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May 16, 2012 12:57 AM   Subscribe

I want to give a standard starter library of awesome children's picture books as baby shower gifts for my close friends who are first time mothers. What should I include?

I read a lot of young adult literature to keep up with my middle school students, but I haven't read picture books since I was of the age to read them myself and have no idea where to start, here.

Bonus points for books that hold up to many re-reads, obviously, and it would make sense to limit this to books that work for kids who are 0-5. Thanks in advance for your genius ideas!
posted by charmedimsure to Shopping (37 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Ten off the top of my head:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Curious George by H.A. Rey
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:31 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Good Night Moon and That's Good! That's Bad! are two of my favorites.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:31 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
posted by dumdidumdum at 1:38 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
posted by Ginkgo at 1:47 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

The House on East 88th Street and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Warber
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Puppy Too Small by Cyndy Szekeres
Honey Hunters by Francesca Martin
posted by Mizu at 1:52 AM on May 16, 2012

You can't go wrong with classic Little Golden Books: Home for a Bunny, The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat, etc. My parents loved these as kids, I loved them and now I see my little cousins enjoying them too.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 1:56 AM on May 16, 2012

The Caldecott list might give you some ideas, though it's hit-and-miss (in the way any book-award list, particularly one that goes back decades, is) a lot of the better books there have been mentioned already.
posted by dekathelon at 2:00 AM on May 16, 2012

In the Night Kitchen by Sendak.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I realize this is for brand new people, but for slightly older kids I highly recommend the American Boys Handy Book by Daniel Beard, and Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. Although, many parents might take issue with the advice given in these.
posted by Xandar at 2:37 AM on May 16, 2012

My Many Coloured Days is a wonderful board book for tiny to little people. It's my go-to gift board book.

Animals has my daughter obsessed. I can prop it open next to her and she will stare entranced for a good while. We just bought Trains, the same format and author, and she is pretty fond of that too.

The Lamaze brand makes cloth books that I am about to buy and would have appreciated as gifts as well. They're not as tacky/cheap-looking as the other cloth books I've seen, and I've been really happy with the quality of the Lamaze toys.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:45 AM on May 16, 2012

A set of Beatrix Potter would be nice --- especially if they're in her classic small-sized-for-small-hands books.
posted by easily confused at 3:23 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of my favourite children's books: Guess How Much I Love You.
posted by schmoo at 3:43 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm an old Mom with no grandkids yet so not up on the current little kid books, but suggest anything by Maurice Sendak, especially Where the Wild Things Are" and Mickey in The Night Kitchen". The pictures alone are great even before kids get the story. Any illustrated simple poetry to be read to kids, as kids love rhyme and rhythm. I loved "The Color Kittens", a Little Golden Book that has been reissued as it rhymed and taught kids about how colors are mixed. Check out other Golden Books, some of them are timeless and charming and still quite cheap.

Yes, Beatrix Potter, Pat the Bunny, Goodnight Moon, etc, plus the Dr. Seuss books. Polar Express is another beautiful illustrated book. Also, simple and elaborately illustrated fairy tales and myths are always good, there are many books like that if you browse the children's section of a good book store.
posted by mermayd at 3:50 AM on May 16, 2012

Zen Shorts is maybe the best book ever.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:16 AM on May 16, 2012

Pretty much any of Lucy Cousin's books. Maisy rules.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:28 AM on May 16, 2012

My favourites; The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Beatrix Potter Collection, Dr Seuss, Classic Little Golden Books (Poky Little Puppy etc) Where's Spot, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, The Velveteen Rabbit, Professor Wormbog and the Search for the Zimperumperoo. I'm slowly getting these for my little one.
posted by Jubey at 4:44 AM on May 16, 2012

My girls are almost 11, and 8 now, but in-between Narnia and others at bedtime, we still re-visit some that they've loved for years.

One the their (and my) favourites remains The Snail & The Whale - it does such a nice job of opening up the world, and it really conveys a wonderful sense of being small, in a gigantic, fascinating world. We love it.

I'd also agree with many of the others listed above!
posted by Richat at 5:45 AM on May 16, 2012

I like the William Steig books: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Amos and Boris, Brave Irene, Doctor DeSoto....they are classics, and they are magical. If I had to choose one, I would go with Sylvester and the Magic Pebble or Amos and Boris. Amos and Boris is deep and sad but lovely and intelligent.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:49 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pat the Bunny; Press Here; Bears On Chairs; If Kisses Were Colors; All the Hippos Go Berserk; Not A Box; Are You My Mother; The Best Nest; Richard Scarey's Best Word Book Ever; Where The Sidewalk Ends.

But really, pick books YOU like. There are lots and lots of "classic" kids books I just don't care for - like I Love You Forever.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:58 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, the Stella books are really lovely too. Beautiful illustrations and a fun starring pair of siblings. Check out Stella, Fairy of the Forest.
posted by Richat at 6:13 AM on May 16, 2012

Something really cool is Peggy Rathman's 10 Minutes to Bedtime and Goodnight Gorilla. They are beautiful books - and as a bonus, they both occur at the same time.

If you look very closely, you will see scenes from Goodnight Gorilla occuring in the background of 10 Minutes till Bedtime - and there is a lot of continuity between frames in each book. For example, a balloon is released in Goodnight Gorilla, and you can follow it's flight through every panel even when it's just a tiny dot in the sky towards the end. It's probably the favorite picture book for both my daughters.
posted by machinecraig at 6:31 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a Bunny is my standard baby gift; it was one of my favorite books growing up and nobody seems to know about it now. The illustrations are lovely.

A couple of my kids' favorites:
The Runaway Bunny
Moo Baa La La La!
Hippos Go Berserk
Guess How Much I Love You
Good Night, Little Bear
Daddy Kisses and Mommy Hugs

I'd actually recommend NOT buying "Goodnight Moon". Everybody I know ended up with AT LEAST 3 copies of it after baby showers, etc.
posted by belladonna at 6:39 AM on May 16, 2012

Richard Scarry is one my all-time favorites.
posted by absquatulate at 6:43 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a big fan of Denise Fleming's books, particularly Lunch, In the Tall, Tall Grass, and In the Small, Small Pond.

I bought Food for Thought and some other books for a friend who has three kids; he said they love Food for Thought much more than the others and are always going back to look through it (and, seriously, who wouldn't love a banana-plane?)
posted by johnofjack at 6:51 AM on May 16, 2012

Bill Peet is a fantastic author and illustrator, who started with Disney in the 30's and then moved on to children's books. He put together the storylines and most of the base character art for Cinderella, 101 Dalmations, and The Jungle Book, among others.

My favorites:

Big Bad Bruce Which I can still recite by heart...

The Wump World
posted by rockindata at 7:05 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll second that you shouldn't go with the obvious choices, like Goodnight Moon. Most people I know have gotten a few copies of it.

The Sandra Boynton books are great. Pajama Time is my 11 month old son's favorite book. Hippos Go Beserk is also pretty cute. We sing Snuggle Puppy to him almost daily. That being said, you could also get CDs of her music.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 8:06 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mo Willems, Steve Jenkins, Bill Martin, Jr. (author of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?), David Ezra Stein, the Francis books.

Good Night Gorilla is my go-to. Thirding the no on Goodnight Moon.

Bear in mind that there's a world of difference between picture books for 3-year-olds and for 8-year-olds.
posted by the_blizz at 8:10 AM on May 16, 2012

I second pp The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and her other one The Loud Book! by Deborah Underwood

Press Here by Herve Tullet is such a brilliant book- interactive in an amazing way and wows most people even those who believe books are dead!

I LOVE MEM FOX, especially Whoever You Are

And Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy by Lynley Dodd

Hairy Maclary is a series and they rhyme in a great way.

I also love Jeanette Winter, she writes nonfiction for kids that generally is for older kids but this book is great and is almost wordless MAMA: a TRUE story, in which a BABY HIPPO loses his MAMA during a TSUNAMI, but finds a new home, and a new MAMA

Finally I think that no child's library would be complete without a Carl book.

So many books, so little time!
posted by momochan at 8:37 AM on May 16, 2012

Mo Willems
posted by dizziest at 9:33 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of our favorites, one of the only things that would calm our then 2-3 month old, and she still loves it at age 2: Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox.

Also, Brown Bear, Brown Bear was mentioned upthread, but the Slide and Find version is extra awesome. Our daughter "reads" this book to us at this point.

The Byron Barton version of The Three Bears is another favorite.
posted by freezer cake at 11:47 AM on May 16, 2012

That's Not My Dragon is cute as heck, and my son loved it when he was a bit younger (now 15 months).
posted by that's candlepin at 12:15 PM on May 16, 2012

Great lists above! To add some lesser known favorites for variety and that are not too sentimental:

by Bruce Degan
The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood
Red is Best
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Alan Allberg
Freight Train by Donald Crews

But my actual recommendation: get them in board book format - perfect for little little ones and will last for 5 years of repeated reading, just make sure the books are not edited so that they are shorter or more annoying in board book format
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 1:59 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, Each Peach Pear Plum is excellent! Another great one by the same author team is Peepo!
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 2:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a favourite from my childhood, and a classic

Lemony Snicket's 13 Words is possibly the most charming little kids book I've ever read, and not terrible for adults to read again and again.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:38 PM on May 16, 2012

I am pregnant now and would love to get these two books for my little one:

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Extra Yarn by Mac Bennett (illustrated by Jon Klassen)
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:17 AM on May 17, 2012

Surprised that a search of this thread for Tuesday returned no results! I am pretty sure I found that book via Metafilter, and my wife and I have bought about five copies so far for first birthdays.

Another great thing about this book (and I imagine picture books in general) is that siblings who can't read well yet can still "read" the story to their younger siblings.
posted by mysterpigg at 8:48 AM on May 21, 2012

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