Normally, the book lists I put together for this site are collections of recently published books that have received high praise from professional book reviewers and from readers. This month, I wasn’t overly excited by a ton of the newly released baby and toddler books, so I wanted to try a different direction.
At the same time, I started thinking about the plethora of upcoming friends’ and relatives’ birthdays and wondered if there’s a time of the year when there are a higher number of new babies born. Information nerd that I am, I checked out birth statistics on the CDC website, and sure enough! In the U.S., there are usually more babies born in August than in other months. And what does that mean for July? Baby showers!!
If you’re headed to a baby shower sometime soon, you might be brainstorming gift options. Hopefully this’ll help.
(Because this list deviates from this site’s norm, the links go to Amazon, instead of a page containing more book info and links to find the book in a library or independent book store. The publication dates for the classic books are too far back for the usual list style to work on this site. :D)
Please note that many of these books will not be suitable for a young baby. When babies are little, they might enjoy looking at the colorful pictures in these stories. A baby's favorite thing to do with a book though, once they're coordinated enough, is to eat the book. Mmm! For that, there are a few materials that are made to withstand a good gnawing (Indestructibles books, "soft books," and some DK books are examples).
For toddlers, who are eager to participate, but are rough on paper pages, board books are the way to go. They're made of heavy cardboard, which is ideal for developing those fine motor skills, while keeping the book safe. A number of the books below are available in board book format. The books in this list that aren't available as board books are likely intended for an older audience -- preschool to second grade usually.
Though these books will be given to babies (and are thusly mixed in with the baby/toddler picks), many of these books will be enjoyed even more when the baby is a bit bigger.
If you’re interested in going with a classic book for a baby shower gift, you might want to coordinate with other shower friends (which could be a fun little side thing) to avoid giving multiple copies of the same book. Classic children’s books are a wonderful gift – they create an awesome foundation for the new little one’s future library. Also, chances are good that the parents-to-be already have fond memories of reading these books when they were little. One day, the parents can share those memories with their children, plus those warm, fuzzy book feelings will be carried over during story times with the new baby!
Originally published in 1947, Goodnight Moon has been loved by children for decades. It features a bunny tucked into bed, saying goodnight to all the familiar objects in its softly lit room. This process of acknowledgement and farewell to the comforting sights of the bunny’s room is seemingly relatable, even to the youngest children.
With its colorful collages and rhythmic text, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? teaches colors and objects in a delightful, exuberant chorus.
The basics of counting, the magic of metamorphosis, and most of all – the fun of poking your fingers through the holes in the pages are highlights of the beloved story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
This treasured tale by Dr. Seuss is an inspirational story of things to come for the new person – adventures, action, and the inevitable bumps in the road of life. Despite the honesty about life’s bumps, Oh, the Places You'll Go! maintains an encouraging, triumphant tone throughout and is ever a popular pick for babies, graduates – anyone setting out on a new adventure.
Ferdinand is a bull who loves his peaceful life, sitting quietly under his favorite cork tree, smelling flowers. Things are shaken up when he’s taken out of his favorite spot and placed in a bullfight, but all’s well in the end. Ferdinand the Bull is a wonderful story about the pleasures of a tranquil life.
The Giving Tree is a story about love and self-sacrifice. Throughout the stages of his life, a loving tree provides the boy and then the man, with whatever he needs at the time. There’s a bit of sadness, but the story resonates with truth about parental love.
For the love of goodness, do NOT read Love You Forever when you are pregnant! You’ll be reduced to a sodden, mascara-streaked mess. O.K., who am I kidding. I can never read this book without crying. Love You Forever beautifully captures the deep, unconditional love that a parent feels for their child.
Harold and the Purple Crayon is a story about the power of imagination. About a boy who goes on a magical journey armed only with a giant purple crayon, the book offers a subtle lesson about possessing the tools and the ability to create a life of one’s own choosing.
More Modern, But Mainstream
If you’d like to go a bit more modern with your book choice, but would still prefer a book that’s received a lot of praise, there are some wonderful choices. These books have proven themselves to be hits with parents and are a likely success with your baby shower honorees and with their new child. Also, these stories will likely be a fresh experience, which might turn out to be a gift in itself after parents have read their little book fan Brown Bear, Brown Bear 800 times.
Little Blue Truck is a rollicking, rhythmic tale about friendship. The artwork, the story, and the theme feel downright wholesome and heartwarming, but oh so much fun.
Do you remember having a special stuffy or blankie that was worn, and sometimes borderline gross that you would not be separated from as a child? Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale encapsulates the story of the unthinkable (and the inevitable) when that treasured object goes missing. The illustrations are a creative blend of black and white photos and colorful drawings. This book is simultaneously funny and sweet.
Press Here is a book that is full of a certain kind of magic. It's almost like when you were little and your uncle pulled a quarter out of your ear. Like most kids you were probably mystified, thinking how did he do that? This interactive story invites readers to press brightly colored dots and watch as they magically multiply or transform. It's wonderfully creative.
Parenting a new baby can be exhausting and sometimes a little levity is just the right thing for a new parent. Toot is silly fun for the reader and child. If you’re not sure about this title, Patricelli’s other books cover a spectrum of baby and toddler topics such as bath time and binkies.
This book bears a lot of similarities to Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. They both see with an eye towards a life to come. The Wonderful Things You Will Be tends to look more at the parent’s wishes for their children’s future.
Duncan wants to color, but when he opens his box of crayons, all he finds is a stack of letters… from the crayons. The crayons are incensed over their unfair treatment – blue is tired of filling in all those bodies of water; black wants more to do than just outline, and so on. The Day the Crayons Quit is lots of fun and very original.
A little fish finds a hat that fits him perfectly. The enormous fish that owns the hat won’t wake up. Definitely. This is Not My Hat won the 2013 Caldecott Medal. It’s a humorous story that gives readers openings to playfully guess at what might happen next. The marvelous illustrations could be great tools for learning perspective.
This is Not My Hat Book Trailer:
Great fun to read aloud, this rhyming book is a bedtime story that tells the tale of a poor baby llama that has been tucked into bed, but starts feeling lonely when his mother turns out the light, says goodnight, and leaves the room. Llama Llama Red Pajama is a humorously urgent story with a peaceful ending spotlighting an oh-so-familiar scenario to parents of small children. This book could be a lighthearted way to ease bedtime fears.
Most of these books aren’t hot off the presses new. They’ve had a chance to prove themselves with critics and to some extent, with readers. Still, they are the stuff of classics – with timeless stories and extraordinary illustrations. There’s less of a chance that your book choice will be a duplicate by choosing one of these books. You’ll also be introducing parents to something wonderful and new, which is always a treat.
Last Stop on Market Street won the 2016 Newbery Award for excellence in children’s writing. This is unusual for a picture book (most recipients are novel-length books), but so well deserved. It is a book that subtly presents a range of human diversity, but through the skillful and touching story, shows how we are all connected. The story never seems like a lesson, but the vivid characters create a warm tale that gets to the heart of the goodness in people.
Flora and the Peacocks is a wordless picture book that tells the story of a friendship between a girl and two peacocks who dance through the pages of the story – the girl with her fan, the peacocks with their feathers. Beautiful artwork and inspired placement of liftable flaps make this book excel.
Flora and the Peacocks Book Trailer:
(FYI… In relation to the other newer books on this portion of the list, this book is quite popular.) From the previous book with no words, we move on to a book with no pictures! The premise of The Book With No Pictures is that the person reading the book must say everything that’s in the book, even if it’s an utterly silly sound or a false exclamation. Super silly fun.
The Night Gardener is a book that captures absolute wonder through gorgeous artwork. The story is of a community that is awakened, united, and transformed through the power of art.
I Hear a Pickle is an exploration of the senses, told through tiny vignettes that portray familiar childhood experiences. The character’s expressions and their subtle revelations make this book a hit with young children.
A bedtime story that begins in the city and travels to the country displays, in brief, some of the delights of each setting. The Moon is Going to Addy's House is a story full of wonder, capturing the perspective of a child, all told through exquisite cut-paper collages.
The Moon is Going to Addy's House Book Trailer:
Thunder Boy Jr. is about a boy who isn’t satisfied with merely being a junior. He wants his own name that reflects his unique traits. The artwork in this book is dynamic, bold, and expertly conveys the young boy’s electric energy.
Finding Winnie is the true story of the real-live black bear that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. The story is thoughtfully conveyed and the artwork is beautiful – finely detailed, but so warm. The “Album” of photos adds richness to the story, and includes images of the bear and the military company that she was briefly a part of, the journal of the military veterinarian who purchased Winnie from a trapper, and more.
Finding Winnie Book Trailer:
Choose Your Own
At a surprise baby shower at my former librarian job, my coworkers each presented me with a book that had special meaning for her as a child. This was such a wonderful gift! It meant that each book came with its own story, which my book-loving coworkers shared with me individually during the weeks that followed. These stories were really special and added to the significance of the gift books.
If I were to pick a story for a friend that I loved during childhood, it would be Leo the Late Bloomer. It’s a sweet story with gorgeous, vibrant artwork about a tiger cub who can’t read, can’t write, can’t draw, and is a messy eater. Then one day, he blooms! Then all is well. I loved Leo.
What great book from your childhood would you pick to share with a friend and their new arrival?
Seeing stars? Professional book reviewers only award a star to exceptional books. More than one star means experts from multiple organizations felt the book was outstanding.
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Hi! I'm Sarah. I'm a former librarian and mother of two -- a teen daughter and a preschooler son. We love to play outdoors... and read. :)
This site is all about discovering great books to share with kids and teens. ...Read more