Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to word play. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about word play.
Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
When it comes to children’s stories about word play, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Oh, the Places You’ll Go! to popular sellers like The Phantom Tollbooth to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Book with No Pictures.
We hope this list of kids books about word play can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems - Be they practical (how to mix a pancake or how to bird-watch) or fanciful (how to scare monsters or how to be a snowflake), the poems in this book boast a flair and joy that you won’t find in any instruction manual. Poets from Kwame Alexander to Pat Mora to Allan Wolf share the way to play hard, to love nature, and to be grateful. Soft, evocative illustrations will encourage readers to look at the world with an eye to its countless possibilities.
Orange Pear Apple Bear - Destined to become a contemporary classic, this book has spare text and sweet illustrations but contains only five words: apple, pear, orange, bear—and there. Emily Gravett creates clever variations on this theme by rearranging the words—on one spread, a brown bear juggles an orange, apple, and pear; on another spread, there is an orange-colored apple and a pear-shaped bear. Simple and compelling, children will enjoy reading this book over and over again as they learn many different concepts.
Chimpanzees for Tea! - A silly, fun version of the game “telephone”—in which a grocery list committed to memory goes playfully awry. One day, Vincent’s mother asks him to go to the store to pick up a few items: “a bunch of carrots, a box of rice, some China tea, a big, firm pear, and a tin of peas” to be precise. “And hurry home in time for tea!” she says. Sounds easy enough. Yet distractions are at every turn, causing havoc with Vincent’s memory. All of a sudden, a tin of peas is replaced by a trapeze; a big, firm pear becomes a big furry bear; and a box of rice transforms into a box of mice! Needless to say, Vincent’s mother is in for quite a surprise. Told with a playful rhythm for reading aloud and illustrated with exuberance and great child appeal, this humorous picture book will have kids laughing and asking for repeated readings.
Mirror Mirror - What’s brewing when two favorites—poetry and fairy tales—are turned (literally) on their heads? It’s a revolutionary recipe: an infectious new genre of poetry and a lovably modern take on classic stories. First, read the poems forward (how old-fashioned!), then reverse the lines and read again to give familiar tales, from Sleeping Beauty to that Charming Prince, a delicious new spin. Witty, irreverent, and warm, this gorgeously illustrated and utterly unique offering holds a mirror up to language and fairy tales, and renews the fun and magic of both.
Say What? - With an interactive text and bright, playful illustrations, explore what baby animals really mean when they make their adorable baby animal sounds. When a lion says ROAR, does he really mean MORE? When a cow says MOO, does she really mean YOU? How do we know what animals say when they say what they say with their sounds everyday? With an interactive text and bright, playful illustrations, Angela DiTerlizzi and Joey Chou explore what baby animals really mean when they make their adorable baby animal sounds.
Llamaphones - In Janik Coat’smuch-anticipated follow-up to Hippoposites and Rhymoceros, Llamaphoneswill feature witty words that may sound the same but are spelled differently—and have different meanings. Like the other books in the series, this one will feature surprising novelty features, including a touch-and-feel element, making homophones an easy and fun concept to learn.
Stegothesaurus - Stegothesaurus has little in common with his fellow dinosaurs until he meets an allosaurus that seems as hungry for synonyms as he is.
The Whole Hole Story - In Vivian McInerny’s playful debut, readers will fall in love with wonder again as Zia imagines what might happen if the hole in her pocket became big enough to fall right through. The Whole Hole Story is perfect for readers looking for a fresh take on the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon. Zia is used to the hole in her pocket—she frequently fills it with frogs and other objects. And as it gets bigger and bigger, she starts to wonder what might happen . . . if she fell right through. Would she cover it with a blanket to catch an elephant, or dig a tunnel to the other side of the world? The possibilities are endless, and readers will love following Zia’s adventurous imagination from beginning to end. With hilarious wordplay paired with Ken Lamug’s bright and colorful illustrations, The Whole Hole Story will appeal to kids’ divine sense of silliness. Perfect for fans of Du Iz Tak?, and They All Saw a Cat.
The Hole Story - One day Charlie finds a hole. A hole of his very own! He picks it up and pops it in his pocket. But it doesn’t take Charlie long to realise that a hole in your pocket is not a good thing to have . . .
See Hear - This innovative flip-format picture book is a sequel to the best-selling and CBCA Notable Book for 2017, Smile Cry. Piglet, Bunny and Cat return in a charming, whimsical sensory adventure that encourages kids to explore the multitude of ways that they can engage with the world around them, particularly via the senses of sight and sound. From watching ‘squiggly rain’ on a window to pointing out ‘heavenly horses’ in the clouds, from hearing ‘buzzing blossoms’ as bees collect pollen and nectar to ‘hot pan sizzles’ as a favourite meal is prepared, See Hear invites us to open our eyes and ears to the everyday magic that surrounds us. Younger kids will respond to the soft whimsical illustrations, while older readers will enjoy the onomatopoeic wordplay. Perfect for ages 3 and up, this is a book that will captivate children and parents alike.
Hug a Bull - Take a look, my dad’s a Gander. Take a nap, our dads are Boars. From baby geese to kangaroos to humans, every mom and dad is known by his or her own special name. Bouncing texts full of fun wordplay and adorable illustrations feature animal parents of every shape and size, and encourage little readers to express big love. Go ahead and hug a bull!
A Hole Is to Dig - What is a hole?
A hole is when you step in it
you go down A hole is
for a mouse
to live in. And, of course,a hole is to dig. This is the funniest book
of definitions you’ll ever read!
The Case of the Stinky Stench - There s a stinky stench in the fridge and our favorite foodie friends must solve a smelly mystery! Inspector Croissant begs Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake for help in finding the source of the foul odor. Could it be the devious Baron Von Waffle? A fetid fish in Corn Chowder Lake? Featuring delectable wordplay there s even an actual red herring and delicious art, this tasty tale is a treat for kids!”
Oh, Say Can You Say? - Tongue twisters abound in this classic Dr. Seuss Beginner Book! “Bed Spreaders spread spreads on beds. Bread Spreaders spread butter on breads. And that Bed Spreader better watch out how he’s spreading . . . or that Bread Spreader’s sure going to butter his bedding.” This riotous collection weaves together a wonderment of words designed to twist the lips. Wordsmiths and beginning readers will love Oh Say Can You Say? and treasure tackling these tangled tongue teasers. Originally created by Dr. Seuss, Beginner Books encourage children to read all by themselves, with simple words and illustrations that give clues to their meaning.
I Scream! Ice Cream! - Uses colorful illustrations to demonstrate examples of “wordles,” or wordplay phrases that sound alike but have different meanings, including “I see” and “icy,” and “I scream” and “ice cream.”
I'm Just No Good at Rhyming - Meet the 21st century Shel Silverstein! Chris Harris’s debut poetry collection molds wit and wordplay, nonsense and oxymoron, and visual and verbal sleight-of-hand in masterful ways that make you look at the world in a whole new wonderfully upside-down way. This entirely unique collection offers a surprise around every corner, from the ongoing rivalry between the author and illustrator, to the mysteriously misnumbered pages that can only be deciphered by a certain code-cracking poem, to the rhyming fact-checker in the footnotes who points out when “poetic license” gets out of hand. Adding to the fun: Lane Smith, bestselling creator of beloved hits like It’s a Book and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, has spectacularly illustrated this extraordinary collection with nearly one hundred pieces of appropriately absurd art. It’s a mischievous match made in heaven!
Where Are the Words? - Period wants to write a story but can’t find the words, so his friends offer their help. Question Mark asks around and Exclamation Point finds some enthusiastic words from some unexpected place. Now all Period needs is an idea, but from whom?
A is for Alliguitar: Musical Alphabeasts - A wacky safari that is sure to strike a chord with kids! For each letter of the alphabet, this clever book of rhymes presents a cross between an animal and a musical instrument. From newtubas and mandolions to drumonkeys and pigolos, kids will have a blast during this musical safari. Zany illustrations accompany each creation.
Where's the Baboon? - A companion volume to the acclaimed “Take Away the A,” this is picture book word play at its very best!
Look - Look! It’s a book! Starring a brother and sister who go to the zoo, see kangaroos and baboons, and get to bring home balloons! Told entirely in words that contain a double o, this playful story is a great choice for emerging readers. Bright illustrations and an engaging, interactive text will invite repeated readings. Hooray! A brother and sister can’t wait to go to the zoo, where they have an exciting day ahead full of food, balloons, baboons, and so much more. This playful concept-and-story book is ideal for new readers. Author-illustrator Fiona Woodcock’s spare text uses only words containing double o’s, an important concept for early literacy. Each word is cleverly woven into stunning illustrations. And it all ends with a bedtime book, of course. Good night!
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