For 5 and Under

Essential books for the youngest book lovers.


By Laura Krauss Melmed; Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Babies provoke universal delight and curiosity in young children, and the dozen thumb-sized infants featured in Laura Krauss Melmed’s tale are bound to prove particularly alluring. Jim LaMarche’s illustrations have a lustrous magic of their own — they glow with an enchanted quality that perfectly matches the fairy-tale spirit of Krauss’s beguiling story.

Gorky Rises

By William Steig

No one has better melded magic, whimsy, and sly wit than William Steig, the creator of Shrek and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. In this characteristically imaginative concoction of adventure and playful fantasy, a young frog with a talent for home chemistry creates a powerful potion — but finds its effects to be a bit more than he bargained for. (To see more of this author’s wonderful work, check out our Five Books entry Celebrating Steig.)

Little Bear Boxed Set

By Else Holmelund Minarik; Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Few partnerships between author and illustrator have proven as unforgettably successful as Maurice Sendak and Else Holmelund Minarik’s collaboration on these stories about a young bear and his family. Sendak’s talking animals, rendered in a winning pen-and-ink style, have a charmingly old world air, while Minarik’s compact tales of Little Bear’s antics are perfect both as bedtime stories and — a bit later — first achievements for young readers.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

By Crockett Johnson

Author and cartoonist Crockett Johnson first achieved public reknown in 1942 for his daily comic strip Barnaby, but it was twelve years later that he crafted this, his most enduring work. With its astonishingly minimalist approach, the story of Harold’s journey — which starts as a simple walk in the moonlight, and winds up as an ocean-crossing, mountain climbing, balloon-piloting adventure — develops its theme of the power of creativity in a manner that needs no interpretation.

Make Way for Ducklings

By Robert McClosky

The city of Boston paid public tribute to Robert McCloskey’s Caldecott-winning book about a pair of Mallard ducks and their brood by placing a bronze statue of the avian family in the Boston Public Garden, where the fictional ducks take up temporary residence. With its duck’s-eye-view of a busy city as negotiated by a nervous Mallard mother, and the gentle drama of the feathered family’s search for a safe home, this is a book that engrosses young readers, even as it soothes. Bedtime!