5 Fantastic Books for Under Fives

Books for Under 5s

A few of our favourites (and why you’ll love them!)

There are some books that you will (be forced to) read again and again; some that will be thumbed and torn and covered in mysterious, indecipherable stains due to overuse; some that your older kids will indulgently take from the shelf even when you’re sure they’ve outgrown them. I’ve put together a little list of some of our kids’ favourites; books they constantly return to and, incidentally, they’re all books that we enjoy reading too. Because, let’s face it, some kids books are crap really, aren’t they?

If you’re relatively new player of the parenting game and have yet to accumulate the entire Julia Donaldson back catalogue then some of these may be new to you. If you’ve been around the block once or twice, then you probably own most of them already.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell

Book 1 - Owl Babies

This was one of my son’s first books. He unintentionally memorized the first few pages when he was three and used to ‘read’ it aloud to his baby sister. Ouch. I just got an ache right in the heart thinking about it. It’s really adorable. The premise is this: three little owl siblings sit on a branch waiting for their mother who has taken off for some undisclosed reason. Maybe she had some rodents to catch or insects to gather. Or maybe she just had enough and wanted a half hour without wails and demands in her feathery ear.  Either way, after a couple of pages – in which the baby owls speculate about reasons for her absence – she returns, as expected. Phew. Everyone is delighted and peace is restored to the nest. Hurrah!

If you’re the kind of mum who needs to escape every once in a while, whether it’s just to get a facial or better still, to abscond for the weekend and party like it’s 1999, then this is the book for you! Mums have to go away sometimes; to work; to run errands; to consume unusually large volumes of Shiraz and dance badly to 90s pop; but rest assured kiddos, they’ll always come back.

Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson

 Book 2 Paper Dolls

Brace yourselves for all of the feelings if you’ve not read this one. Here’s how it goes: cute little girl has lots of fun and adventures with paper dolls she has cut out with her mum. Nasty little Horrid Henry type snips them up but little girl is OK because dolls will live on in her memory along with – wait for it –  her long-since departed ‘kind granny’ and all sorts of other childhood treasures that no longer exist. Gulp. Yup. It’s a magical one. If you don’t come over all emotional at the end, you’re made of stone. Fact.

Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy 

book 3 - 5 minutes peace

This one is for the parents and the kids. Mrs. Large is all too relatable; the quintessential frazzled mother who just wants to be left alone to read the newspaper and eat a bit of leftover cake in peace. No martyr to the cause, Mrs Large is on a mission for some me time. She’s delusional enough to attempt to fill a bubble bath with four kids in the house and of course is repeatedly interrupted because, as per the rules of motherhood, no woman who has borne a child shall be permitted into the bathroom alone.

Everyone will get a chuckle out of this one and you might feel a little better knowing that Ms Large’s head is just as wrecked as yours is.

Zog by Julia Donaldson 

 Book 4 Zog

With two daughters, we’ve resigned ourselves to a certain degree of pink, glitter and sparkly unicorns. As much as we try not to gender stereotype as parents, it seems to seep in from all directions. We have a lot of books about fairies and princesses and that’s OK. Our six-year-old son loves them just as much as our four-year-old daughter. But there ain’t nothing like a bit of subtle feminism and Donaldson nails it yet again in this warm tale of a hapless dragon named Zog who teams up with a princess who has had enough of being rescued by knights in shining armour and would much rather pursue a career in medicine. Princess Pearl is all about female empowerment and we love her!

The Tiger who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

the tiger who came to tea
This one has always been a massive hit here. It’s a sweet yarn about a hungry tiger who pays a visit to a mum and daughter and proceeds to eat them out of house and home. To be honest, I reckon the tiger serves as a metaphor for that annoying neighbour who seems to call at the most inopportune times and stays too long.

The book has been around since the 60s and it shows its age a bit when mom has a freak-out upon realising that she has nothing to feed the hard-grafting man of the house for his dinner, but we’ll forgive that. The cheeky tiger even drinks ‘all of daddy’s beer’. Mom was cute enough to hide the gin, it would seem. Or maybe it was she who actually drank all the beer and concocted the whole fanciful story to cover her drunken ass? Gender issues and theories abound but one thing’s for sure, kids love that crazy lager-swilling tiger.

What are your kids’ favourites? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Alternative theories about our mysterious jungle friend are also welcome! 

My Petit CanardPink Pear BearMy Random Musings3 Little ButtonsMummascribblesReflections From MeCuddle FairyMummuddlingthroughDiary of an imperfect mumDear Bear and BeanyYou Baby Me MummyethannevelynThe PramshedKeep Calm and Carry On Linking SundayPost Comment Love


A list of fantastic books your preschooler will love and you won't hate! #WorldBookDay

My Petit CanardPink Pear BearMy Random Musings3 Little ButtonsMummascribblesReflections From MeCuddle FairyMummuddlingthroughDiary of an imperfect mumDear Bear and BeanyYou Baby Me MummyethannevelynThe PramshedKeep Calm and Carry On Linking SundayPost Comment Love

72 comments on “5 Fantastic Books for Under Fives

  1. Some of my favs here but I’ve never read the Owl Babies one. That sounds great for when I’m babysitting the grandkids

    1. It’s really sweet and the message is lovely. Can imagine it being a lovely one to read while looking after grandkids! 🙂

  2. Such a gorgeous selection! I LOVE the paper dolls, it gets me every time! The mouse has a major obsession with TTTCFT…I think the Mum made up the tiger story so Daddy would take them all out for chips.

    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 58

  3. I love five minutes peace and to be honest, i love anything Jill Murphy writes regarding the Large Family. I never appreciated how she is so obviously talking from experience as a mum when she wrote these! #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Aw that’s really sweet! I have no recollection of books as a small kid. Not until we got into Enid Blyton territory,

  4. Owl babies sounds like a good one for my son who is one year old. That’s so adorable that your son memorised the first few pages, my heart would melt too! I think I’ll check out the Five Minutes Peace as well, not only because I need five minutes peace but also love a book that’s for kids and adults. Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

    1. It’s really sweet. Mine still love reading it, even though the six-year-old pretends he’s just listening for the sake of his little sis!

  5. Some favourites here, but also some I’ve not read yet! I absolutely love the Large Family – my Mum gave my son a whole set of Jill Murphy books for Christmas. Julia Donaldson is currently my son’s favourite – Stick Man, The Gruffalo – but we’ve not tried either of the ones on your list so I’ll have to rectify that. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Katy – Hot Pink Wellingtons recently posted…The Pregnancy Diaries: Week 25

  6. The Gruffalo’s Child! Both my children loved this with it’s ‘A ha A ho tracks in the snow’!!! JD is pure genius when it comes to rhyming! The illustrations in The Tiger who Came to Tea are fab and so nostalgic. #fridayfrolics

  7. This is great! We shared some of our favourite books this week too, although most were for older children. Maybe you’ll like some of them too in the next few years? Nice to see you chose some absolute classics here. #Sharingthe BlogLove

  8. my favourite story to read when i was teaching was The Tiger Who came to tea, we wrote and invited the tiger to come to class and had a tea party, so many learning outcomes, popping over from #PoCoLo

    1. They just go mad for it don’t they. I’m a teacher too. Taking a year out. When I read the words ‘learning outcomes’ the hairs stood up on the back of my neck! Lol!

    1. It’s just so adorable. And how their little faces light up when she whooshes back! Awwww. I’m with your little one!

  9. A great collection of books (none of which I’ve heard of, oh god). I really appreciate posts like this so I know which books to go out and buy for my baby boy. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂


  10. A couple of these are old favourites of my own and there’s a few we haven’t yet heard of so great list. We have so many books for Archie but he’s always open to reading new ones. Have been meaning to grab Zog for a while! Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

    1. Julia Donaldson is English and pretty much has the book market sewn up this side of the pond. Obviously she hasn’t ‘broken’ America yet! Lol.

  11. These are fab books and we have all of them. Haven’t read Owl Babies for a while though so will have to dig it out again. The Tiger Who Came To Tea is one of my favourites – even if it does show its age with the mum’s reaction to dad coming home! 🙂 #SharingtheBlogLove

  12. I’ve not read the paper dolls book, but wonder if it might be a good one to read with my son who has started asking questions about death and loss. On a different note, we recently got ‘the tiger’ out of the library and it really made me smile, how many childrens’ books written now would talk about daddy’s beer! x #KCACOLS
    Madeline (This Glorious Life) recently posted…3 reasons you should print and display your photos at home

  13. I am new to Julia Donaldson books. I’m sure the kids will surely enjoy reading them. Thank you for sharing these books. What we used to read with the kids are still classic books like The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, but haven’t tried any of these books. I think I would like to consider reading The Paper Dolls first, and then followed by the others, or what can you recommend?

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