As our nearly two year old discovers an adoration for books and being read to, our four and a half year old is starting to explore a new dimension – recognising letters and reading words for herself.

Books that suit them both are therefore ideal for quiet story times, where engaging illustrations are matched by easy read font and clear language.

Here are three favourites, featuring feline friends to mark International Cat Day.

Lulu Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn (words) and Rosalind Beardshaw (illustrations), published by Alanna Books

Published today, the latest in the delightful series of Lulu stories describes the responsibility and reward of caring for a pet. Lulu really wants a cat. Her mum has told her how much work looking after one would be. Together, they find out more, borrowing a book from the library, reading up about them and practicing good pet care.

After finding out about pet adoption, Lulu is chosen by a little grey kitten when she visits a cat rescue shelter. Her dad helps Lulu get the house ready and, once home, kitten Makeda (named after an African Queen) cautiously shrugs off her shyness and comes out to play.

We see Lulu having lots of fun, and keeping track of her responsibilities with a wall chart of duties. A final spread shows them both enjoying a read of Puss in Boots. The words are charming and clear, ideally matched to warm, happy and colourful illustrations – perfect for engaging young readers.

Jaspers Beanstalk
by Nick Butterworth (words) and Mick Inkpen (illustrations) published by Hodder Children’s

In this instalment of the ever-determined Jasper we follow his efforts to nurture and grow a giant Beanstalk. We see he’s been inspired by the tale of Jack. Taking on a different task each day, we watch him dig a hole on Monday and then plant a bean, water, rake, hoe and mow.

When Sunday arrives he waits all day but nothing seems to be happening. But, “a long, long, long time later”, after being distracted by a good book, sure enough the beanstalk grows and on the final page we see Jasper disappearing up the stalk and out of the book.

This story of how patience reaps rewards is told with a minimum of fuss (in fewer than 100 words), through a simple and engaging narrative that highlights the passing of time through clear references to the days of the week. Mick Inkpen’s illustrations are light, fun, and as distinctive as ever. This is a perfect choice for both new listeners and early readers.

by Linda Newbury (words) and Catherine Rayner (illustrations), published by Orchard Books

We’ve written before that Catherine Rayner is our favourite illustrator of the natural world, and our view that her depictions of animals are second to none. Here, her distinctive watercolour and ink artistry brings to life a tiny kitten called Posy, who is discovering a new world of fun and mischief.
A light and breezy narrative tells us of Posy’s alliterative adventure as a whiskers wiper and sofa scratcher. Gentle rhyming informs us that she’s also a mirror puzzler and an ice cream guzzler, a sandwich checker and a board game wrecker.

A final spread shows her curled up in her mother’s embrace, sound asleep, making this a lovely choice for bedtime.