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Pre-K

The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Kids Ages 3 – 5

by Iva-Marie Palmer

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Summer necessities: sunshine, shade, ice cream, the beach, and plenty of good books to read. If you have a preschooler or near-kindergartener, you’ll want to scoop up some of these great picture books and activity books. Take them along on picnics and trips to the beach. Curl up with them on stormy days, or read them to your child in your favorite shady spot.

  • Hello, World!

    by Kelly Corrigan, illustrated by Stacy Ebert

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    New York Times bestselling author Kelly Corrigan (Glitter and Glue) makes her picture book debut with a volume that does for kids what her other works have offered adults: reminds them that there’s magic, beauty, and wisdom in the simplest of interactions. A perfect (and vibrant, thanks to Stacy Ebert’s illustrations) book to share with youngsters who will discover the world anew.

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  • Nosotros Means Us

    by Paloma Valdivia

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    This bilingual book (told in English and Spanish) offers a moving poem about the bond between parent and child. A mother and her child imagine how they’d be linked to each other if they were different animals. It's a must-have to share over bedtime snuggles.

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  • Look Out, Leonard!

    by Jessie James, illustrated by Tamara Anegon

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    If the latest paperback suspense story has ever gripped you, you might be interested to know that little kids love thrillers, too. In this case, the exciting “what will happen next?” story is about Leonard, a shrew who loses his family in the jungle on moving day. Kids will love turning pages to witness his journey to reunite with his loved ones.

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  • Fatima’s Great Outdoors

    by Ambreen Tariq, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

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    Ambreen Tariq, the founder of the Instagram account @brownpeoplecamping, tells the colorful story of an immigrant family on its first camping trip in the Midwest. Fatima’s adventure with her parents and her sister becomes a love letter to the Great Outdoors. This book is perfect for bringing to the park or on a picnic. (And it will no doubt inspire some camping trips, too.)

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  • The Worm Family Has Its Picture Taken

    by Jennifer Frank, illustrated by David Ezra Stein

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    From Caldecott Honor illustrator David Ezra Stein and debut author Jennifer Frank, this new picture book asks the question, “Can worms take a beautiful family photo?” As chipmunks show off wonderful smiles and cats flaunt their fur, the worms feel less than photogenic. But, despite one worm's attempts to make her family look like something it’s not, the best picture results when they drop the disguises and embrace their wormy selves.

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  • The Circles All Around Us

    by Brad Montague, illustrated by Brad and Kristi Montague

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    This debut picture book from the creator of Kid President is about the connections we make as we grow. The tiny circle of people we know as newborns grows as we meet our neighbors, explore our community, go to school, and travel to new places. This charmingly illustrated book will make readers, young and old, think about how to lead their lives with kindness and care.

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  • Uma Wimple Charts Her House

    by Reif Larsen and Ben Gibson

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    Any kid with an affinity for numerals or charts or building and engineering will find a friend in Uma Wimple. Given an assignment to chart her own house, Uma realizes she must look beyond the walls to determine what makes her house a home.

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  • The Octopus Escapes

    by Maile Meloy, illustrated by Felicita Sala

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    The octopus is one of the most fascinating creatures on land or sea. In Maile Meloy’s book, the intriguing mollusk is lifted from his comfortable ocean domain to live in an aquarium, where human attention, toys, and food are readily available. The bored octopus attempts a daring nighttime escape – and offers a great lesson on the importance of independence and adventure.

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  • Big Feelings

    by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

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    Anyone who endured the pandemic and all the canceled plans of 2020 will relate to the newest book from author-illustrator team Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman. In Big Feelings, the duo navigates what to do when things don’t happen the way we’d hoped and how to change our perspective to tackle heavy emotions.

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  • Happy Hair

    by Mechal Menee Roe

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    This celebration of Black girls’ hair from the illustrator of vice president Kamala Harris’s picture book Super Heroes Are Everywhere is joyful and beautiful. Readers will see themselves reflected in this upbeat homage to the many ways to wear Black hair.

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  • Does a Firefighter Fly a Rocket?

    by Danielle McLean, illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald

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    Kids who love vehicles and are curious about grown-up professions will have a ball with this board book. In this interactive book, kids lift the flap to match vehicles to the people who use them for their jobs.

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  • Summer Camp Critter Jitters

    by Jory John, illustrated by Liz Climo

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    Author Jory John is the kids’ book king of making light of what makes us fret and worry (or the things that make penguins or giraffes fret and worry, as in his New York Times bestsellers Penguin Problems and Giraffe Problems). In this new book illustrated by Liz Climo, the animals who gather at sleepaway summer camp each have something to hide (think, a bear who’s afraid of the woods) and must get over their nerves to make new friends.

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  • The Ocean Calls

    by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

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    This beautiful intergenerational story about a Korean girl and her haenyeo (free diving) grandmother has racked up praise and has the makings of a classic. Tina Cho’s tale centers on Jeju Island's women, where Korean women have long participated in dives to search for the sea's treasures. To Dayeon, a young girl, her grandmother, and the diving women are as magical as mermaids, and she is determined to join them, despite her fears. Muralist Jess X. Snow’s gorgeous illustrations will keep this tale at the forefront of kids’ imaginations.

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  • Let’s Go to the Beach! With Dr. Seuss’s Lorax

    by Todd Tarpley

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    Environmental champion (and beloved Dr. Seuss character) the Lorax goes to the beach in this fun lift-the-flap board book. Tote it along with your towels, shovels, and buckets. Kids will gain an even greater appreciation for the wonders and creatures of our beaches.

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  • Bodies Are Cool

    by Tyler Feder

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    The earlier kids start to learn about body positivity, the more likely they’ll love their squishy parts, their bony parts, and all the scars and freckles in between. Primarily geared toward the preschool crowd, Tyler Feder's book highlights the range of body types, skin tones, hair textures, and unique features that make up the incredible array of people in the world.

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  • Guinea Pigs Go Gardening

    by Kate Sheehy

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    Whether you have a garden in your yard or you prefer to visit the farmers' market (or the produce section of your grocery store), kids interested in how fruits and veggies grow will adore this informative picture book. It goes beyond planting seeds and giving them water; kids will learn the intricacies of caring for a garden – from the gross (battling slimy slugs) to the fulfilling (harvesting their crops).

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  • The Giggles Are Coming

    by Christopher Eliopoulos

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    What can you do about a case of the giggles? Especially when they strike at the exact wrong time? Young readers will be in stitches as two friends try to fight off their laughter on the first day of school. Eliopoulos’s clever illustrations of the giggles surrounding the friends will draw kids in and make this a frequent “read it to me” request.
    (On Sale: 7/6/2021)

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  • Shirley Chisholm Dared

    by Alicia D. Williams, illustrated by April Harrison

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    Shirley Chisholm, both the first Black woman elected to Congress and to run for U.S. President, comes to life in this biographical picture book from Newbery Honor-winning author Alicia D. Williams and Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe New Talent Award-winning illustrator April Harrison. This icon and pioneer's story is told through details about her childhood rebellions and her quest as a young adult to fight injustice.

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  • I’m Getting a Shark!

    by Brady Smith

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    When a little girl thinks she’s getting a shark for her birthday, her mind runs wild, wondering what kind of shark it will be (after all, there are many types, as any shark-obsessed tot knows). But it’s her dog, Ralphie, who steps in to convince her that a shark wouldn’t work as a pet. This hilarious romp will delight parents and kids alike.

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  • Bug Book for Kids

    by Kate Henries Meisner

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    This "did-you-know" coloring book is peppered with fun facts about the world of insects, allowing kids to absorb new knowledge as they make art. Any nature or bug-loving kid will get hours of enjoyment working their way through the 50 illustrations and coloring the bonus trading cards at the end.

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  • A New Day

    by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Dan Santat

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    When Sunday quits, the other six days get left in a bind: they need a new day to complete the week! Soon, the suggestions start pouring in from hopeful candidates to be the new day, but it’s a little girl who suggests being kind who lands at the top. This fun read from bestselling author Brad Meltzer, and Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat is perfect for fans of The Day the Crayons Quit.

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  • The Ultimate Shark Sticker Book

    by DK

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    Okay, maybe you don’t want to think about sharks too much while you’re at the beach. But when safely folded in the pages of a sticker book, sharks become more fascinating than fearsome. Kids who wish every week was Shark Week will get a lot out of this interactive, informative activity book.

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Looking for summer reading ideas for older kids? Check out our 2021 lists for Kids Ages 6 – 8Ages 9 – 12, and Teens.