My sister is a specialist in early childhood reading, and she generously shared a list of the best books for babies, by age, last year. I found that minimagpie gravitated towards and loved every single book she recommended, so if you’re starting a library for your future child or looking for a creative gift for a book-loving mom-to-be, be sure to include all of them! I also wanted to share a couple of additions that mini has been nuts about:
+Pig the Pug. For the most part, we only read mini board books these days. She has already ripped or mangled the pages of several regular books, so I tend to keep them separate, and out of reach. (I also find that most non-board books are too long or wordy to keep mini’s attention, so it works out OK!). There are only two exceptions to this rule, and Pig the Pug is one of them. She has LOVED this book since the day we read it to her at six or seven months. The pictures are big and dramatic, the rhyme pithy and catchy, and the length appropriate. There’s one page where the pug falls out the window, and I always make the same whistling sound — like a bomb dropping — when we get to it. We’ve read this book so many times that when she turns the page and sees the pug falling out the window, she looks at me and makes a sound similar to the one I make! The story is also sweet — about learning to share — and the language so catchy that Mr. Magpie and I can cite it by memory.
+Please Mr. Panda. The second exception to my only-board-books rule, though I now see it’s also available in board book format! This is such an attractive book, with dramatic illustrations. The first time I read it, I was totally mystified by what it meant — what the hell is going on here?! — but then noticed that they’re teaching a really important lesson about manners. This is quick, without a lot of words, and I do a funny voice that seems to catch mini’s attention while reading it. She loves when I shout: “PLEEEEEEEEASE MR. PANDA?!?!?!”
+Goodnight Sophie: A Touch and Feel Book. Not on the same caliber as the first two when it comes to good children’s books, but mini has been attracted to this book for months and months. It’s the perfect small size for her to open with her own hands, and there are textures for her to touch and react to. I also appreciate that it’s short, but she lingers over the images for a long time. We have read this book a trajillion and ten times.
+The Going to Bed Book. We have another book of Sarah Boynton’s that I loathe — mini loves it, and my sister recommended it, but I cannot stand reading it because you have to make a thousand and ten dog noises (“woof woof!” “awrrrr” “ruff ruff ruff!”) to get through it, and once I’ve read it, mini always wants to hear it again and again and again, until — at some point — I look down at myself and wonder what I’ve become, sitting cross-legged while making dog noises for thirty minutes straight. (But mini does love it, so I’ll of course do it.) I much prefer her Going to Bed Book, which has cute illustrations and a snoozy, soporific rhythm. I keep this and a handful of other books separate from her collection and only read them at bedtime; if I had my druthers, I’d read this virtually every night, because it’s short and cute and it makes me feel sleepy, too.
+Goodnight Moon. A total classic; I remember my mom reading this to me when I was little. I like the illustrations and find it to be a rather post-modern-leaning book between the fact that the mouse in one page is virtually out-of-frame (so clever and bizarre — suggestive of movement and making us think about the illustrator’s intentions a bit more than I otherwise would…I mean, why is the mouse’s tail cut off? He couldn’t have painted the mouse a quarter of an inch further into the page?), there’s an entirely blank page that just reads: “Goodnight nobody” (so meta! — how do you represent nobody? what is nobody? etc), and I just love the decrescendo of the book, which gradually fades into silence (“goodnight noises everywhere”) and drops us into a sleepy, quiet haze. A perfect bedtime companion.
+Night-Night Chicago. Mini absolutely loves this book — she likes to point out the animals at the zoo and the ducks in Grant Park, and is always fascinated by the page with the ferris wheel — and I kind of adore that she has a book about her birth town! She brings this over to me and throws it in my lap so I’ll read it to her at least once a day. (I’m sure there are other cities in this series!)
+Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Another classic from my childhood. My mind was blown when I learned that you are meant to sing this to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (!) Mini loves this for that reason — loves any music at all! — and enjoys turning the pages. We also make the animal sounds at each page, and she enjoys that, too.
+Alphaprints: Colors. This is such an eye-catching book for little ones — the colors and shapes are bold, and I love that the author incorporates photography into the illustrations, so you have familiar items like strawberries, pencils, leaves, oranges, etc., that they might recognize folded in. Very imaginative! Mini also loved the texture of the thumbprints!
+All of the SPOT books, but especially Spot Goes to the Farm. I think she’s particularly drawn to this one because we’re constantly talking about animal sounds in our house, and she of course loves to lift the flaps. In general, I find that the Spot books are attractive to her and fun for parents because there’s a lot to point out on every page.
+We ordered a set of these, but have not yet installed them in her nursery. I like that they are non-intrusive (airy even!), which is important because she has such a tiny room and I can’t imagine cluttering it any more, and don’t take up precious space on the floor. I also think the lucite/acrylic look is kind of chic, and so many of her books are pretty to look at anyway.
+I keep mini’s pretty non-board books in this wicker toy basket, and then placed a tray and some decorative objets on top, as we won’t need them for awhile and I needed to keep them somewhere, out of the way!
+I keep most of her board books in an open top sea grass basket that looks almost identical to this, in our living room. Mini loves to pull herself up and pull out a stack of books to read (see photo at top!)
+If I had more space, I would buy one of these for her bedroom. One of my good friends raved about it — it’s sturdy and low enough that children can select their own books. As a Manhattanite with limited space, I also love that there is a small shelf underneath — great way to optimize space and double as a toy storage solution!
+Dragons Love Tacos. It looks silly, but people say kiddos love it!
+Arlo Needs Glasses. Love the illustrations and the message that kids with glasses are cool!
+Pig the Winner. Because the original was such a big hit!
+Lola Dutch. I love a strong, imaginative, passionate protagonist GIRL!
+I hear these are a WONDERFUL thing to bring on a plane with a toddler.
+OMG THESE GIRAFFE HANGERS.
+Mini recently had a really bad bout of diaper rash, and I tried multiple different solutions — Aquaphor, Boudreaux’s, and then Weleda’s calendula diaper cream, and the latter worked MIRACLES.
+DYING OVER THIS SWIMSUIT.
P.S. Traveling with mini.
P.P.S. The best toys for babies.