What books do you recommend for babies and toddlers?
May 17, 2008 2:04 AM   Subscribe

What are your recommendations for good baby and toddler books in English?

In an effort to create a great library for our upcoming spawn, I'd love to have some MeFite-approved suggestions. If you could also give an estimated age appropriateness, so that this can later be made into a list, that'd be great. Thanks!
posted by k8t to Education (22 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Off the top of my head (but I know I'm forgetting others)...

Goodnight Moon

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Once Upon A Potty - Boys' version, Girls' version
posted by amyms at 2:48 AM on May 17, 2008

Best answer: Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb was the first book I bought my daughter.

The Hairy Maclary series is generally very good, albeit with a few clunkers.

The Very Hungry Caterpiller. No childhood is complete without it...

Rosemary Well's Max stories are pretty neat. Max's Birthday helped teach my daughter what "round" meant.

Judith Kerr's Mog series are deserved classics, although we're stuck reading Mog and Bunny three times in a row every night as the bed-time book at the moment.

Mick Inkpen's Wibbly Pig series.

Jez Alborough's Duck books.

Margaret Wise Brown's Two Little Trains, The Colour Kittens and Runaway Bunny.

The Story of Ferdinand.

Where the Wild Things Are.

Put Me In the Zoo.

Alison Jay's picture books are glorious art with huge re-look value - more and more detail in each panel every time I do.

These have all been bought within her first year, and still are enjoyed at 18 months.

Some slightly later ones, bought from 12 - 18 months, include:

Baby Danced the Pollka.

Julia Donaldson's Room on the Broom and One Ted Fell Out of Bed. I find she varies wildly - I love some of her stuff and loathe a lot of it.

A bunch of books on animals, especially local ones. Town Birds of New Zealand, that sort of thing.

Also, I recommend getting books for young 'uns in board board format. Let's them try turning the pages and generally familiarise themselves with them earlier.
posted by rodgerd at 3:37 AM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Our daughter loved this when she was a toddler.
posted by mattoxic at 3:37 AM on May 17, 2008

A general piece of advice, as well: make sure you enjoy the book. Kids can want the same book again and again and again and agai... you get the idea. Actually, you probably don't. But you will. Oh, yes, you will.

When the favourite new book had been read 6 times in a row and all they want is more, more, more, you'll be a lot happier if it's one that appeals to you, as well.
posted by rodgerd at 3:42 AM on May 17, 2008

Best answer: My daughter loved:
Barnyard Dance
Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
But Not the Hippopotamus
posted by plinth at 3:54 AM on May 17, 2008

The Opposite books by Leslie Patricelli are terrific (Yummy Yucky, Big Little, Quiet Loud). They're staples when I give baby gifts.
posted by cider at 4:22 AM on May 17, 2008

Best answer: Yep, board books and yep, something you like. Censor hard. You will see a lot of Sandra Boynton (of But Not the Hippopotamus fame). I despise her cheesy font and her cloying saccharine storylines so I suggest you avoid. I also despise Goodnight Moon and Lesley Patricelli's Opposite Books on largely the same grounds.

Here are some board books enjoyed by my 17 month old at various points.
First book that held her interest: That's not my puppy:Its coat is too hairy (Fiona Watt, she has a whole series, only buy one book!)
Current favourites, in no particular order: Elusive Moose (Joan Gannij and Clare Beaton)
Jamberry (Bruce Degen)
Tumble Bumble (Felicia Bond)
Silly Sally (Audrey Wood)
Byron Barton books (we have Planes, Boats, and Trucks)
There's a Wocket in My Pocket and Hop on Pop, Dr. Suess
Yum Yum Dim Sum (Amy Wilson Sanger)
The Very Busy Spider (Eric Carle, part of the box set with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Lonely Firefly. I recommend the entire set)
Andy Warhol's Colors (Susan Goldman Rubin)
There Was an Old Lady That Swallowed A Fly (a children's classic poem redone as a board book).

I also enjoy (perhaps moreso than my daughter) The Toolbox (Anne Rockwell, Harlow Rockwell), The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats), and The Carrot Seed (Ruth Krauss).

Regular books for older kids might appeal. At our house, the ones I can tolerate are Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type and Dooby Dooby Moo by Doreen Cronin, and Toot and Puddle books (I got the Toot and Puddle travel box set, by "Holly Hobbie", which is pretty good). My daughter will bring these books to me but we will look at the pictures, and generally not read the entire book at one sitting. She also enjoys one page in particular of Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book (with the Hinkle Horn Honking Club), and she likes the tongue twisters in Fox in Socks. I recommend hard cover books, not paperbacks for smaller kids. These must be kept out of reach and used only under supervision.

Lift the flap is great for kids with the dexterity to enjoy it (my kid got into them at 12 months or so). Again, store out of reach. Titles: Who's There Spot and Where's Spot (Eric Hill) and Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell). Not quite a lift-the-flap book, but has moving parts is Dog (Matthew Van Fleet).

For older kids, like me, there are the Dr. Seuss books without morals. You can buy these and read these rhymes to very little babies that can't really be bothered to follow along with books at all and just want to hear the sound of your voice, then put them away, and bring them back at a later age. I recommend (in rough order of priority, the first two tied) If I Ran The Circus, Fox In Socks, Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book, Scrambled Eggs Super, Oh The Thinks You Can Think, and the ubiquitous classics The Cat in The Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:35 AM on May 17, 2008

Best answer: They won't last as long as some of the other suggestions, but the _Wild Animal Baby_ magazine for toddlers from the National Wildlife Federation are really fantastic. They come 10 times a year (once a month except for June/July and December/January) and are reasonably sturdy books made out of thin cardboard (think really heavy cardstock). Each issue has a little vignette about an animal (with great photos), a "match the animal" game, a letter/number/sound page (e.g., how many sea lions?), Animal Opposites (or something similar), and finally a little story called "Out and About" (drawn, not with photographs) about a couple of kids named Tommy and Tess.

My daughter was given them for the holidays when she was 1 1/2, and a year and a half later they are still really good. They're small and lightweight, and there's lots of interesting stuff in them. And they're about $20 for a year, which is a good deal.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:33 AM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman was a huge favorite in my house in the first year and a half or so - it has no text (almost) but it tells a fantastic story with wonderful pictures that allow you to make up details and voices

If I read it once, I read it 1500 times, and it never got old; it makes me very nostalgic even to think about it - my favorite baby book of all
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:11 AM on May 17, 2008

Nthing buying only books you enjoy too. Get loads of stuff from the library, but only buy the ones that you find yourself enjoying with your child. Check out The Read Aloud Handbook. Besides some good book lists, it inspires by demonstrating that reading to your child is the best thing you can do for your child, because it gives him a love of reading, which in turn, makes him a self-directed learner on all levels of life. (It's true for my own children so far.) The VERY best list for young children is the Caldecott list (with winners and runners-up). It goes all the way back to the 1930s and is full of classics. My modus operandi was to go through this list in no particular order, checking off books as we read them. If we hit upon an author we liked, we'd get all their books and read them too. We got everything from the library first--interlibrary loan, if we had to. As our children get older, we take the same modus operandi with the Newberry list. And if you are like us and tend to the more classic kind of stuff, the Andrew Lang collection of fairy tales is the very best in the whole world (in English). Jack Zipes does the best translation/collection of Grimm's fairy tales. Some other random advice: don't set up a competition/dichotomy between television and books in your child's mind. Besides being an unnecessary dichotomy, it could backfire and cause your child to resent reading.
posted by keith0718 at 6:15 AM on May 17, 2008

Also, Montano and Coffin's Coyote in Love With A Star is a wonderful, little-known choice; Coffin's illustrations of a story told in the style of a Native American myth are magically beautiful and suggestive, and the story is simple and profound; the only sad part is that it ends with Coyote getting a job at the world trade center so he can go up to the roof at night at serenade the star with whom he has fallen in love, and post-9/11 this seems very poignant, but I was reading it in 2001 and 2002

In a similar vein, Maria Williams and Felix Vigil's How Raven Stole the Sun is a beautiful retelling of a Tlingit myth (Williams is Tlingit; Vigil is a well known Pueblo artist)

Both books are published by Abbeville in conjunction with Smithsonian, and I think there are now others in the series Beautiful stories, beautifully told and illustrated for children 1-5 or so
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2008

Seconding the National Wildlife Federation magazines. They have a whole series of them for kids of all ages. My daughter loved them all, and still will read the occasional Ranger Rick at age 12.

To contradict some opinions above - we liked Sandra Boynton to a degree, and disliked Dr. Seuss. Everybody is different - even the so-called "classics" don't appeal to every child (or parent).

Winnie the Pooh is wonderful, especially the classic versions. The modern version (after the brand was acquired by Disney) isn't as sweet and heartfelt as the original. But again, ymmv.

I would avoid large collections in a single book, only because it's physically difficult to hold a large book and a child at the same time. A collection of the individual books seemed to work better for us, and got more use than the larger ones.

The children's librarian at your library will also have good recommendations, and will probably also know the books that you as a parent will be able to read over and over without stabbing your eyes out.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:34 AM on May 17, 2008

anything Richard Scarry. Especially once the little one starts talking.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have very vivid childhood memories of my father reading bedtime "fairytales" to us from a treasury of some sort.

Along the lines of this.
They list the age for the reader to be ages 9-12, but I loved when my father read them to me.

It's really a great resource for fables, rhymes and classic fairy tales.

And good on you! A big indicator of your child's success in school goes back to whether or not they were read to as a child.
posted by NoraCharles at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2008

Pat the Bunny is a good one. It's been popular with parents and babies for decades! A lot of the golden books are excellent. Another classic for little ones is the Poky Little Puppy. Lastly, all of the Richard Scarry books were very, very popular in our house.
posted by belau at 11:53 AM on May 17, 2008

Oh, and please visit your library if you don't already do so!
posted by belau at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a preschool teacher the David books by David Shannon (No David!, David Goes to School and David Gets in Trouble) are the equivalent of toddler crack.
- the Pigeon Books
- Eric Carle
- Go Away Big Green Monster and Glad Monster, Sad Monster
- Throw Your Tooth on the Roof (a great book about how different cultures view children loosing teeth)
- the Olivia books
- Harry Gets in Trouble and Harry by the Sea

Also, books on CD are a great way to build literacy!
posted by enaira at 1:30 PM on May 17, 2008

Upcoming spawn, you say? Congrats from Molly and me! She's taking a Children's Literature class for library school right now, so email me (pref. email rather than MeMail), and I pass it along to her to get recommendations. (She's unavailable right now, and I'll likely forget otherwise) Also, do keep in mind things like Heather Has Two Mommies or Daddy's Roommate; exposing kids to the fact that not all families look alike is a great thing to do early on...
posted by JMOZ at 5:37 PM on May 17, 2008

The Gruffalo - and everything else by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler - my son loved all of these books (some have good audio books and sing a long CD's as well)
posted by mattr at 6:03 AM on May 19, 2008

Some favorites from the first 15 months:

Books with few words:

-"I am a Bunny" by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
-"Pat the Bunny"
-"Goodnight Moon"
-"Clap Hands" and "Tickle Tickle" by Helen Oxenbury
-"Goodnight Gorilla" and "10 Minutes till Bedtime" by Peggy Rathman
-"Moo Baa La La La" and "One Two Three!" by Sandra Boynton (the grownups liked these more than they anticipated they would)
-"Dog" (pop-up book) by Matthew Van Fleet
-"Please Baby Please" by Tonya and Spike Lee (yep, that Spike Lee)
-"Orange Pear Apple Bear" and "Monkey and Me" by Emily Gravett
-"Mama's Day" by Linda Ashman
-"Mommy Hugs", "Daddy Hugs", and "Where is Baby's Belly button" by Karen Katz
-"Where is Maisy's Panda?" by Lucy Cousins
-"Baby Faces" by Margaret Miller

Books with more words:

-"The Mitten" by Jan Brett
-"Little Gorilla" by Ruth Bornstein
-the "Pete" books by Maria Kalman -- a lot of the writing is a little above preschoolers, but if they like the book you might both have fun.
-nthing the Pigeon books
-"Oonga Boonga" by Frieda Wishinsky
-"Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose" by Leo and Diane Dillon
-"Happy Birthday Monster" by Scott Beck

These parents aren't that fond of the Eric Carle books beyond "Brown Bear" and the "Hungry Catepillar" -- they're kind of tedious. And we don't think the early Suess books are much fun to read, either. Despite that, these are precisely the books we seem most likely to receive as gifts - go figure.
posted by alb at 6:34 AM on May 19, 2008

Sorry, coming into this thread late pretty much all of my thoughts have already been had. But let me just recommend this publisher - Barefoot Books - they produce stunning books for children from toddlers upwards.

The most popular board books in my shop (I picked the stock, so I think they're all great) are: Dear Zoo, the Spot books, The Elephant and the Bad Baby, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Peepo (and anything else by Janet and Allan Alhberg), and we have a terrific copy of What's the Time Mr Wolf with a fingerpuppet (published by Child's Play).

I could go on and on, so do drop me a line if you'd like more suggestions.
posted by featherboa at 8:05 AM on May 19, 2008

One of my favorite books (from when I worked in a children's bookstore and to read to my sons) is How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen. There are now a bunch of them (How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Room, How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon, etc) but this is the first, and my favorite.

I also like to read them "10 Little Ladybugs". It's nice and rhymy and it makes them smile. :)
posted by pyjammy at 1:45 PM on May 19, 2008

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