Best books for babies?
February 25, 2019 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for baby books--what are some of your favorites, suitable for, say, age 0-5? Desiderata: Has some sort of story arc (even if a loose one), has nice illustrations (i.e., not cheap computer rendering sorts of things), not too moralistic/preachy, and shows diverse babies/kids/families/people (although animals/nature/etc are also okay).

An example of a good fit for the above is "Everywhere Babies," if you're familiar. Suggestions would hopefully meet at least some of the above criteria, but don't have to meet all. Happy to hear any other personal or family faves. Thanks!
posted by stillmoving to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Subway by Anastasia Suen and Karen Katz checks all those boxes (but best for the younger end of that range, perhaps 0-3, maybe 4).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:55 PM on February 25, 2019




Our two-year-old son is deeply smitten with every single Barefoot Book he can get his hands on. I've been pleased with the level of inclusion and social awareness at a lot of levels -- the books depict racial diversity, disability, things like alternative modes of transportation (in general, you will be shocked at how few books about "things that go" start and end with the gas-powered automobile), consensus decision-making, and so on. The songs that accompany the books are incredibly catchy, too, for better and for worse.

Along the lines of "Everywhere Babies" when our kids were younger they also loved "Reach Reach, Baby" and "Dance Dance, Baby."

Our family also really likes the "How does a dinosaur..." series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, which raise the question of whether dinosaurs, for instance, have terrible table manners and are messy eaters, and arrive at the conclusion that dinosaurs are very polite eaters who say please and thank you and try every food before them at least once, sort of thing. The children are all depicted as dinosaurs but the adults and other humans in the stories are pretty diverse.
posted by gauche at 1:06 PM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Big Bear's Little Boat is a very tender story about growing up, sorrow, sharing and legacies.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:15 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh, and we talk a lot about how everybody sometimes has "Wild Feelings" which are sometimes strong but also normal and okay.
posted by gauche at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2019


The Baby's Catalogue by Janet Ahlberg & Allan Ahlberg
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Dolly Parton's Imagination Library gives a free book to every child signed up every month until they are 5 years old and shows quite a few covers on their Instagram feed. I think there were only one or two that my child received that I didn't like.
posted by jillithd at 1:18 PM on February 25, 2019


All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee
posted by galvanized unicorn at 1:28 PM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


You want a variety of books, IMO. Here are some of my son's favourites. He's now 22 months.

Sassy Sees: Baby Faces (this was his absolute favourite in the the early months (like i don't remember age, but before he could sit up alone). He liked this even better than the Baby face books with actual photographs that I got him.

Other than that I just read him pretty much anything for a long time, including not just board books but chapter books and books for older kids. I read him some chapter books about Humphrey the Hampster, which he liked because I did voices. Then at around 12 months he started actually seeming to be interested in content. Also some Ivy and Bean. Basically, whatever caught my eye at the library.

Then around 12 months maybe when he actually got interested in content, we went back to board books exclusively. Favourites:

LLama Llama Red Pajama (and then the rest of the llama llama board books)
The Gruffalo and the Gruffalo's Child. (though the Gruffalo is guilty of having 6 characters and making them all male).
Alphablock and Countablock

He loves the Bizzy Bear books. One thing I like about these is that Bizzy Bear is always called Bizzy bear (i.e. no pronouns) so I read her as female to balance out the overwhelming bias towards book characters being male).

Toronto ABC (obviously somehting local to you... he knows all these and frequently announces them leaving people a little surprised and confused: A is for Apple (so you think you know where this is going, and then....), B is for Blue Jays, C is for Casa Loma, and D is for Distillery District -- it's the Distillery District that seems particularly funny)

He likes "interactive" books: meaning not that the books do anything, but that *he* is supposed to do something (press the button, clap, yell, blow, tickle etc.) and then turn the page to see what happens as a result: Examples Don't Press the Button (he also has the halloween, christmas and easter versions) and There's a Monster in Your Book (This one has pronouns but since the monster has no name, I find it relatively easy to regender the monster as female).

He also likes these books that have little sensitive spots (like buttons but not things you physically press, more things you touch) and then play music. This music is not loud and not super-annoying. Go listen to it in a brick and mortar bookstore if you like. Believe me I mostly hate lights-and-noise toys, but these are fine. Besides the fact that its' not super loud, it's not like those books with a row of always-visible buttons. These have one button on each page, so you have to "read" the book to press the buttons and can only press the relative button on each page.

The Babies and Doggies Book.

He also loves and book that I sing to him. E.g. The itsy bitsy duckling , The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin, The Wheels on the Bus, Canada Lullaby, Ontario Lullaby

In picking out books I've kept in mind developing pre-literacy skills listed in the book Toronto Public library puts out. They're listed on this page with click-through additional information, as well as his interests. The first cycle of baby time we did at the library when I was on mat leave, the librarian was great and since it was a 6-week cycle, he dedicated each week to one of the pre-literacy skills talking about what kinds of books could help to build that skill and how to read in ways that would build it.

I was surprised at how young he was when he started developing his own interests, but at this point his interests and tastes basically guide the books I buy him: he liked pressing buttons, I got him the don't press the button book and the music book; he liked the itsy-bitsy duckling, I got him him other sing along books; he likes streetcars, I look for books with streetcars; he's into fish and octopuses, I got him the under-the-sea bizzy-bear book etc. etc. And at 22 months, he definitely knows which book he wants to read when.

Anyway, I could go on and on about his favourites and mine and might just post more when I'm home and access to his shelf full of books.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:30 PM on February 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Boy the rest of you really have amazing restraint.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:31 PM on February 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


*rubs hands together in glee*

Sandra Boynton, Eric Carle, high-contrast books from Workman, Marla Frazee especially "All The World,", How Does a Dinosaur X the Y which someone mentioned upthread, Global Babies and other books full of baby faces because babies like staring at other babies, Mo Willems, Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol,King Baby by Kate Beaton, Noisy Night by Barnett, Thank You, Octopus by Darren Farrell, everything Rachel Isadora ever did but especially Peekaboo Morning.

I'll think about it a little more, but those are my go-to books for storytime.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:31 PM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I don't know if you're doing Santa, but he really likes When Santa Was a Baby.

All the books I listed except the Sassy Sees Faces and the Babies and Doggies book are actually art, not just stock images. The Sassy Sees Faces is line drawings (may or may not be stock) and the Babies and Doggies is photos and quite possibly just stock.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:33 PM on February 25, 2019


Another vote for More, More, More Said the Baby. I just got Peekaboo Morning for my 10 month old niece, and it was also a hit with her 3 year old sister. For slightly older kids, The Snowy Day and Corduroy are classics.

Colours of Us has some nice resources organized by age. This is a lovely list of books featuring Black boys.
posted by goggie at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Oh, and if I might make a tangential suggestion, while you're building baby's library, pick up a roll of book tape. Now that I have a roll, I can't believe i ever used regular tape on books before. It's far superior to regular tape and will be needed because babies do a lot of damage to spines. I'm seriously planning on adding it to my go-to list of baby shower gifts.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:40 PM on February 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


I love Windows by Julia Denos
posted by azalea_chant at 1:48 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think I've hyped Everyday Diversity and Jbrary before, but if not, check those out for excellent resources for the under-5s.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:54 PM on February 25, 2019


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh puts together a curated list of the Best Books for Babies published in the last year. Here's the list from 2018,2017 and 2016 as well as their Selection Criteria, which can help people identify good books for little ones.
posted by nuclear_soup at 2:12 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


This one is so lovely: My Heart Fills with Happiness
posted by sabotagerabbit at 3:18 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Hug Me by Simone Ciraolo - love the message and the illustrations

Places To Be by Mac Barnett and Renata Liwska - sweet illustrations and my 2 year old loves the repetition. We've actually been reading this a couple times a day for days on end recently.

Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen - this is a personal favorite kids book of mine. The message about unexpectedly finding something amazing when you get frustrated trying to make things perfect really spoke to me, and the illustrations are so great.
posted by permiechickie at 5:56 PM on February 25, 2019




A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni

And another vote for anything Eric Carle
posted by OnefortheLast at 7:38 PM on February 25, 2019


Ok, there's a few I can't believe I didn't think of, given your asking about art.

Two Emily Winfield Martin books, Day Dreams and Dream Animals. Note how the reviews are all about the beautiful art and how the art is actually available for purchase as art, too. But they're not just art, the text is lovely, too, and it rhymes and has a nice rhythm.

Also, two books my son got from his godmother filled with West Coast First Nations art. We All Count: Book of Ojibway Art and I Am Dreaming of...Animals of the Native Northwest These two are so pretty I actually scanned them before giving them to baby to handle, just in case i want to use some pages as wall art in his room.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:49 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Our local library recently had Todd Parr visit for family literacy day. His books are called things like It's Okay to Be Different; they feature a lot of diversity and are very colourful.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:35 PM on February 25, 2019


The entire works of Julia Donaldson, but especially The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child, and Stick Man.
posted by unstrungharp at 10:56 PM on February 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Rabbit Listened is about how to help someone when they’re grieving a loss. We also read Life by Cynthia Rylant every night and I think it’s one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read. My son is 23 months.
posted by melodykramer at 2:50 AM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Seconding Julia Donaldson. Our favourite is Tabby McTat.
posted by tomp at 3:16 AM on February 26, 2019


Little Blue Truck. Elephant and Piggie (Mo Williams).

Dinosaur series referenced above by Jane Yolen one being:
How Do Dinosaurs Keep Safe?

Any alphabet book your kid loves (my first loved Dr Seuss alphabet.. my second only liked the ones about baseball or sports).
posted by typecloud at 6:42 AM on February 26, 2019


Love this question. I've found it surprisingly hard, actually! Some books that are marketed to this age group are way too long, and many others suffer from what you're trying to avoid--aesthetically unpleasing illustrations! But here are some we have and that my 2-year-old son loves (in addition to some mentioned above, esp. "How Does a Dinosaur..." and All the World):

Good Night Moon--we recently introduced this one and my son is obsessed. It helps that he's really into the moon these days but I think the rhythm and the slight weirdness of it really works for him. It's the first book where he has started spontaneously reciting some of the words on his own.

Little You--depicts (I believe) a Native American family but that's not explicit in the book. The baby also doesn't have an identified gender. High contrast, lovely illustrations and sweet, gentle rhymes made this an excellent one when he was young, but he still loves it now.

Precious Sleepyhead--from the aforementioned Imagination Library. The cover makes it look a little saccharine but inside the illustrations inside are lovely and depict a variety of people with babies.

I am a Bunny--gorgeous lush illustrations of the changing seasons.

The Snowy Day--beautiful illustrations; a classic featuring a young African American boy. My son likes this but his attention span isn't quite long enough--probably more of a 3 and up book.

10 Little Fingers and 10 Little Toes--depicts babies of different races/ethnicities. My son actually doesn't love this one but I do!

Oskar and Mo (by Britta Teckentrup)--two bird friends with sweet illustrations. Oskar is a he and Mo is a she. Important to me is the part of the story where they "fall out" (ie fight) and then make up.

Goodbye Brings Hello--Just got this one and my son insists on multiple readings. Diverse kids experiencing normal transitions in life: outgrowing favorite clothing, getting a hair cut, riding a bigger bike, going to school.
posted by CiaoMela at 10:27 AM on February 26, 2019


mommy, carry me please
more more more said the baby
babies everywhere: carry me
elmer board books (bonus! they come in different languages, too)
yum yum dim sum

anything by Mo Willems
the Llama Llama red pajama series by Anna Dewdney
anything by Sandra Boynton (although, to be fair, as a parent, I wanted to tear my hair out reading these after a while)
posted by alathia at 11:30 AM on February 26, 2019


Books by Vera Williams. Tar Beach by Faith Ringold
posted by azalea_chant at 4:14 PM on February 26, 2019


Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (note: it is impossible to read this poem without tearing up.)

Peepo by the Ahlbergs is not racially diverse but does show a loving caring family with an interesting back story of World War II (and is another one which will make you cry. Basically all kids' books make me cry!)

You Choose is awesome.

Oliver Jeffers is a lovely illustrator and all his books are pretty interesting, esp The Day the Crayons Quit.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:17 AM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine was involved with these two gorgeous un-dumbed-down Shakespeare poetry for children board books, which both got Kirkus starred reviews: Behowl the Moon (aka "rarrr" in our household) and The Wild Waves Whist.
posted by nonane at 9:35 AM on February 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


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