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Word Play: Books For Kids

This list of the best kids books about word play is sure to include a new favorite for the voracious young reader in your life! From Max's Castle to Have You Seen My Trumpet? there's something here for everyone's tastes. Do you have a favorite book about word play? Let us know!

Max's Castle book
#1
Max's Castle
Written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Boris Kulikov
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Lemony Snickers

Max's Castle is a really clever book and sure to fascinate any early reader. The book brilliantly explores words by mixing around or swapping the letters in one word to create an amalgamation of similar words and anagrams. Early readers are sure to enjoy, for example, that by simply adding an "l" block to the word "adder," Max and his three brothers smartly create a ladder to escape from the dangerous adder in the dungeon of the castle. Kate Banks and Boris Kulikov have some fun with the illustrations and anagrams surprising us with threatening pirates in one page before turning "pirates" into harmless "rat pies" in the next page. This book is sure to delight readers with its wit and imaginative exploration of letters.

When Max finds a pile of forgotten toys under the bed, his brothers Benjamin and Karl wonder what’s so special about some old blocks. So Max shows them. With some clever twists of both blocks and imagination, he constructs not only a castle but an entire adventure, complete with pirates and knights, a dark dungeon and a dragon. This ingenious sequel to Max’s Words and Max’s Dragons shows readers just how much fun wordplay can be.

Little Oink book
#2
Little Oink
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Little Oink is a neat little fellow. Clean, clean, clean, that's all he wants to do. But Mama and Papa won't have it! They say in order to be a proper pig he has to learn to make a proper mess. What's a little pig to do? Now available as a board book, Little Oink shows Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace applying their traditionally wry humor to the issue of cleaning up, in a laugh-out-loud romp that is sure to make readers giggle with recognition.

Little Hoot book
#3
Little Hoot
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

It's not fair! All Little Owl wants is to go to bed at a reasonable hour, like his friends do. But Mama and Papa say little owls have to stay up late and play. So Little Owl spends all night jumping on his bed, playing on the jungle gym, and doing tricks on his skateboard—but he's hooting mad about it! Children who have a hard time going to bed will love this fun twist on the universal dilemma.

A Crash of Rhinos book
#4
A Crash of Rhinos
Written by Greg Danylyshyn and illustrated by Stephan Lomp
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Introduces in rhyming text the collective names used for various animal groups.

The Book with No Pictures book
#5
The Book with No Pictures
Written and illustrated by B J Novak
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

A #1 New York Times bestseller, this innovative and wildly funny read-aloud by award-winning humorist/actor B.J. Novak will turn any reader into a comedian. You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . . BLORK. Or BLUURF. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Oh, the Places You'll Go! - Dr. Seuss's wonderfully wise Oh, the Places You'll Go! is the perfect send-off for grads--from nursery school, high school, college, and beyond! From soaring to high heights and seeing great sights to being left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch, Dr. Seuss addresses life's ups and downs with his trademark humorous verse and illustrations, while encouraging readers to find the success that lies within. In a starred review, Booklist notes, "Seuss's message is simple but never sappy: life may be a 'Great Balancing Act,' but through it all 'There's fun to be done.'" A perennial favorite and a perfect gift for anyone starting a new phase in their life!

  4. 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.

I Can Be Anything book
#10
I Can Be Anything
Written by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated by Jimmy Liao
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

When I grow up, what shall I be? This exuberant book offers up everything from a paper plane folder to a puppy dog holder, from a silly joke teller to a snowball smoother. Newbery-Award winning author Jerry Spinelli's simple and charming rhymes are accompanied by internationally-renowned illustrator Jimmy Liao's vibrant and fantastical illustrations. This book is an imaginative joyride about hopes and dreams, and a reminder of all the possibilities life has to offer. So, what do you want to be? Remember—you can be anything!

Llamaphones book
#11
Llamaphones
Written and illustrated by Janik Coat
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

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 book
#12
Stegothesaurus
Written by Bridget Heos and illustrated by T. L. McBeth
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Stegothesaurus has little in common with his fellow dinosaurs until he meets an allosaurus that seems as hungry for synonyms as he is.

Say What? book
#13
Say What?
Written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by Joey Chou
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

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.

Cockatoo, Too book
#14
Cockatoo, Too
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4

Who can can-can? Find out in Cockatoo, Too, a hilarious book that features cockatoos, two more cockatoos, and tutued toucans too, now available as a board book! Cockatoo. Cockatoo two? Cockatoo, too? Two cockatoos! Two cockatoos, too? Cockatoo tutus! Two cockatoos meet two more cockatoos in tutus and two tutued toucans. And then two more! Can they all can-can? They can! The cockatoos and toucans join together for a dance and ask the reader: "Can you can-can, too?" Now even the youngest readers can experience fantastically funny wordplay and lush, vibrant illustrations in this new board book edition of Cockatoo, Too.

  1. A Greyhound, a Groundhog - From a heavyweight author and illustrator duo comes a delicious tongue twister of a picture book that features a little round greyhound and a little round groundhog. With very spare, incredibly lively language, this is an entertaining read-aloud, with two amazing—and oh-so-adorable—characters at its heart. When a greyhound meets a groundhog, wordplay and crazy antics ensue. The two animals, much like kids, work themselves into a frenzy as they whirl around and around one another. (Around, round hound. Around, groundhog!) The pace picks up (Around and around and astound and astound!), until they ultimately wear themselves out.

  2. Pirate Jack Gets Dressed - Ahoy, matey! Join jaunty pirate Captain Jack as he uses every color of the rainbow to pick out his outfit in this bright and bold read-aloud. It’s the crack o’ dawn, and dapper Pirate Jack is ready t’ get dressed for a day out on the high seas with his motley crew. He’ll need every color of the rainbow to make his outfit complete—from his itchy gray long johns and his toasty pink socks to his bright red sash and his cozy purple coat. And he won’t be forgettin’ his black eye patch and trusty brown peg leg, either! But just as he’s about to step outside, he realizes he’s still missing one color: green! Thank goodness a certain feathered friend is ready to jump from her swing and onto his shoulder to complete his colorful look. Squawk!

  3. Toucans, Too - This hilarious follow-up book to Cockatoo, Too features cockatoos, toucans, two-can stew, and gnus! One can. Two cans. Toucans? Toucans, too. Toucan stew???! The cockatoos are back, and the toucans are too! But the toucans think the cockatoos say "toucan stew" and run away in a toucan canoe, so the cockatoos make them some two-can stew, which attracts the gnus, who ask the reader, "Can gnu?" Bethanie Deeney Murguia's fabulous follow-up to the well-received Cockatoo, Too combines fantastically funny wordplay with lush, vibrant illustrations, making this a humorous read-aloud that both children and parents will love!

  4. 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!

Ice Cream Summer book
#19
Ice Cream Summer
Written and illustrated by Peter Sis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A little boy writes a letter to his grandfather about all the reading and studying he is doing this summer--but all his activities revolve around ice cream.

Who Can? book
#20
Who Can?
Written by Charles Ghigna and illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4

Tongue-twisty teasers lead the reader through a miscellany of animals in this brilliantly illustrated hint-and-reveal book. Careful clues invite the child to guess what's coming next, and rhythm and repetition invite early readers to try out this little riddle book on their own. From toucan to centipede, all will delight in Vlasta van Kampen's colorful art and Charles Ghigna's whimsical words.

Watersong book
#21
Watersong
Written by Tim McCanna and illustrated by Richard Smythe
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

"A fox's journey to take shelter from a rainstorm, told entirely in onomatopoeia"--

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming book
#22
I'm Just No Good at Rhyming
Written by Chris Harris and illustrated by Lane Smith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-12

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!

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book
#23
Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast
Written and illustrated by Josh Funk
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

A thoroughly delicious picture book about the funniest "food fight!" ever! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast have a beautiful friendship—until they discover that there'sONLY ONE DROP of maple syrup left. Off they go, racing past the Orange Juice Fountain, skiing through Sauerkraut Peak, and reeling down the linguini. But who will enjoy the sweet taste of victory? And could working together be better than tearing each other apart? The action-packed rhyme makes for an adrenaline-filled breakfast . . . even without a drop of coffee!

  1. 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 . . .

  2. 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.

  3. The Phantom Tollbooth - For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason. Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams!

  4. Echo Echo - A new book of unique reversible poems based on Greek myths from the creator of Mirror Mirror What happens when you hold up a mirror to poems about Greek myths? You get a brand-new perspective on the classics! And that is just what happens in Echo Echo, the newest collection of reverso poems from Marilyn Singer. Read one way, each poem tells the story of a familiar myth; but when read in reverse, the poems reveal a new point of view! Readers will delight in uncovering the dual points of view in well-known legends, including the stories of Pandora’s box, King Midas and his golden touch, Perseus and Medusa, Pygmalion, Icarus and Daedalus, Demeter and Persephone, and Echo and Narcissus. These cunning verses combine with beautiful illustrations to create a collection of fourteen reverso poems to treasure.

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems book
#28
The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems
Written by Paul B Janeczko and illustrated by Richard Jones
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

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.

Maximillian Villainous book
#29
Maximillian Villainous
Written by Margaret Chiu Greanias and illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

For anyone who loved Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, this is a humorous and important book about learning to follow your heart and proving that kindness can outweigh villainy any day. Maximillian Villainous is a monster who doesn’t have the heart to be a villain. His famous family pulls pranks on the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and Max spends his time undoing them. So when he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, Max’s disapproving mother hatches a plan. She challenges Max and the bunny to become a devious duo; otherwise . . . the bunny hops. If they want to stay together, Max and the bunny have no choice but to go against their nature. They blunder into villainy with comical effect until Max discovers that embracing his good heart may just be the key to pulling off the most devious deed of all and winning his family’s acceptance. Delightfully fun and irreverent, Maximillian Villainous is an empowering story about embracing one’s true self and finding acceptance. Up and coming illustrator Lesley Breen Withrow brings the characters to life with bold and colorful illustrations in a style reminiscent of Richard Scarry.

The Case of the Stinky Stench book
#30
The Case of the Stinky Stench
Written by Josh Funk
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

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!"

Marigold Bakes a Cake book
#31
Marigold Bakes a Cake
Written and illustrated by Mike Malbrough
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

For fans of Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon… series. Baking the perfect cake is how Marigold spends Mondays. Being messy, noisy, and disruptive in Marigold’s kitchen are how one finch, two pigeons, and three loons spend their Mondays! Marigold the cat loves Mondays, for that is when he bakes cakes! With his favorite recipe in front of him, he rolls up his sleeves and gets down to it. He whips up egg whites . . . Easy. He adds a cup of milk . . . Peasy. Then he sprinkles in just a pinch of . . . of finch?! That’s not right at all! Neither are the smidgeons of pigeons or the spoonsfull of loons. Clearly a chase is in order! Yet all that leads to is a spectacularly messy kitchen. And no cake. With a recipe comprised of equal parts humor and charm, author-illustrator Mike Malbrough has cooked up a scrumptious laugh-out-loud addition to the great tradition of interruption books. Perfect for fans of Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken.

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head book
#32
The Day the Universe Exploded My Head
Written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Anna Raff
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Hang on tight for a raucous bounce through the solar system and back -- propelled by funny, fanciful, factually sound poems and exuberant illustrations. The universe poured into me. My brain was overloaded. It smoked and glowed red-hot. And then it actually exploded. Ever wonder what the sun has to say about being the closest star to Earth? Or what Pluto has gotten up to since being demoted to a dwarf planet? Or where rocket ships go when they retire? Listen closely, because maybe, just maybe, your head will explode, too. With poetry that is equal parts accurate and entertaining -- and illustrations that are positively out of this world -- this book will enthrall amateur stargazers and budding astrophysicists as it reveals many of the wonders our universe holds. Space travelers in search of more information will find notes about the poems, a glossary, and a list of resources at the end.

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. Where's the Baboon? - A companion volume to the acclaimed "Take Away the A," this is picture book word play at its very best!

  4. 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!

Blobfish Throws a Party book
#37
Blobfish Throws a Party
Written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Maggie Caton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Introducing Blobfish Throws a Party, a wild and hilarious story from award-winning author Miranda Paul! Blobfish lives at the bottom of the ocean with no lights, no friends, and no delicious treats. The only two ways he can think to change this would be to 1) throw a party, or 2) save the world in true hero style. He decides to do the first one. However, when he announces, "Deep sea party! Bring a treat to share!", the mermaids hear "Cheap, free party! Sling on a sheet to wear!", and the shorebirds hear "Cheep-peep party! Sing a tweet with flair!", and so on. Soon the whole world is partying in strange ways based on what they think they heard, and Blobfish is still sad and alone at the bottom of the sea. Will Blobfish ever get his lights, friends, and delicious treats?

Lexie the Word Wrangler book
#38
Lexie the Word Wrangler
Written by Rebecca Van Slyke and illustrated by Jessie Hartland
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

This clever celebration of words and their meanings features a strong cowgirl who wrangles words alongside cattle. Lexie is the best wrangler west of the Mississippi—word wrangler, that is. She watches over baby letters while they grow into words and ties shorter words together into longer ones; she herds words into sentences, hitches sentences together, and pens them all in to tell a story. But lately, something seems off at the ranch. First the d goes missing from her bandana, leaving her with a banana to tie around her neck, and soon afterward every S-T-A-R in the sky turns into R-A-T-S. There’s no doubt about it—there’s a word rustler causing this ruckus, and Lexie plans to track him down . . . even if it means riding her horse through the sticky icing of a desert that’s suddenly become a giant dessert. This fantastic spin on “cowboy” stories populates Lexie’s ranch with lively letters and words, alongside the typical cattle and horses, and stars a smart, confident, charismatic heroine. Rebecca Van Slyke’s creative, silly wordplay pairs perfectly with Jessie Hartland’s lively illustrations, and there’s even a glossary of helpful terms for up-and-coming word wranglers.

Have You Seen My Trumpet? book
#39
Have You Seen My Trumpet?
Written by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Following "Take Away the A" and "Where's the Baboon?," this is Escoffier/Di Giacomo's last book in their zany word-play trilogy.

    Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!