When my daughters were each 4, they enjoyed more expansive stories with witty illustrations, searching for details within illustrations, counting, following little maps, and hearing the antics of their favorite characters. I like books with depth - good illustration, well-written text, creative vocabulary, patterns, books that motivate kids to think creatively and logically...
Toot & Puddle - First and favorite of the Toot & Puddle series, it's the story of best friends. One goes on a global adventure with exciting escapades and the other stays home, cozy in the comforts of familiar traditions. There is such depth to the story and the illustrations ~ the unique characters, the months and change of seasons, postcards, traditions. Fantastic gift for 3rd-5th birthday. We also love Toot & Puddle: You Are My Sunshine - Friends go to amazing efforts to cheer up Toot, and they love him no matter what.
Stella, Queen of the Snow - Lovely story with beautifully detailed watercolor illustrations. Making snow angels is the best part! All four of the Stella books, including Stella, Star of the Sea, are wonderful and great gifts for 3rd-5th birthdays.
Good Morning Sam - Stella's precocious brother starts his day... sort of.
The Velveteen Rabbit - A classic; nice, warm and snuggly.
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew - A child's fantastic adventure to a mythical land where he will escape his troubles, meeting unique characters and situations along the way.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Great to read to children of various ages together, each gets something different out of it. Food rains from the sky and the havoc begins... The illustrations are amazingly detailed and expand upon the story.
Oh, the Places You'll Go! - Dr. Seuss classic with marvelous illustrations and a zest for the amazing things life has to offer.
Blue's Snack Party: A Lift the Flap Story - A great launching point for discussing topics like counting, cooking, measuring, flavors, patterns.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - A story of a bad day, told with lots of exxageration and detailed line art.
The Snail and the Whale - An adventure story told with lovely illustrations and charming poetic language.
Jumanji - If you are ready for a scary story, but not too scary, this is a great one. A brother and sister play a board game which goes quite wrong. Darkly but realistically illustrated.
Look-Alikes Jr.: The More You Look The More You See - Photographs of pictures, using everyday objects to represent other objects. Great for attention to detail.
Meerkat Mail - Lushly detailed watercolor illustrations embellish the story of a meerkat who visits his far-off cousins. We loved the ephemera, like postage and ads, woven into the story.
Horton Hatches the Egg - A story about keeping promises.Check out the other book recommendations in the Children's Books category!