A list of Toddler Time Read-Alouds in which I just list Very Hungry Caterpillar Over and Over Again Until You Give Up Hope

Just kidding.

Welcome to Uncommon Toddler Time read-alouds, or, what I think are uncommon read-alouds. If you read these and think “BISH, PLZ, I already know all about this shizz”, I’m real sorry. My hope is that you find at least one title you haven’t heard of, or remember a title that you used to love but forgot how great it was.

I get real hopeless trolling the internet for new Toddler Time read-aloud titles and finding nothing but suggestions for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It makes me feel dead inside. Well, not really. I get hyperbolic in blog posts sometimes.

Here’s my plan, Stan. I’ll start this list and, in comments, you’ll keep it going.

I’m not going to post Go Away Big Green Monster or Dear Zoo, because you find them in about every list and if you’ve been a kids’ librarian or a teacher or a parent/caregiver for half a second, you already know these stories. That said, I’m prepared for people to post “YOU DIDN’T LIST Brown Bear, Brown Bear! You hate America!” I’m ready.

When I mention a Toddler Time read-aloud, I’m talking about 18 months to 3 years, ’cause that’s how we rock it at my library.

All book images link to their sources. Let’s go, kids.

Meeow and the Big Box: There are several other Meeow books, but this one ends with a fire engine! I’m sorry, what more do you want exactly? These are books about cleverness and ingenuity, so get crackin’. Kids love Meeow.

Clever Meeow

What Will Fat Cat Sit On? I usually start this story by complaining that I found my cat sitting on the fridge. OH THE HUMANITY, say the kids. I say, let’s find a better place for this cat to sit.

I like ’em fat. I like ’em proud.
Not one of your better plans, dork.

Also, Jan Thomas has Is Everyone Ready for Fun? Also delightful and hilarious, but gets the kiddos moving a bit:

It’s important to remember that chickens are really uptight.

♥ If you can get your hands on a copy of Round Like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst that hasn’t been lovingly ripped to shreds, then get to it! Every time I repeat “Round like a ball” I move my hands in a huge circle motion. Also, the kiddos enjoy saying “NO!” every time someone in the book guesses the wrong object. PLUS, you get a little chance to talk to the kids about where we live: the Earth, duh! You didn’t think it was a gumball this whole time, did you, ya weirdo?

♥ Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal gives me the giggles and I’m not even the target audience. He’s a pea! He hates to eat candy! Hilarity ensues! You get to scream “SPINACH!”

♥ Apparently Laura Vaccaro Seeger was going to title this “Bananas are not Red”, but then she found out some bananas ARE red. Whomp, whomp! Anyway, behold the die-cut wonders that lie within Lemons are not Red. Children get to scream “NO!” (you can see that this is a plus point in a  lot of my Toddler Time book choices) and work a bit on their color-recognition skills. A close second to this book is First the Egg, though I like to use it with a slightly older crowd.

♥ Ann Likes Red. She also has no freaking manners, so I pepper this book with lots of Pleases and Thank Yous that Ann herself does not actually say. Ann is kind of ungrateful. This book offers many opportunities for kid participation. As Ann is offered tons of clothes in other colors (and I mean tons. Ann’s not suffering in this recession), the kids will let you know that Ann only likes red. Personally, I think Ann should get what she gets and not get upset, but I’m not in charge. I’m glad I found this tiny book hiding in the shelves. The kids really took to it.

♥ Try and Google this title and see the gross stuff that you come up with.  Anyway, I saw this book in an episode of the so-so The Librarians, and because they’re Australian, they call this book What Color are Your Knickers? instead of What Color is Your Underwear? I usually start off this story by explaining that I have something TOTALLY embarrassing to talk about. After I announce the title, I can barely get a word in. Kids go bananas. The last time I read this book, it  was with a group of birth to 5 year olds. An older kid, right in the middle of the story, screamed “MAN, THAT IS SO NASTY!” I love Brooklyn kids.

♥ It’s funny how such a simple thing can make the kids act so silly. Fall is Not Easy, which is sadly restricted to storytimes during one forth of the year, is delightful to read. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s sweet and lovely and adorably funny. Something about this book always calms me down.

♥ Ugh. If I get into one more argument about I Want My Hat Back with one more freaking children’s librarian, I’m gonna pop someone. I swear it. Maybe the rabbit gets eaten, maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know, maybe don’t steal hats from bears, ya dope. Some librarians are super sensitive about this book, but if I, the premiere pink-haired vegan librarian of NYC can handle a rabbit maybe-probably-mayhaps getting eaten by a bear, so can you. For some reason, I end up reading this book in Fred Armisen Portlandia voices. No one knows why.
I Want My Hat Back  is fantastic for toddler storytime because it amuses the kids AND the adults. I’ve never seen a kid have a negative reaction to the end of this story. Not one. Stop being a baby and read this already.

The moral of the story is that rabbits will lie to your FACE.

♥ Me Hungry: Now you don’t need an excuse to use your caveman/Frankenstein’s monster voice.

Of course she is. She has like 50 thousand babies and her hair doesn’t just get like that on its own.

♥ Yes, yes. Bark George is wonderful, but you already know that. Let’s talk about finding an intact copy of The Daddy Mountain, also by Jules Feiffer. It features a charming androgynous kiddo (well, everyone calls this kid a girl, but I’m not totally convinced, nor do I need to be), a patient dad, and a about-to-faint mom. This always gets laughs from kids and grown-ups alike.

♥ Need to finish strong on a storytime? Look no further than Charlie Chick. It’s short and sweet and has lots of opportunities for kids to practice body part recognition. If possible, get a storytime copy of this (one that doesn’t circulate), as I’ve taped that last huge fold-out page back together more times than I can count.

I like to do a little chomp-chomp action on this page so it looks like Charlie’s gonna bite your face off.

♥ Honorable mentions go to Beautiful OopsHey, Rabbit!What’s Your Sound, Hound the Hound? , Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes (I didn’t include this because hopefully you’ve already discovered how rad Pete is. If you haven’t, you’re missing out. It is SUCH a crowd pleaser), and Do Pigs Have Stripes?

For more traditional lists, check here, here, and here. Oh, and here’s a list that I, myself, have enjoyed.

OK, so now’s the time that you list all the toddler time books that you feel others don’t know about. Don’t keep your favorite reads a secret! Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone. I’m hoping this will turn into a nice little list.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

42 thoughts on “A list of Toddler Time Read-Alouds in which I just list Very Hungry Caterpillar Over and Over Again Until You Give Up Hope

  1. Sarah

    I’m sure you know about Pete the Cat but that has been a consistent hit with every age group I’ve tried it on. My favorite Jan Thomas book is Can You Make a Scary Face? The kids go crazy and I enjoy really getting into the whole production. Plus it’s a book with a lot of movement which is always good!

    A classic I love is Papa Please Get the Moon for me. You can clip it to better fit the toddler crowd I think. They all love the page where the moon is so, so big!

  2. Cynthia

    Work in an academic library so don’t get many tots but will enjoy reading these to my toddler. Any suggestions on books for toddlers asking where they come from? My 3 year old asked last night but accused me of trying to trick him when I told him he grew in my belly. Thanks for the great and witty list!

    1. You could try Mommy laid an egg! : or where do babies come from? by Babette Cole, Back into Mommy’s Tummy by Robberecht, Before you were born by Laura Cornell, or What’s inside your tummy, Mommy? by Abby Cocovini. I hope he believes you!
      Thanks for reading!

      1. Cynthia

        Thanks so much for replying! I’ll check those out. He finally believed me and then the questions started….how did I pee in there…what kind of toys did I play with in there….

  3. I can never get enough of the fat cat genre; I am also partial to the animals eating things they shouldn’t genre. Drat That Fat Cat by Pat Thomson fits both of those categories & also features a little There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly plot stealing and will definitely encourage interactive shouting by children & laughter from adults.

    Check it!

  4. Could have missed them on the lists, but I LOVE Monkey and Me by Gravett and not just Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia-her others are awesome, too. Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen, Dinosaur Dig by Penny Dale, and my all time favorite read a loud book EVER: Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler. Do it. You’ll be glad you did.

    Your list is awesome! And just in time-my standbys are getting a little stale so I was just “trolling” for some fresh ideas as well. With similar results. Thank you for this very fresh list!

    1. I try to sound cool during Jazz Baby, but just end up sounding like a dork. What’s your secret?
      Monkey and Me is pretty great.
      I haven’t heard of the others, so thanks for commenting. I’m putting all the titles on hold so I can try them out. Thank you!

  5. Shannon

    My favorite read aloud is “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog” by Mo Willems. Pretty much anything by Mo can get my group going (and it doesn’t hurt that he is one of my favorite kids’ authors). “I Want My Hat Back” is another one of my favorites. I even got my husband (a reading specialist at a local elementary school) hooked on it. He reads it in the voice of Keanu Reeves from Point Break. Lol! Great list!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Genevieve

    Oooh – would have loved to have you join our “Storytime Slam” yesterday (where all the children’s librarians got together to share new faves and tips…) Anytime you’re near Chicago, just say the word.

    Anyways, for a few I haven’t seen mentioned yet, I’m partial to The Monster Show by Charise Mericle Harper for my silly monsters, Boo Hoo Bird (More Jeremy Tankard – yay!), I’m Not Cute by Jonathan Allen, I’m the Best by Lucy Cousins and If You See a Kitten by Butler (for the cute little awwwws…). Really, I like books where I can freak out like the character (Sam in Leonardo, Boo Hoo Bird, Pigeon (esp. wanting a Puppy or cookie), the owl in I’m Not Cute… so many crazy birds, so little time.

    Others? Dinosaur vs. The Library, Shout Shout It Out!, RRRalph, Hugs from Pearl (esp. good if you have a porcupine puppet), Yummy Yucky by Patricelli.

  7. So much to say about this list! First of all “What Will Fat Cat Sit On?” is cracking me up just looking at the cover and title. Secondly, LOVE Little Pea, it really never gets old. Third, I Want My Hat Back is so great and so weird, also LOVE. Thanks for this list AND signing up for the comment challenge! Yay!

  8. I love The Very Hungry Caterpillar! It was my favourite! My friend’s daughter has one about “is the cat’s fur hard?” and then it’s like a bit of cardboard, “is it covered in bubbles?” then there’s a bit of bubble wrap or something like that – very touchy feely (that might be a bit younger than “Toddler read alouds”) My other friend reads toddler books but has also been reading older books (That are appropriate) to her daughter.

    I keep threatening that when the times comes I’ll read my bump Austen, Greene, Bronte, Hemingway – then again it might just warp the poor child before birth lol.

  9. Apart from wanting to read ‘What Will Fat Cat Sit On?’, I am also tempted to abandon work for the day and read your entire blog from beginning to end, because your writing makes me chuckle.

  10. Monica

    I made the mistake of introducing my coworker to Me Hungry a few years back. She gets upset if she says “Me Hungry” and I don’t give the correct response.

  11. “The moral of the story is that rabbits will lie to your FACE.” Yes – I have 4 house bunnies, and one of them definitely lies….. she will sit on treats and then act like no, there are no treats at all. Her companion bunny can tell she’s up to something.

  12. I’m so anti- the usual story time books that I pick up the most random stuff on the shelf that looks good and just go for it. The only exception is pop-up books— anything is better in a pop up book. I’m big on movement with the kids because my regulars are very squirmy so I actually like the non-fiction animal books by Steve Jenkins because then the kids do animal noises/movements. Yesterday’s story time was all books with songs in them, including Pete the Cat, and I just had the kids and adults sing while I turned pages.Its always surprising to see what gets them interested- like the week all they wanted was shark books. Couldn’t be cartoon sharks- had to be REAL shark pictures. Then I had them decide what a shark would do/say/act like.

  13. I don’t know if you ever got an answer for how to do Jazz Baby, but I read it as a call and response. Get the kiddos talking back at you and it won’t matter that it’s a little bit on the long side. It’s also my absolute favorite read aloud.

    I also get a big reaction every time I do Yes Day by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

  14. I read Duck on a Bike (Shannon) to Toddlers. It seems long but if you say all of the animal conversations in animal sound voices and keep it moving – they are hooked.
    Also, you are awesome.

  15. My top read-aloud favorites are: The Day the Crayons Quit, I Yam a Donkey, The Book with No Pictures, Don’t Push the Button, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, That is NOT a Good Idea, and Count the Monkeys

  16. Gina Henderson

    I love you for the simple fact that you called the monster “Frankenstein’s monster.” Why can’t anyone get that right?!? Also, your list is great.

  17. Viki Radford

    Oh this is smashing! I do love me some Jon Klassen, but here’s some others: Oi Frog! and Oi Dog! by Kes Gray for more sitting-on-things humour, and then Oh No George! and Shhh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton for glorious colours and thought-provoking, gorgeously funny stories.

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