Best Children's Books About Word play

41 Children's Books About Word play

Updated Feb. 9, 2019
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.

Orange Pear Apple Bear book
#4
Orange Pear Apple Bear
Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4

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! book
#5
Chimpanzees for Tea!
Written and illustrated by Jo Empson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

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.

I Can Be Anything book
#6
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!

Oh, the Places You'll Go! book
#7
Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-17

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!

Stegothesaurus book
#8
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
#9
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
#10
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.

Ice Cream Summer book
#11
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
#12
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.

The Book with No Pictures book
#13
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.)

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming book
#14
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!

Watersong book
#15
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"--

A Name for Baby book
#16
A Name for Baby
Written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

“A name is a sound that follows you around. I’m listening for one," says Mother Mouse. Holding her new baby close, she fields suggestions from Sadie Snail, Kiki Cat, Merle Squirrel, and a host of other animals (many of whom would like to see the new baby named after themselves!). One by one, the animals suggest names for baby that would personally honor themselves. Lyrical text filled with wordplay will charm soon-to-be parents and soon-to-be older siblings alike.

You're On Your Way! book
#17
You're On Your Way!
Written and illustrated by Brian D. Clark
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

You're on your way... but to where?! You may not have all of life's answers yet, but you'll have fun figuring them out with this unique book from Mad Libs. Our first-ever illustrated hardcover Mad Libs is an instant classic! It's the perfect gift for recent grads—it doesn't matter if it's elementary school, high school, med school, or NOUN school! Anyone celebrating a milestone will love filling in the blanks of this one-of-a-kind book that honors life's ADJECTIVE achievements. Buy it as a gift or buy it for yourself and have fun filling in the blanks of your own story.

Crankee Doodle book
#18
Crankee Doodle
Written by Tom Angleberger and illustrated by Cece Bell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

“Yankee Doodle went to town / a-riding on a pony / stuck a feather in his hat / and called it macaroni.” Many know the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but few understand it. This unapologetically silly picture book reveals the legendary ride to town—and the whole macaroni thing—was actually the work of Mr. Doodle’s overeager pony. Mr. Doodle doesn’t want any pasta or even a trip into town. No wonder he’s so cranky! Includes a historical note.

See Hear book
#19
See Hear
Written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

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.

Where Are the Words? book
#20
Where Are the Words?
Written by Jodi McKay and illustrated by Denise Holmes
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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?

The Case of the Stinky Stench book
#21
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!"

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book
#22
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!

Toucans, Too book
#23
Toucans, Too
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

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!

Blobfish Throws a Party book
#24
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?

Maximillian Villainous book
#25
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.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.