Backhoe Joe, by Lori Alexander
This engaging book was an instant hit with my preschool boys (ages 3 and 4). Nolan is playing outside when he sees a stray…backhoe. But the machine is timid and shy, until Nolan coaxes him closer with the rocks he has in his backpack.
When Nolan brings the backhoe home, his parents aren’t so sure Joe will make a good pet. He buries his cone in the flower bed and leaks on the driveway. And when Nolan tries to train the backhoe, Joe digs in the garbage and revs at the mailman. Finally, Nolan learns that Joe already has a home. The book has a satisfying ending, and the twist at the end makes us giggle every time!
Lori Alexander has scored big on her very first picture book, and Cameron’s illustrations make this a book you can’t put down. Definitely one to own or give as a gift, and a must for the early childhood classroom! Plus, you can get beautiful coloring pages and an awesome teacher’s guide for free!
Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?, by Brianna Caplan Sayres
This is a great bedtime story for kids who can’t get enough of trucks during the day. “Where do giant cranes sleep when they’ve lifted their last beams? Do their moms pick them up and rock them and wish them sweet truck dreams?” It’s a cute rhyming book about vehicle babies whose parents put them to sleep at night.
Who Made This Cake? by Chihiro Nakagawa
This is a creative story about people and construction vehicles building a giant cake out of huge ingredients. We loved the pictures of bulldozers and dump trucks moving mountains of flour, and it wasn’t until the end of the book that we realized these were toy people and vehicles working together together to make a regular sized birthday cake. One to read!
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
The tough trucks have worked hard all day, but now it’s time to sleep. From the dump truck and bulldozer to the crane and excavator, each machine stops his work and snuggles to sleep. This is a popular modern classic (with over 1500 5-star Amazon reviews), but it wasn’t requested too much at our house.
I’m Dirty, by Kate McMullan
I just love reading this book aloud. It’s not often I get to pretend to be big noisy backhoe. With a little counting practice thrown in, this book is punchy, loud, and just plain fun. My kids and I also love I Stink (about a garbage truck), but you might want to be careful about that one if your child tends to recite lines from favorite books. The garbage truck isn’t exactly polite.
What Can a Crane Pick Up? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
I’m not particularly interested in construction equipment, but I’m fascinated by cranes. I don’t know what it is about them, but the whole family has to point one out when we see it. This is a rhyming book about surprising things cranes can lift… from a submarine to a space shuttle.
Tip Tip Dig Dig, by Sue Fleiss
This is a very simple book your toddler could get very attached to, and the text is so simple that a preschooler can learn to read it. “With the digger we can DIG DIG DIG. With the crane we can LIFT LIFT LIFT.” You get the idea. A beautiful little book.
Roadwork, by Sally Sutton
This book about road building has some rollicking rhyme and some wonderful “sound” words (onomatopoeia), such as “BUMP! WHUMP! WHOP!” and “Squelch! SPLUCK! SPLAT!” Sure to be a favorite with toddlers who are fascinated by construction vehicles.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton
I’ve always loved this vintage book about Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne. 75 years after it was first published, kids are still anxious to see if Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne really can dig the town hall basement in just one day – or forfeit their pay. The book is long and full of detail, which can get tedious for parents, but you can be comforted that you’re reading your child a truly great story.
I Am a Backhoe, by Anna Grossnickle Hines
This book is well suited for toddlers, who will love how the little boy pretends to be different construction equipment as he plays. Preschoolers will like guessing what vehicle the little boy is before you turn the page. A gem of a book!
Road Builders, by B.G. Hennessy
This would be a great book to read if you have road construction in your neighborhood or on your drive to school. Your child will recognize the vehicles after listening to this simple, step-by-step story about how a road is built.
Cars, Trucks, and Buses
If I Built A Car, by Chris Van Dusen
If you’ve got a preschooler who loves to create with legos, this book is a must. We love this book about a boy who dreams of the car he would build. From a backseat pool to an automated snack bar, it’s every kid’s (and parent’s?) dream.
The Little Auto, by Lois Lenski
This is a fun little book that will fascinate preschoolers who want to figure out how things work. It’s also a great little history lesson about early cars, as the book was published in 1934. I like the page where the car passes a horse and buggy on the road! Some of Lenski’s books are too wordy for me, but this one is just right.
Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton
Katy is a little snow plow who comes to the rescue when the entire city of Geopolis is covered in snow. You might be surprised by how much your kids enjoy this vintage book with its simple illustrations and lengthy text. My kids love it.
The Three Little Rigs, by David Gordon
When the three little rigs go out into the world to build their own garages, the big, bad wrecking ball comes to destroy their homes. When he teams up with the mean magnet and the cruel cutter, it looks like the end! But the little rigs’ friends, the cranes, come to the rescue. This clever book was a favorite of all my kids, even my kindergartner and second grader.
Trashy Town, by Andrea Zimmerman
This is a big favorite at our house. Mr. Gilly drives around Trashy Town collecting garbage. After each pick-up we read, “Dump it in, smash it down, drive around the trashy town!” The simple illustrations, predictable text, and of course the subject (trash!) will likely make this a winner at your house, too.
Rattletrap Car, by Phyllis Root
This is a completely unrealistic book that my toddler and preschooler asked for again and again. Papa and the three kids are hot, hot, hot. They want to drive to the nearby lake – but will their rattletrap car make it? Along the way a tire falls off, the floor drops out, the gas tank falls off, and the engine comes out! The family creatively mends the car using chocolate marshmallow fudge delight as the glue.
Yes, it’s totally silly. But the great pictures and rhythmic text will have your kids hooked.
Cars: Rushing, Honking, Zooming, by Patricia Hubbell
We liked this zany, vintage-style book about cars so much that I bought it for my youngest son for his second birthday. We like the rhymes and funny things to spot in the pictures. Hubbell has a whole series for nearly every kind of transportation, but I find the other books too busy and hard to follow. They haven’t caught on at our house.
I Love Trucks!, by Philemon Sturges
With its simple text, this book is a wonderful introduction to trucks for toddlers. But the vivid paintings make it appealing for preschoolers too.
Duck in the Truck, by Jez Alborough
This is a fun rhyming book about a duck whose truck is stuck in the muck… and the animals who help him get out. My middle son requested this book every time we drove by the library. Finally he received it as a gift for his third birthday.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems
The Pigeon books are big favorites at our house! It’s impossible to get through them without laughing, and they are so fun to read aloud. Kids and parents alike might notice that the pigeon’s whining and arguing sound remarkably familiar…
The Wheels on the Bus, by Raffi
You can get many different versions of this classic children’s song, but this is the one we own and love. We enjoy the European-style illustrations and the familiar song. I recommend this one for babies and toddlers, but your preschooler might still like it.
Go Dog, Go, by P.D. Eastman
Most of us are familiar with this classic, still popular over fifty years after it was first published. The book is an easy reader, but it’s also a fun book to listen to. Preschoolers enjoy all the busy dogs going, going, going in cars… ending up at a big dog party atop a giant tree.
The Little Dump Truck, by Margery Cuyler
This is such a gem of a book, published just a few years ago. A fun rhyming passage accompanies the big colorful picture on each page. “I’m a little dump truck hauling stones and rocks; bumping, bouncing, thumping, crossing city blocks.” My vehicle-loving Three can’t get enough of this one!
Big Truck and Little Truck, by Jan Carr
This is not my personal favorite because I like my books about trucks to be short. But my Four loved this book when he was three. And it is certainly well-written with endearing illustrations. Big Truck and Little Truck both work on Farley’s Farm. Little Truck is used to Big Truck’s guidance and instruction — so when Big Truck’s engine won’t start and he leaves for the shop, Little Truck has to manage by himself. It’s a sweet story about learning to be independent.
The Happy Man and his Dump Truck, by Miryam Scuffy
This classic Golden Book, published in 1950, doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s a sweet simple story that kids love. The happy man waves and tips his dump truck whenever he sees a friend. When he picks up farm animals for a ride, they enjoy the fun slide down the dumper. The charming illustrations are the best part.
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scarry
How can you go wrong with a giant-sized book of Richard Scarry-style transportation? These books are excellent for kids to look at on their own because they are overflowing with interesting pictures. They’re also great vocabulary builders because the pictures are all labeled. You might not read this book from beginning to end, but you will love to find something new every time you pick it up.
Cars, Cars, Cars, by Grace Maccarone
This simple little book has long been a favorite at our house. In fact, I bought a second copy because we’d loved the first one to pieces. Not only is it fun to read, it will teach about opposites, colors, and numbers.
Sheep in a Jeep, by Nancy Shaw
It’s hard not to fall in love with this hilarious rhyming book about five bumbling sheep and their road trip. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out!
Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle
This is a sweet rhyming book about a friendly blue truck who is loved by all the animals. When the proud, important dump truck finds himself stuck in the mud, he learns the importance of humility and friendship.
The Ugly Truckling, by David Gordon
The Ugly Truckling looks different than her siblings. She has small, narrow wheels, and two strange beams sticking out from her body. After being taunted by her siblings, the ugly truckling sneaks away in search of her true identity. We love this sweet story and the beautiful ending.
Airport, by Byron Barton
This is a simple book with bright pictures and a few words on each page. This would be a great one to read to a preschooler before his first flight.
The Noisy Airplane Ride, by Mike Downs
While reading this book I actually felt like I was on a plane. The sound effects are spot on, and the rhymes are perfect. This would be a fun book to read on a flight – if your child can hear you above the noise!
Miss Mouse Takes Off, by Jan Ormerod
This book is about a plane flight from the perspective of a busy toddler. If you’ve ever flown with a child who has a special toy that she must have at all times, you’ll appreciate the humor in this book. My boys enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a favorite.
Lettice the Flying Rabbit, by Mandy Stanley
I didn’t really get into this one, but my boys loved it. It’s about a rabbit named Lettice who has always wanted to fly. One day she sees a tiny plane and squeezes in. It takes her on a beautiful flight until she crashes into a tree. It turns out the plane is a remote control plane that belongs to a little girl, who flies Lettice back to her family.
The Goodnight Train, by June Sobel
This book’s illustrations were too busy for me – the kind where you don’t know where to look and get overwhelmed. The rhymes were just okay, and the story nothing special. However, my Three loved it and requested it over and over. Definitely one to check from the library before your purchase.
The Little Train, by Lois Lenski
This book was a little tedious for me, but my Four really enjoyed this vintage book (published 1940) about a steam train. He had lots of questions about the story, which really tested my knowledge (er, lack of knowledge) about how steam trains operate. There’s something comforting about these little books with their friendly characters.
The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
Did you know that this classic story is over a hundred years old? When the train full of toys and food for the little children can’t get over the mountain, it asks for help. All the big trains turn up their noses, but the little blue engine gives it a try. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” This book is often used to show the power of positive thinking. We just like the fun, colorful story.
Trains, by Byron Barton
I like the simple pattern of this book. “Here is a train with people inside… Here is a steam engine puffing smoke… Here is the engineer driving at night.” The simple text and illustrations make this a great read for toddlers, but it’s also a nice introduction to trains for preschoolers.
Freight Train, by Donald Crews
Here’s a picture book classic in which vibrantly colored train cars move through a tunnel, by cities, across trestles, and right off the page. This is a great book for teaching about colors and movement.
I’m Fast! by Kate & Jim McMullan
Here’s an entertaining read about a train and a car racing to Chicago. This is one of several books by the McMullan author/illustrator team. All my big kids (including my five-year-old daughter) love this story — with the train sound effects, funny text (My Two likes to quote the line “Cows? You gotta moooooove it! Thanks, ladies!”), and staccato rhythm, it’s a hit for kids who love trains and even those who don’t.
Terrific Trains, by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker
This is one of a huge collection of transportation books by the Mitton and Parker team. I have to admit they’re not my favorites and aren’t requested much at our house. I can’t even say why, exactly. We are clearly in the minority, however, so you should definitely check them out!
Down by the Station, by Will Hillenbrand
This is a fun variation on the popular children’s song “Down by the Station.” On each page, another baby zoo animal hops aboard the train. At the end, all the animals hop off to see the visiting children in the children’s zoo. Lovely pictures and a fun song to sing make this one a big hit at our house.
Trains, by Gail Gibbons
Gibbons has written countless nonfiction books for kids. While I’m a big fan, some are hard for my preschoolers to sit through. This book is an exception because it has just a sentence or two per page. My boys enjoyed learning about all the different types of trains; train lovers might also appreciate the detailed pictures which label a train’s parts.
I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
Have I said that we love singing books? Well, we do. This old song is so fun to sing, and Westcott has livened it up with her fun and zany illustrations. “Read it again!”
BoatsThe Little Sailboat, by Lois Lenski
I was surprised by how much my Four enjoyed this little vintage book (published in 1937). It’s a simple story about Captain Small going out for a sail in his boat with Tinker, his dog. There’s lots of great sailing vocabulary and a funny little incident where he falls overboard.
Toot and Pop! by Sebastian Braun
Toot is the brand new boat in the harbor who doesn’t think he needs Pop, the little tugboat. Without Pop’s help, Toot crashes into a seawall and breaks his engine. Pop comes to the rescue. A cute (if predictable) story.
Three Bears in a Boat, by David Soman
Three bears break their mother’s special shell and go on a journey to find a replacement. This isn’t exactly light fiction, but the breathtaking illustrations and exciting adventure had my kids hooked. A long story that my Four will sit for every time (and request a second reading).
The Circus Ship, by Chris Van Dusen
When a circus ship crashes off the coast of Maine, weary circus animals swim to shore. After a bit of a rough start, the townspeople and their new residents live in harmony until the selfish circus owner returns to put the animals back to work. We love how the townspeople outsmart greedy Mr. Paine. This book, told in rhyme, has stunning illustrations and an engaging story that my boys requested again and again! A must read, for sure.
Boat Book, by Gail Gibbons
This little nonfiction book is a nice addition to a transportation unit. It’s one of Gibbons’ simpler books, with just a phrase or a couple sentences per page. It was a quick read, but we learned quite a few things along the way.
Toy Boat, by Randall de Seve
A little boy has a toy boat he made himself, and they do everything together. Every day the toy boat rides in the lake, connected to the boy by a little string. One day the wind blows him loose, and the toy boat is excited to explore the big wide water. But it’s much scarier than it looks, and the toy boat longs to be with his friend again. My Three and Four loved this book and were truly entranced.
My Blue Boat, by Chris Demarest
This is a simple, cheerful book about a girl’s imaginary voyage in her boat. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Iza Trapani
We love Trapani’s books with added verses to favorite nursery rhymes. The illustrations tell a wonderful story, too.
Emergency! by Gail Gibbons
My Three has a fascination for emergency vehicles, so it was no surprise that he enjoyed learning about all the vehicles that come to the scene of an emergency. From police motorcycles and rescue unit vehicles to utility trucks and tanker trucks, Gibbons hasn’t missed a thing. Many of her lovely books are quite long and a bit tedious for preschoolers, but this one was just right.
Ambulances, by Carol K. Lindeen
If you see a Pebble Plus book, you can be quite sure it’s at the right level for your preschooler. My Three loves to spot ambulances, so he enjoyed this simple book in which he saw the dashboard of an ambulance and sick people on stretchers.