Great Books Guide 2021: for 4 to 5 year olds

The Runaway Pea Washed Away book cover

Here's a round-up of new children's books from the last year (2021), which we think any child aged 4 to 5 will love.

  • Arlo, The Lion Who Couldn't Sleep

    Author: Catherine Rayner
    Publisher: Macmillan
    Interest age: 2-4

    A perfect bedtime book, Arlo, The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep is tenderly illustrated in watercolour as always by Rayner, giving readers gentle pages to fall into and inspire soft, reassuring dreams.

  • Meet the Oceans

    Author: Caryl Hart Illustrator: Bethan Woollvin
    Publisher: Bloomsbury
    Interest age: 4-8

    A vibrant picture book all about the incredible bodies of water which make up most of our planet, providing young readers with a lively introduction to the importance of looking after the world's oceans.

  • Just One of Those Days

    Author: Jill Murphy
    Publisher: Macmillan
    Interest age: 2-5

    Everyone in the Bear household is having a difficult day - even Baby Bear! Luckily, it's nothing a pair of cosy pyjamas and pizza for tea can't solve.

  • Pirate Stew

    Author: Neil Gaiman Illustrator: Chris Riddell
    Publisher: Bloomsbury
    Interest age: 4-8

    A little boy and his sister are surprised to say the least when their babysitter turns out to be a huge, bearded pirate - and he's invited all his friends round for stew! A great book for storytime with brilliant illustration by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.

  • I Say Boo, You Say Hoo

    Author: John Kane
    Publisher: Templar Books
    Interest age: 4-8

    The rules are simple: if you see the colour blue, you must shout out Stinky Poo! If you see a tree, you have to shout ME! Sounds easy enough - but things get sillier and sillier in this hilarious call and response book.

  • What Happened To You?

    Author: James Catchpole Illustrator: Karen George
    Publisher: Faber
    Interest age: 4-8

    Joe just wants to play pirates, but the other children notice that he only has one leg and start asking him a barrage of questions. A stunningly clever book with a clear message that someone who happens to be disabled is not a teaching tool, with practical advice for parents on handling questions about this.

  • I Really Really Need A Wee

    Author: Karl Newson Illustrator: Duncan Beedie
    Publisher: Little Tiger
    Interest age: 2-3

    Whilst she's out and about, little Bush Baby suddenly really, REALLY needs a wee! A funny book that relates the universal experience of needing a wee and not being able to find anywhere to go, I Really Really Need a Wee reminds readers of the importance of going before you leave the house.

  • Spaghetti Hunters

    Author: Morag Hood
    Publisher: Two Hoots
    Interest age: 2-5

    Duck is looking for his spaghetti, but he can’t find it anywhere! Fortunately, Tiny Horse, self-proclaimed spaghetti hunter, has all the kit to help them find the elusive pasta.

  • Barbara Throws A Wobbler

    Author: Nadia Shireen
    Publisher: Puffin
    Interest age: 3-5

    Nadia Shireen’s brilliant book about temper tantrums is a definite must-have for any parents of 3-5 year olds who may have had a wobbler or two. As ever, Shireen’s humour and empathy with little ones shines through.

  • Dog Gone

    Author: Rob Biddulph
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Interest age: 4-5

    When Edward Pugglesworth loses his owner, Dave, in the woods, he's sure he's done for - but maybe his dog walk hasn't gone as wrong as he thinks?

  • The Hospital Dog

    Author: Julia Donaldson Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie
    Publisher: Macmillan
    Interest age: 2-5

    This is the charming story of Dot the dalmatian, a very special dog indeed, who finds out just how important her hospital visits are. The story is told in rhyming couplets which are delicious to read aloud and share with children, and the bright, inclusive illustrations are full of life, warmth and expression.

  • Ned and the Great Garden Hamster Race

    Author: Kim Hillyard
    Publisher: Ladybird
    Interest age: 3-6

    There’s only one thing on Ned’s mind today and that’s winning. A funny, heartwarming story about a little hamster, a big race and the value of kindness.

  • Not That Pet!

    Author: Smriti Halls Illustrator: Rosalind Beardshaw
    Publisher: Walker Books
    Interest age: 3-5

    An enjoyable rhyming book with wholesome illustrations, Not That Pet! is perfect for young families considering bring an animal into their lives, and a lovely story about an everyday family and their dynamics. 

  • I Am Every Good Thing

    Author: Derrick Barnes Illustrator: Gordon C. James
    Publisher: Farshore
    Interest age: 4-8
    Reading age: 7+

    The little boy depicted in this gorgeous book is a ball of energy; a gentleman and a scholar; a hilarious friend and a good brother. But, sometimes, he is afraid of the world around him. A stunning visual poem dedicated to supporting and loving black boys.

  • Octopus Shocktopus!

    Author: Peter Bently Illustrator: Steven Lenton
    Publisher: Nosy Crow
    Interest age: 3-5

    One day, a huge pink octopus appears on the roof of a young family’s house, and despite the fire brigade’s best efforts, it seems that it’s there to stay! Peter Bently’s wonderfully crafted rhyming story is brilliant to read aloud.

  • Coming to England

    Author: Floella Benjamin Illustrator: Diane Ewen
    Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
    Interest age: 4-5

    This picture book autobiography explores the early life of Floella Benjamin, celebrated writer, actress and television presenter. It begins in her childhood home of Trinidad and charts her move to England in 1960 as part of the Windrush generation.

  • The Pirate Mums

    Author: Jodie Lancet-Grant Illustrator: Lydia Corry
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Interest age: 4-5

    This brilliantly fun story about a day out gone awry - and two seriously committed pirate mums - is a lovely book to read aloud, with a heart-warming message.

  • It's Only Stanley

    Author: Jon Agee
    Publisher: Scallywag Press
    Interest age: 3-6

    The Wimbledon family keep getting woken up by their dog, Stanley - what could he possibly be up to in the middle of the night? Find out in this brilliantly inventive and funny picture book.

  • Can Bears Ski?

    Author: Raymond Antrobus Illustrator: Polly Dunbar
    Publisher: Walker Books
    Interest age: 3-6

    Why do people keep asking Little Bear "Can bears ski?" A lovely and authentic picture book about hearing loss, inspired by the author's earliest memory of being read to as a child. 

  • The Runaway Pea Washed Away

    Author: Kjartan Poskitt Illustrator: Alex Willmore
    Publisher: Simon and Schuster
    Interest age: 4-5

    The Runaway Pea returns in this madcap adventure which sees him washed down the plughole and on his way to the big wide world!