text has a sing-songy cadence that will appeal to young listeners and encourage them to pantomime along with the main character. Fun for all readers, but particularly good for the soon-to-be big brother or sister.(Tiger Tales, $11.01)


Our 2011 Preschool Summer Reading Picks

Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Bob Shea. Even though he’s got a swanky fish bowl and magic food flakes that fall from the sky, Gilbert Goldfish dreams of what he can not have. He dreams of a pet. Kids will giggle as a dog, a mouse, and a fly all team up for a temporary pet rotation... and bring trouble. This book has just the right mix of winks for the picture book crowd, and enough humor to keep parents engaged, too. And when the perfect pal arrives with a fish-tastic ending, preschoolers sitting at the edge of their seats can breathe a sigh of delighted relief. (Dial, $11.55)

 I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and Alison Jay. This perfect blend of evocative poetry and dreamy art strikes just the right notes for a bedtime wind-down. But don't be surprised if your preschooler pulls it out all day long. Fantastical images like a moon hooked on a church spire, or a crew of dogs assembled for “a train-whistle choir” balance whimsy with beauty. A welcome change to the saccharine chords of many preschool rhyming books. (Barefoot Books, $11.55)

 Bear with Me by Max Kornell. Owen is the king of his parents’ world... until they unexpectedly bring home a surprise addition, without even asking. There’s a new cub in town, and life at Owen's house is never going to be the same. Suddenly he has to share. Gary the bear makes it hard to sleep and forgets to cap the magic markers. But soon he starts to grow on Owen and both get a few lessons in sharing. A wonderful way to broach the topic of a new baby or younger sibling, without getting grumbles. A fun read for anyone - brotherless or not. (Putnam, $10.66)

 I’m a Shark by Bob Shea. Fans of Kate and Jim McMullan’s sassy “I Stink” will gravitate towards the brass and bluster of this new offering from Bob Shea, with a title character who declares, “Aren’t I awesome?” But even a shark who can watch scary movies without closing his eyes is secretly scared of something... A fun way to tackle a fear of the dark, or anything else that's keeping kids up at night. (Baltzer + Bray/Harper Collins, $11.55)

 My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone and Christopher Corr. From the moment Granny first goes to market to the final roundup of all her international purchases, you'll get swept away in this colorful counting jaunt around the world. A bit reminiscent of the holiday favorite “On the First Day of Christmas”, this book follows Granny as she plucks up a sea of gifts -- from one flying carpet (in Istanbul) to ten black llamas (in Peru). The vibrant illustrations of fluttering kites, buzzing boomerangs, and Russian nesting dolls precariously balanced on her beautiful Turkish carpet, bring foreign cultures front and center, and may bite kids with the travel bug, even before they learn to read solo. (Barefoot Books, $6.99)

Our 2010 Preschool Summer Reading Picks

Pigs to the Rescue by John Himmelman. It seems every time someone on the Greenstalk family farm has a problem, a boisterous herd of pigs is there to lend a hoof. But sometimes their response is a bit, um, overzealous. One small leak in Mrs. Greenstalk's garden hose, and the pigs bring a veritable tsunami of water which leaves her drenched and her flowers waterlogged. This super silly book has Chaplin-esque physical comedy written all over it. It's all good fun, but it's also a great way to introduce your child to cause-and-effect, a foundation for storytelling. Many of the key details are told in colorful, cartoon-style images, which means preschoolers can use the pictures to help them read the story. A hilarious, and substantial, reading experience. (Henry Holt, $11.46) 

Sally's Great Balloon Adventure by Stephen Huneck. Sally is a black lab with an inquisitive nature, and when she smells chicken, she follows her nose ... even when it takes her into a hot air balloon! Colorful woodcut prints and a simple storyline make this a sweet adventure for young children, and the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor will entertain parents, too! Whether your child is a fan of Sally, or is new to the series, she's sure to love this lab's latest escapade. (Abrams, $11.03)

 Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. What would happen if the kids put the parents to bed? In this playful tale of bedtime role reversal, it's time for lights out, but mom isn't quite ready. She sulks in the bathtub, hems and haws when it's time to pick an outfit to wear tomorrow, begs for an extra bedtime story, and stalls for a few extra minutes. By the time she's all tucked in, her daughter is exhausted, and she still needs to put daddy to bed! A seriously cute read from one of the best picture book authors working today. (Bloomsbury, $11.55)

The Falling Raindrop by Neil Johnson. This simple story, about a raindrop hurtling down from the clouds, will have your child on the edge of his seat. At first happy, then increasingly concerned, the raindrop learns the importance of appreciating the moment, as he misses out on the beautiful sights around him because he's worried about what comes next. Luckily, he has a second chance, as he becomes steam and rises up again! A great introduction to states of matter (and states of mind), this books is a wonderful addition to any young child's library. (Tricycle, $10.19)

Let's Do Nothing by Tony Fucile. Frankie and Sal have played every sport ever invented, painted more pictures than van Gogh, and baked enough cookies to treat a small country. There's absolutely nothing left to do. Except... nothing. Can these energetic preschoolers sit down and remain as still as statues for ten whole seconds? This thoroughly entertaining book, from the animator of such favorites as Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, hits just the right notes for read-aloud bliss. Super silly, laugh out loud fun! (Candlewick, $11.55)

Our 2009 Preschool Summer Reading Picks


Little Oink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace. Little Oink is a true embarrassment. Instead of making his room a proper pigsty, he insists on cleaning up after himself. All his parents want is for him to unmake his bed, throw his clothes on the floor, and cover his toys with mud at the end of the day, but he just can't seem to make a proper mess! This silly book throws a little reverse psychology into the "clean up your room" debate. A fun romp for summer. (Chronicle Books, 2009, $14.99)

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban. Is there a best way to be mad? All of mouse's friends seem to think so. Rabbit hops. Bear stomps. Bobcat screams. Although they try to teach him, mouse can't seem to get it right. If only he could find his own way to be mad, he might feel a whole lot better. Preschoolers, are still learning the best way to express themselves appropriately, will get a kick out of coming along for this journey through anger etiquette. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, $16.00)

Little Chick by Amy Hest Whether. Little Chick is impatiently waiting for a carrot to grow, trying to fly a leaf kite, or reaching to catch a star, Old-Auntie is there to encourage her through life’s challenges. Beautifully rendered in pencil and watercolor by Anita Jeram, who previously teamed up with author Amy Hest on the New York Times best-selling Kiss Good Night, this book reflects a talent for capturing the attention of young readers through simple, humorous stories, with a focus this time on intergenerational bonding and the spark of childhood wonder. (Candlewick, $17.99)

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems. In a world where no one would ever be caught with clothes on, one mole rat dares to don duds. Three-time Caldecott Honoree Willems doesn't disappoint with this wonderful tale of what it means to be different, and the power of being yourself. A great springboard for talking to preschoolers about courage, friendship, and the beauty of originality. And lots of fun to read, too! (Hyperion, 2009, $16.99)

May 16, 2011