Help me find some books for my baby's room.
November 1, 2011 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a baby soon and I want to buy a few children's books to have something to put in the new bookshelves and later on read to my baby. What books do you recommend?

I love the look of books as decoration but I also love to read, so these books I'm looking for will have to both look good and have nice stories. I'm having a boy, if that matters.

I'll probably be getting them through Amazon.
posted by CrazyLemonade to Grab Bag (60 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Good Night, Gorilla
posted by Ian Scuffling at 2:32 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

The classics are often classics for a reason: Goodnight Moon, Dr. Suess, Where the Wild Things Are, I am a Bunny.

More recent books that wore well for two children:
Kitten's First Full Moon
Polar Bear Night
posted by feckless at 2:34 PM on November 1, 2011

Monkey with a Toolbelt
posted by unixrat at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2011

Hondo and Fabien
Cats Pajamas
Goodnight Moon
I am a Bunny
posted by Malla at 2:39 PM on November 1, 2011

I've always really enjoyed Helen Cooper's books. Her illustration is incredibly warm and soft and her stories usually work on more than one level, so your child will appreciate them in different ways as he/she gets older.

Also everything Julia Donaldson has done with Axel Scheffler.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:39 PM on November 1, 2011

Anything by Eric Carle ought to keep your kiddo visually stimulated well into elementary school. My brother and I especially loved The Very Quiet Cricket because it chirped.
posted by phunniemee at 2:39 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pat the Bunny and Goodnight, Moon were always my son's favorites. Other stories he enjoyed when he was very young were Make Way For Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal (great illustrations that he enjoyed looking at), and In the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. Congrats on your new baby!
posted by Happydaz at 2:40 PM on November 1, 2011

Shel Silverstein - "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "A Light in the Attic" and pretty much anything else by him. They're books of poetry your child will enjoy for an entire lifetime.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:40 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh, and I almost forgot!! My son LOVED Helen Oxenbury and Sandra Boynton books when he was an infant. :-)
posted by Happydaz at 2:41 PM on November 1, 2011

The Wind in the Willows.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:43 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're going to want board books to start out with. There's nothing more frustrating to my 11-month-old than me reading a story with regular pages in it, because he wants to grab the pages (and he mangles and tears them so the books have to be kept out of reach).

Board book versions of Goodnight Moon, the Sandra Boynton books, and the Dr. Seuss books are in heavy rotation in our house.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:44 PM on November 1, 2011

My friend is having a baby shower soon and the person who's organizing wrote on the invites "please bring _____ book instead of a card." I think she put a Dr. Seuss book on each invite so they'll have the entire collection.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:45 PM on November 1, 2011

On The Day You Were Born is a really sweet board book. Wynken Blynken and Nod is a classic too.
posted by tetralix at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2011

RE: Sandra Boynton - I've never been a big fan, but our 9 mo. old *loves* Barnyard Dance.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:48 PM on November 1, 2011

You will receive a minimum of three copies of Goodnight Moon, I believe, as is custom, because everyone recommends it and I believe bookstore employees mumble it in their sleep. Besides, once you read it for the thousandth time, you realize that Goodnight, Moon is freaking creepy, aside from the "fishing for a bunny" images and the gross colour scheme.

I, and my daughter much preferred the Big Red Barn, when it comes to the prolific Margaret Wise Brown, both for reading out loud, and visually.

Please just wait - you will be gifted with all the tried-and-trues, and when people ask what you want, ask for an Amazon gift certificate. Someone may get the idea to throw you a book shower, if they haven't yet! But go to a bookstore, and read whatever you think looks good. And then read them again. And again. If you can stand a book after the tenth time, then yes, buy it. But please remember it will be the ones that make you pretend you lost your voice or, curiously, can't find, that that your son will want to hear forty-hundred times.

It's great that you're nesting, but until your kid is old enough to grab the board books and chew on them, just read whatever you are reading yourself out loud (or, perhaps, some of E.B. White's poems and essays) and enjoy your reading time. You will receive hand-me downs, you will impulse shop, and you will be gifted with a flurry of books so that you'll be screaming "You're nothing but a shelf of books" in time.

That said, I re-sell vintage children's books. I will go through our shelves with our seven-year old, and see what she remembers liking and still likes - because honestly, she doesn't have much of a memory before age three. But, as I suspect, she loves best the books we loved reading to her.

This is an inspiring site too.
posted by peagood at 2:59 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Barbara Reid makes beautiful books (including board books). I especially like this collection of nursery rhymes.
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 3:03 PM on November 1, 2011

For board books with a little extra beauty, I really like the "mini masters" books. We have a Magical Day with Matisse and it was always a favorite of mine to read to the kids. I gave Quiet time with Cassat as a gift because of the wonderful child and mother pictures in it.
posted by saffry at 3:13 PM on November 1, 2011

Of note: infants have limited vision, so bold black and white shapes/patterns are good for the first months. From the Imagination Library booklist, we received Look Look!
posted by filthy light thief at 3:14 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

What a great collection everyone has suggested so far, to not repeat anything:

Sandra Boynton has a nice collection of children's books that my daughter loved very much. Ahe gets the jokes now so after four years (I've been reading to her since she was a month old) she is still enjoying them.

Guess How Much I Love You

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

And this will come in very handy in about 9 months...

Everybody Poops!

posted by Yellow at 3:16 PM on November 1, 2011

Get the large "lap-size" board book edition of Goodnight, Moon so it will be easy to find the mouse in all the spreads. I've seen lots of editions where the mouse is either too tiny or has been cropped out of the frame entirely to fit the trim. Can't have that! Avoid the large-sized paperback at Amazon; that one is too floppy.

Also, my kids loved Clip Clop and Jingle Jingle by Nicola Smee as under-1s. Christopher Wormell's Blue Rabbit is has profoundly beautiful linoprint illustrations and is subtly hilarious.
posted by apparently at 3:17 PM on November 1, 2011

I am a book and illustration junkie. Having my daughter is just an excuse to buy all the wonderfully illustrated children's books that I desire. However, some of my favorite board books for her right now are hand-me-down ones and ones I picked up at garage sales. They are taking a lot of abuse right now (she's 10 months) and while they aren't too expensive, they do add up. She throws them, chews on them, lays on them, stomps on them, tries to feed them to the cats, shoves them into the couch cushions, uses them to scoot across the floor with her hands. So, I have books I leave out for her and books I keep up for when we are reading together.

Some of my favorites right now are the Boynton books and Winnie the Pooh. She has about a dozen shapes, colors, funny animals books that are not precious. And lately she pretends to "read" -- holds the books and turns them over and has a "reading" voice. It's so cute!

posted by amanda at 3:29 PM on November 1, 2011

Anything by Robert McCloskey, especially Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, as mentioned earlier.
posted by theredpen at 3:31 PM on November 1, 2011

Dating my childhood, but Richard Scarry, Shel Silverstein, and Dr. Seuss were standard bedtime fare. Loved 'em!
posted by cecic at 3:32 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

When my nephew was first learning to talk, he loved No No, Jo! I think he really liked being able to tell the naughty kitty "no, no!" instead of hearing it himself all the time.
posted by agatha_magatha at 3:58 PM on November 1, 2011

The Giving Tree, The Velveteen Rabbit, any of the Richard Scarry books that have pictures and names of stuff.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:05 PM on November 1, 2011

I liked Pat the Bunny because of the tactile elements, which the littlest people often appreciate.

On the down side, it took me a while to realize that "Pat" is not the name of the bunny.
posted by zomg at 4:06 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I read The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe to my son before he was born. I read Black Beauty and many of my childhood favorites to him when he was a wee infant. Once he started to 'get' language and pictures, Goodnight Moon, lots of picture books with few words, and stories that rhymed. We read Mike Mulligan so many times, I nearly committed it to memory. I read him some of the Harry Potter books, even though he was a good reader by then. A teacher assigned a book he just hated, so I read it to him, and left out the surprisingly violent bits (5th grade - what were they thinking?). Some of my son's favorites surprised me. Scholastic has a book program that many teachers use; kids and parents get good books pretty inexpensively, and the teacher gets credits for books for the classroom.

The Amer. Library Assn names Notable Books for kids every year. The Newberry Medal goes to a great children's book every year. The Caldecott is awarded to a great picture book. There are many great books for kids, and your local library of good bookstore can help you find the best ones.

You're giving your child a wonderful gift by starting him or her out with books.
posted by theora55 at 4:07 PM on November 1, 2011

I have a 3 year old as of tomorrow (happy birthday!) and our go-to books right now (that don't make us want to run screaming from the room on the 50th read in a row) are:
The Big Orange Splot
Next Stop Grand Central
Caps For Sale

For reading to him as an infant, he loved "interactive" books like Peek a Who, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Where is Baby's Belly Button?, and pretty much everything by Sandra Boynton. We also found that in the very beginning, he was far more interested in books with photographs than books that were illustrated (this was a huge hit) - You may want to hold off on buying infant books until you can take your little one to the library or book store and see what seems to hold his/her attention.
posted by Mchelly at 4:08 PM on November 1, 2011

You need the collected works of...Carl. Because there may come a day when you fantasize about leaving your screaming baby in the care of a big cuddly old Rottweiler.

Kidding, mostly. Carl board books are great because the pictures are beautiful, and because there are no words, so you're free to make the story as elaborate and silly as you want to.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:19 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Besides, once you read it for the thousandth time, you realize that Goodnight, Moon is freaking creepy, aside from the "fishing for a bunny" images and the gross colour scheme.

IIRC, the fishing bunny is an image from Margaret Wise Brown's "The Runaway Bunny"--which is creepy in its own right. The baby bunny says something like, "I'll become a fish, and swim away from you!" and his mother replies, "Then I will become a fisherman and catch and gut you for dinner." Or something.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:25 PM on November 1, 2011

Kisses for Daddy is our current favorite book to give new parents. It's fun to mimic all the different animal styles, there are hidden images of the animals on every page, and it's easy enough to change the words to change the genders of the bears. Other excellent choices: Never Tease a Weasel, Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny, and Shel Silverstein's Runny Babbit.
posted by dilettanti at 4:32 PM on November 1, 2011

If you know you're having a girl, Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl is actually quite lovely, and the illustrations are gorgeous; although the language is probably going to get to you more than your baby. (Here's an animation someone made using the illustrations and a recording of Gaiman reading it at an event; the text is based on a poem he wrote as a gift for a friend's baby girl.)

And consider getting yourself a little something too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 PM on November 1, 2011

When I was a kid I loved The Twits by Roald Dahl. I think it would be a blast to read it out loud to a little boy. Or heck, little girl.
posted by SMPA at 5:24 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anything by Graem Base - they are more picture-y than read-y, in some cases, but Animalia is awesome.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:25 PM on November 1, 2011

A.A.Milne's When We Were Very Young.
posted by puddinghead at 5:46 PM on November 1, 2011

For babies, high contrast colors are good as their sight is developing. I recommend Tana Hoban's books. The board books are White on Black, Black on White, Who are They?, What is That? and Black & White.
posted by amapolaroja at 5:55 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

These are all great suggestions but really, as a new parent you have to have a copy of More More More Said the Baby.
posted by alms at 6:18 PM on November 1, 2011

My daughter's favorite things to look at when she was a baby were photographs. In particular, she loved all the photos in Wild Animal Baby. And around 9 months old, she liked the non-photo parts of the magazine as well. Around two, her favorite part was the story at the end. And now that she's five, she loves pulling out old ones and practicing reading with them. So I recommend getting a subscription. (Though if you're feeling unsure, check at the library to read some back issues.)

For books, we have many favorites, but I highly recommend using your library heavily first. Any book you still love the fifth time you've checked it out, absolutely buy that. At the library: Big Red Barn, Blueberries for Sal, mini-masters, Tana Hoban, Peek-a-Who, Sandra Boynton, Each Peach Pear Plum (this is the first book my daughter memorized so that she can "read" it).
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:32 PM on November 1, 2011

The Llama Llama series
posted by hmo at 6:54 PM on November 1, 2011

With a one-year old, I nth Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle, and board books over paper, at least in early toddlerhood. At this point, he also likes Mama Mama, I think because one of the animal babies is nursing. His architect aunt and uncle bought him Charley Harper ABCs which has lots of bright colors and opportunities to make animal noises.

Less popular with him that we like: Goodnight Moon has too few words per page, Runaway Bunny and Guess How Much I Love you have too many. When he was very small (before 4-5 months), longer-form stories actually worked better and his favorite seemed to be That's When I'm Happy. Now we're saving it for when he can read a paper book again without ripping pages.

Less popular with us that he likes: Books with pictures of babies and kids (there are a bunch out there, each more forgettable than the last, so we get them at the library.) He's also got a couple of equally-forgettable books with Muppet characters. (We're saving The Monster At the End Of This Book for later.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:58 PM on November 1, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the suggestions! I'll start looking at them and then I'll choose a few.

Thanks peagood for your concern about receiving books as gifts, but that won't be my situation, as I'm in Mexico and books are, unfortunately, not usually given as gifts when the baby's born. The same goes for those who suggested going to the library...public libraries are not a big thing here.

I'll be looking into the board books that rabbitrabbit suggested, I hadn't thought of that but it makes a lot of sense.

Hopefully some of these books have the same illustrations but with spanish text, so I can read to my baby in spanish as well as english.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 7:03 PM on November 1, 2011

Books that have not already been suggested: Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh, An Extraordinary Egg and A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, the Little Bear series by Else Homelund Minarik, Little Fox Goes to the End of the World by Ann Tompert, and The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.
posted by BlueJae at 7:08 PM on November 1, 2011

No No Yes Yes (and the related Big Small, Yummy Yucky)
posted by k8t at 7:21 PM on November 1, 2011

I gave a Peruvian friend Donde Viven Los Monstruous, Jorge el Curioso, and ¿Tu mamá es una llama? Nearly every classic children's book has been translated to Spanish in a pretty cheap paperback edition.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:25 PM on November 1, 2011

Thank you for clarification, that's good to know. I will make suggestions, too - and agree with anything from Ezra Jack Keats and Leo Lionni. My daughter said she particularly likes/remembers Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum.

She still has all of her Leo Lionni books, and is now "getting" the messages in them.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
was a favourite in her kindergarten class, though she didn't love it at home.

What's more, I love all of these books too, and though we've moved on to things like the Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter books and others in the 7-12 age range, unless you're going to be reading them aloud right away, it's a long time to have things just sitting on a shelf waiting to be read. And books can be hard to let go of, as I know from how we're almost always either going back for old favourites or scouring threads that help us find more to read.

She loved Pat the Bunny, but adores Pat the Beastie still. And I will probably buy myself Pat the Husband one day.

We read Caps for Sale and Millions of Cats pretty frequently, still, because they're comforting.

From the day she was born, I've read her all of E.B. White's children's books, but also poems and essays, plus Peter Pan and all of Grimm's Fables just because I love them and because reading aloud is a muscle you have to build.

We can both still recite "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" .

We had/have a lot of Mercer Mayer's books, but I Was So Mad is the favourite.

We have lovely old copies of pretty much everything we can find by Syd Hoff.

Russell and Lillian Hoban's books are so beautifully readable, and we love them still.

Many of Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham's
books are our favourites - and have been translated into Spanish. (Sugar Mouse Cake is the only one we haven't read, because it's, like, the Holy Grail of vintage children's books.)

I've just sold off a few of our old books illustrated by Mary Blair, but I Can Fly is still a favourite, and I love Baby's House, which is coming out as a board book.

The books I remember my daughter enjoying most when she was youngest were of the Priddy Bicknell variety. They kept us busy for hours.

We have her grandfather's 1929 edition of Bambi, and I found Bambi's Children for her, and they are the all-time favourites for reading aloud - but this illustrated version of a bit of it is so gorgeous we look at it more often than anything.

A gorgious edition with your favourite style of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales would be a great investment too.

And, when I am giving a new book for a gift, I love love love the Charley Harper board books.
posted by peagood at 8:05 PM on November 1, 2011

Lots of good suggestions already, but I will add Harold and the Purple Crayon,Are You My Mother?, Beady Bear, and the 3 book set Voyage to the Bunny Planet to the list.
posted by gudrun at 8:36 PM on November 1, 2011

One board book I never tired of reading was Tumble Bumble written and illustrated by Felicia Bond, who also is the illustrator of "If you give a mouse a cookie" (mentioned by theBigRedKittyPurrs just above) and a bunch of others in that series. I love her illustrations, which are part of what make those books so great.
posted by gubenuj at 9:30 PM on November 1, 2011


Berenstain Bears

Frog and Toad
posted by carpediem at 10:38 PM on November 1, 2011

Please stick to original board books and not the dumbed down versions of classics.

For when he's older:
Beverly Cleary
The Oz books
Marguerite Henry....
posted by brujita at 10:51 PM on November 1, 2011

If someone offers to throw you a shower, ask them to make it a book shower. I did that 11 years was lovely and my 4 yr old is still reading big sisters books. Best shower ever!
posted by pearlybob at 4:40 AM on November 2, 2011

Pictures of faces are mesmerizing to babies. We had a small board book showing babies with different emotions expressed on their faces which was top of the pops till about age 1. Seconding whoever said to wait on the beautiful editions till later. Our youngest is 3 and she's only recently stopped ripping paper at the slightest provocation.
posted by libraryhead at 5:07 AM on November 2, 2011

I can't believe only one other person (??) has mentioned the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy ... HUGE favorites in our house.
posted by oh really at 5:32 AM on November 2, 2011

Seconding Jamberry and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. My family also loved More More More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams

My two cents: The Giving Tree sends a creepy message.
posted by bluespark25 at 6:30 AM on November 2, 2011

~ That's Not My Dragon - My 9 month old son LOVES books with texture and this is a super cute one.
~ Pedie is pretty sweet.
~ The Circus Ship - For when your boy is a little older.
~ Diary of a Wombat is adorable, but maybe more fun for you than him.
posted by that's candlepin at 1:33 PM on November 2, 2011

I don't think anyone has mentioned Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, which was the very first book my daughter would sit through and her favorite for a long time. The monkeys seems creepy at first, but she liked the rhythms in it, the pictures, and the pages that are yellow. 6 months later, she's learning what hands, fingers and thumbs are.
posted by kitcat at 10:39 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unsolicited advice: put the books low enough so that she can reach them when she's so inclined. I didn't do this on purpose, but since they are within reach she's been pulling books off the shelf, plopping herself down in the pile and leafing through them ever since she's been mobile. It's so cool. Also, don't get frustrated when she doesn't show any interest in them before three months or even longer, like I did. It's no indication of what's to come. Yay books!
posted by kitcat at 10:45 PM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks again for all the great suggestions. No best answers yet, as I need some time to browse though all of these, but I very much appreciate all the help.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 6:00 PM on November 3, 2011

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