I have two things for you all today.
First, a note on Help? Help!— remember that from a little over a week ago? Well, guess what arrived from Australia today? Yes, in less time than it’s taken letters from my Changeling to reach my parents in Canada, Wakestone Hall by Judith Rossell (a beautiful book, matte and jacketless with lovely texture, paper, and type) has reached me from Australia! Thank you, Boomerang Books, for saving me the cost of a ticket to Australia to pick it up myself! I am terribly excited to read it, which is awful because I won’t have time until next Shabbat.
Second, on Friday night we had a lovely couple over, very good friends of ours, and one of them said, and I paraphrase, “I have a lot of colleagues expecting babies, and I don’t know what books to get them.” I very nearly knocked over the table in my enthusiasm to respond. (Hey, sorry about that– I know I don’t shut up once you get me started on baby books…) He asked me to email him with links after Shabbat, and I was about to, when I realized that all those links might as well go here, too. So here’s a short list of some of my favourite baby presents, roughly arranged from young board books to more enduring hardcover picture books. Shall we begin?
Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden is a cute little board book for young babies, or even for toddlers to share with baby siblings. It features surprising cut-outs from one page to the next, funny rhymes, bold colours, and surprisingly lovely and nuanced art. Check out those textured leaves on the cover and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
The wonderful Ahlberg team, Janet and Allan, created this book, Peepo! in the UK, Peek-A-Boo! in the USA. Like Peek-a-Who? it’s aimed young, with lots of tiny surprises, repetition, and rhyme. Peek-A-Boo!, however, is geared towards realistic family time and the Ahlberg art is nothing short of phenomenal. Parents will be enthralled, and babies entertained. A perfect combo.
Each Peach Pear Plum, also from the Ahlbergs, we’ve discussed before, so I link you to my post there. This is a touch “older” than the Peek-A-Who?/Peek-A-Boo! duo, and the fairy tale tie-ins are bound to make it of lasting interest both to the parent and the baby.
Next up, from Charlesbridge, a lovely series called Baby Loves Science! written by Ruth Spiro and illustrated by Irene Chan. I have a lot of scientists and engineers, etc., in my life, and many of them have children. These meticulously researched and fact-checked board books are perfect for them. The series includes books on everything from quarks to green energy, and taught me what an algorithm is. I’m not making that up.
Here Babies, There Babies by Nancy Cohen and illustrated by Carmen Mok is still my go-to book especially for families expecting a second baby, since I think it’s perfect for explaining babyhood to toddlers and young kids. I love the art, the diversity, the realism, and the whole general feel of the book. And I particularly love that the rhythm and rhyme invite adding new verses with your kid!
Let’s move on from board books to a few great picture books, shall we?
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson is a classic, perfect expression of childhood and all of its nuances and beauty, from playing quietly while sick to journeying to the haunting Land of Nod while sleeping to digging holes in the sand at the seashore. This edition, from Chronicle Books, is as visually reassuring and lovely as the verses are. I still remember reading these with my mother, and I hope that the Changeling will always remember reading them with me. I have purchased many, many copies of this book for friends of mine, and I don’t expect that to change.
Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a fairly new picture book, but I’ve already given it to several friends and am trying to figure out an excuse to own a copy of my own. It is extremely simple: just a few words accompanying lush illustrations. The bright, bold art will capture a small child’s imagination, while the limited text will be comprehensible at even a very young age.
Night Train, Night Train by Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor is another very new “young” picture book, perfect for that transition from baby to toddlerhood, or for bridging that gap. Like Blue, the text is limited and lyrical, and the beautiful art will entice both the children and the parents.
Jamberry by Bruce Degen is yet another lyrical, rhyming book perfect for very young children. I recently heard from a family member with a new baby that she was loving reading it to her two-month-old baby, which makes total sense to me. The bouncing rhythm is just perfect for getting smiles out of that very young age, even before the baby can understand the funny text and illustrations, which will come before long, making this an enduring classic.
All right, that’s probably enough to start with, don’t you think? Let me know if you have other great ideas in the comments or by email!