Montessori-friendly books by Julia Donaldson

Julia Donalson is one of the most well-loved children’s authors here in the UK.
She is most famous for her character “The Gruffalo”.

The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child have sold over 17 million copies worldwide and have been translated into seventy-five languages.

Most of her books are heavily fantasy-based and so, not so in line with the Montessori ideas, at least for the first plane of development. 

However, Julia Donaldson has also many more Montessori-friendly children’s books and I want to share with you my selection.

Maria Montessori encouraged parents to offer reality-based books, toys and experiences to the young children.

Why? Because children are brand new in our world and for them, the world around them is fantastic!

They need to learn so much about themselves, their surroundings and the wonder of the natural world.

They learn in a concrete way through their 5 senses. Therefore, they are “naturally” attracted by what is real.

When it comes to books, many parents struggle and want to offer the fantasy.

I don’t blame you. I love the rhythm of the Gruffalo and I loved reading fairy tales when I was a child.

But my recollection of fantasy based books and fairy tales was from a time when I was around 8 years old. So not from when I was a little toddler or preschooler.

In fact, I have earlier memories of myself having nightmares about “the 3 little pigs and the big bad wolf,” not a happy fantasy at all.

Many parents complain that it seems impossible to find reality-based books beyond the pictures books or educational books. And sadly, it’s true.

It’s hard because the children’s authors write from their own perspective. Us adults, we need fantasy to dream and to wonder. A simple butterfly, drifting cloud or sunflower is not that wonderful anymore and a description of the everyday events sounds boring for us.

But, if you take the time to search, there are many books that are Montessori-friendly enough.

Read more about why Montessori doesn’t recommend fantasy.

Here is my selection of Montessori-friendly children’s books by Julia Donaldson:

Note that some of those books are still “pretend” and include some kind of talking animals, but at least, the animals act like they should. Not 100% Montessori but close enough.

First, let me present you those I have and that I love:

Rosie’s Hat isn’t just any old hat. When a gust of wind sweeps it off her head, it goes off on a whole hatful of adventures! It becomes a toy for a dog, a hiding-place for a mouse, a frisbee for some children and even a nest for some birds. Surely poor Rosie will never find her hat again . . . or will she?

This satisfyingly circular tale from Julia Donaldson, the author of The Gruffalo, is packed with irresistible sound effects, making it perfect for children to join in with — and Anna Currey’s beautiful watercolour illustrations perfectly capture the warmth and fun of the story.


The Snail and the Whale is a delightful tale of adventure and friendship.

One little snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of an enormous whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail’s big plan that saves the day!

Monkey Puzzle is a clever, funny and charming tale

Monkey puzzle is a firm favourite!

Where is Monkey’s mummy? It’s not too much fun being lost in the jungle, and little monkey wants his mum. A kindly butterfly is keen to help, but they don’t seem to be having much luck but they don’t seem to be having much luck and keep finding the wrong animals! But eventually, they find . . . Dad! It’s just as well that he knows exactly where mum is, and she’s waiting with a well-deserved cuddle.

A squash and a squeeze:

A little old lady lives all by herself in her house but she’s not happy – it’s just too small, even for one. Whatever can she do? The wise old man knows: bring in a flappy, scratchy, greedy, noisy crowd of farmyard animals. When she pushes them all out again, she’ll be amazed at how big her house feels!

The Ugly five:

Who’s that singing on the savannah? It’s the top-five ugly animals in Africa! The wildebeest, warthog, vulture, hyena and marabou stork swagger proudly across the savannah, rejoicing in their ugliness – and delighting their babies, who think they’re perfect just the way they are. Inspired by the real-life Ugly Five safari animals, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s gorgeous picture book is a jubilant celebration of animals who are often rather unloved. The funny, heart-warming rhyme is a joy to read aloud, while bold, comical illustrations bring the savannah spectacularly to life.

Tabby McTat loves singing along with Fred the busker, as people throw coins in their hat. But when Fred has an accident, the two are separated. Will they ever find each other again?

I don’t have the following titles but they have been recommended to me. Let me know if you find them Montessori friendly too!


It’s a Little Baby is a beautiful and engaging book for little ones.

Somebody’s hiding. I wonder who.

It’s five little babies, doing all the things that babies do – waving, clapping, pointing . . . and more. Featuring satisfyingly simple rhyming text and charming illustrations on fresh white backgrounds, this gorgeous board book is a perfect gift. With big flaps to lift and irresistible actions throughout, children are sure to delight in joining in. And that’s not all, because there’s an online song to enjoy too! Written and recorded by Julia Donaldson, the wonderful It’s a Little Baby song is the perfect accompaniment to the book and sure to become a favourite sing-along tune.

There’s an Owl in My Towel is a beautiful and engaging book for little ones.

It’s tricky to have breakfast when there’s a mole in your bowl! Gentle humour abounds as one baby’s every activity is thwarted by a variety of surprising animals. But who wouldn’t be happy to find a ted in their bed?

The Everywhere Bear has a wonderful time with the children in Class One, but one day he gets more than he bargained for when he falls unnoticed from a backpack and embarks on his own big adventure! He’s washed down a drain and whooshed out to sea, rescued by a fishing boat, loaded onto a lorry, carried off by a seagull . . . how will he ever make it back to Class One?

The Paper Dolls is a stunning, rhythmical story of childhood, memory and the power of imagination. A string of paper dolls go on a fantastical adventure through the house and out into the garden. They soon escape the clutches of the toy dinosaur and the snapping jaws of the oven-glove crocodile, but then a very real pair of scissors threatens.


I hope you will enjoy those books. 


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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.

  • Karen says:

    My children really enjoyed “The Everywhere Bear” and “ The Snail and the Whale”. Also I’m no expert on Montessori books, but have you read many of Lynley Dodds childrens books? (Hairy Maclary, Slinki Malinki etc). She is a favourite author in New Zealand and has awesome books about animals who are doing normal animal activities (at least pretty much all the ones I’ve read anyway) but she has wonderful amusing stories with great rhyme, rhythm and vocabulary. I would think they would probably be in line with Montessori principles (though tell me if I’m wrong 😊). They are definitely fun for children and adults alike 😊

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