Sure, parents need clothes and diapers and stuff for their babies, but they also need books. I love when people asked guests to bring a book for baby in lieu of a card, although I always think “a book???” My favorite baby shower gift to give is a laundry basket full of books and zip up sleepers. Because in my experience if you have laundry baskets, sleepers and books, you are almost all set for a baby (or two babies in my case).
My trouble comes in when trying to narrow it down. I am embarrassed to admit that I once actually thought there were no interesting board books out there. I can barely believe it now. There are so many that today’s list is a bit long. But after all, what else will new parents want do with their babies’s early waking moments if not read to them?
Wherever You Are My Love will Find You by Nancy Tillman. You can’t go wrong with any of Nancy Tillman’s lovely, sentimental (but not maudlin) books for a new tiny baby. Her most famous is probably On the Night You Were Born, but Wherever You Are edges it out for my favorite of hers. The illustrations are so absolutely stunning, I wish I could frame them and hang them on my wall like the art that they are. The poetic text sends just the message we all hope our children will take with them in life.
Clare Beaton’s Rhymes. Mother Goose has been a part of childhood for many, many years for good reason. Nursery rhymes are a solid addition to any young child’s at-home library. There is no shortage of options out there. For my kids, I discovered Mother Goose Remembers at our library. I fell in love with it right away, mostly because of Clare Beaton’s artwork. Her fabric art is just delightful. Unfortunately, Mother Goose Remembers is no longer in print, so I purchased a copy used. You can still get one from Better World Books and if you and your recipient don’t object to second hand gifts, that would be my recommendation. Happily, if do want something new or if you prefer board books that can take a lot of baby touching, Clare Beaton now has a set of rhymes featuring her same fabric art. You can select from Garden Rhymes, Animal Rhymes, Farmyard Rhymes, Bedtime Rhymes, Action Rhymes, or Nursery Rhymes. They are also available as a complete set.
Global Babies from the Global Fund for Children. When I worked at a public library, we put together kits to distribute to new parents in the community. We needed a book that would appeal to our diverse community. Global Babies was an obvious choice. Babies love to look at faces and the photographs in this board book are just that: faces of babies from around the world. Our personal copy of Global Babies got so much use, it is basically falling apart now. If I had it to do over again, I would have gotten one for each baby so they could have each had one to gaze at.
Mommy, Mama and Me by Leslea Newman. As a pregnant mama, I scoured all sorts of lists of books about diverse families. I was excited to find this one, which was one of the first baby books to portray a two-mom family. My favorite diverse books for children don’t show diversity as an issue to be solved, but just a fact of life. Mommy, Mama and Me fits this description very well. The moms feed their baby, play with her, read to her, push her on swings and put her to sleep. It was nice to have a board book on our shelves that reflected our family.
No Two Alike by Keith Baker. Speaking of reflecting our family, we purchased or borrowed a number of different board books featuring twins. To be frank, many of them were a disappointment. This one was an exception. With a lovely winter setting and featuring two baby birds, the text and illustrations will appeal to families of multiples or singletons.
Baby’s First Words by Sunny Scribens and Stella Blackstone. This book wasn’t available when my kiddos were babies, but if it had been it would have graced our shelves for sure. Honored as an American Library Association Rainbow Pick, this book, featuring two dad and their little ones, is full of pictures and words that fill a baby’s life. One of the reasons that I became a Barefoot Ambassador is their commitment to diversity and I love that they have children’s books available in Spanish, French and bilingual options. Baby First Words is one of those available as a bilingual Spanish/English board book.
Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch. I don’t care for lists with titles like “10 Books You Must Read” or “1,345 Every Child Must Hear Before They Turn Two”. I’m more of the Read What You Want kind of bibliophile. So when I started this blog, I promised myself I would share my suggestions and trust my book-loving readers to pick which ones are best for them and their children. This one time, however, I will make an exception. You must read the Paperbag Princess. And every child should hear this book. Preferably many, many times. As I am writing this post, The Paperbag Princess is available for $2.49 on Bookshop.org, so there is no reason not to slip this gem into every baby shower gift, birthday gift, Christmas gift or International Women’s Day gift that you give. Do it; don’t be a bum.
The Chilly Penguin by Constanze von Kitzing. This poor little penguin is cold and tries a number of ways to warm up. This story has a sweet message about friendship. Plus penguins are just cute.
The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper. If you haven’t guessed by now, I deeply love both brand new, modern children’s books and classics. The Little Engine that Could is obviously the later. And I do highly recommend this book. If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can also take my mother’s (the original story loving mama) or Dolly Parton’s. This may very well be my mother’s favorite picture book of all time and I listened to it while sitting on her lap many, many times. Sharing this story is a bit of a family tradition now and both she and I enjoy reading it to my kiddos. While a shared love for this book is probably one of the few things that my mother and Dolly P have in common, Dolly loves the Little Blue Engine and her can-do attitude so much that she wrote a song about it. I love the song; I love the book. In fact, this iconic and fabulous lady has sent over a million books to children through her super cool Imagination Library and the very first book every child receives to start their home library is this one. If you want baby to be able to handle the book freely, you can get it in board book format. Be aware, though, that the board book is an abridged version. Once the kiddo can be trusted with regular books, you may have to do what I did and buy a full length version. I don’t recommend getting the sequels or a treasury including other stories about the Engine and friends. Often treasuries have different illustrators and the pictures can’t compare to the original. Plus, the “sequels” are simply not very good.
Sounds Around Town by Maria Carluccio. I read this one a lot to my kids from the time they were born and through their fist couple of years. The collage illustration spreads give kids plenty to look at and the sound words are always good for keeping their attention and working on early speech. When kids reach the toddler stage, they will love joining in to purr like a cat, tick like a clock and honk like a horn. This one will get plenty of use.
Busy Bear series. If Clare Beaton is one of my favorite Barefoot illustrators, Stella Blackstone is one of my favorite Barefoot authors. And I am not alone. The Busy Bear series has been a favorite in the Barefoot Books collection for over twenty years. In various volumes, Bear bops around town, rides a bike, goes to school, take a trip, works and celebrates his birthday. Classic stories that will reflect the world that babies and toddlers are just beginning to explore. If you want to set a new family up with lots of hours of reading pleasure, you can get the entire Busy Bear library of nine board books or a smaller a paperback library with five classic bear tales. If you are looking to get just one tale of Bear, I’d suggest Bear About Town. Many of the Busy Bear books are also available in the Barefoot Books Spanish collection and French collection. And if you are looking for a book/ toy combo gift, you could pare any of these options with an adorable Busy Bear stuffie. Really, there is a busy bear option perfect for any baby gift giver.
Peekaboo Set by Phillis Gershator. As much as we read and enjoyed The Sounds Around Town, if I had to pick just one Barefoot Books board book collection to recommend to someone purchasing books for a baby, it would be this set. You can get each volume separately – Who’s in the Forest?, Who’s in the Garden?, Who’s in the Farmyard? or together as a set. I can’t imagine a little one who wouldn’t love the sweet, bright and vibrant animals and settings, plus the peekaboo feature is a sure crowd pleaser. These books are just made for babies and toddlers to delight over.
Corduroy by Don Freeman. I simply couldn’t consider this list complete without mentioning my favorite bear in search of his lost button, a bed and a friend. Another classic in the kidlit world, Corduroy will charm a kiddo from their first days all the way through their first years of elementary school. If you are lucky enough to ever read this one with a child you love, don’t forget to end your read-aloud with a nose nuzzle.
What is your favorite board book to give as a baby shower gift? Is there one missing from my list that you and your babies love to enjoy together?
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