Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Building Baby’s Library with a Dozen Excellent Books

This post is the result of a request from my friend Lea, who is becoming an Aunt. (Congrats Lea!!) As a fellow bibliophile, she wanted to ensure her new niece is well stocked for her arrival.

What an excellent idea, in a world inundated with plastic toys and stuffed animals, books are a welcome addition to a new baby's nursery. Babies won't outgrow them as fast as that super-cute onesie you saw, and are less likely to fall victim to a diaper blow-out. Heavy emphasis on likely, sometimes there are no safe quarters…

Note about links to Powell's Books: Links are directed a new version of each book to ensure link viability. Be sure to peruse the little box on the right labeled: More copies of this ISBN. 
Due to the awesomeness that is Powell's, the title is usually available used, or on sale.
Also included are three helpful books for new parents. While it's true that babies don't come with user manuals, (thank goodness, those sharp corners would be uncomfortable) these books make fair substitutions and can get you, or the new parent you're gifting, through some bewildering situations.

Twelve Books for Babies
I recommend the board book versions of these titles; they can withstand substantial abuse and the pages are easier for baby hands to turn without tearing. Best of all, the curdled milk of spit-up rolls right off the page.
  1. Available at Powell's
    Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
    This was given to me as a baby shower gift for my first daughter. I flipped through it—really?? Yes, really. The genius of this book is in the simple, vibrant illustrations that are easy for babies to focus on. The super short, rhythmic text holds your baby’s attention and leads into the identity of the next animal. Make the animal voices growl or chirp appropriately and your baby will make you read it again and again. Which you do, because parents are powerless against baby giggles and smiles.

  2. Available at Powell's
    Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    This book is full of comfort and ritual, which, as the title suggests, is great for bedtime. The high contrasting illustrations are interesting and easy for babies to see. Inspired by this book, Berzo had to say goodnight to all her favorite people and things before going to sleep and you do it, because—sleep. 

  3. Available at Powell's
    Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz
    My girls loved all of Karen Katz's lift-the-flap books and this one was a favorite for a long time. The drawings are cute, yet easy to decode and taught them body part names while having fun. The flaps will tear off sooner rather than later, but it's nothing a little tape and Elmer’s glue won't fix.  

  4. Available at Powell's
    Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
    I've read this story so many times I have it memorized, even though it's quite lengthy. It tells a sweet, reassuring story about baby owls that wake up in their tree to find their mommy gone. They wait, and wonder, and worry, until she makes her happy return. Having it memorized comes in handy, as my girls find it so comforting that they like hearing it if they're having trouble sleeping or anxious waiting for the doctor. I just start, “Once there were three baby owls, Sarah, and Percy, and Bill…” and the tension in them just drifts away.

  5. Available at Powell's
    The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
    My girls loved the illustrations, which are very simple, yet vibrant, and the funny rhythmic story about a tiny, insatiable caterpillar who drills holes through some very yummy foods and gets a tummy ache, before becoming the inevitable butterfly.  The story invites kids to play at counting.

  6. Available at Powell's
    Look at Baby's House by Peter Linenthal
    This series of books are intended for very young babies who can focus best on very high contrasting, simple images. However, Berzo discovered them at the library when she was about two years old and is still captivated by them.  She has the short descriptions memorized and enjoys "reading" the book by herself.

  7. Available at Powell's
    Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
    This one made the list primarily because it has mad Dad appeal. It was my husband's favorite to read to our girls, and he could tolerate reading it over and over as babies love/insist/demand.  I too liked the good natured story about the value of friendship and the original, interesting, illustrations.  Berzo enjoyed pretending to feed me the different animals to watch me make yucky faces.

  8. Available at Barnes & Noble
    Mess Monsters Beth Shoshan,
    We had more fun with this book than any other. We'd play right along with the monsters; I'd grab their little baby feet and stomp the car and cushions illustrations like the monsters. It wasn't long before they'd put their chubby little feet up there all on their own. This book was so well loved, it actually fell apart, and I had to re assemble it with fiber tape. It's available only at Barnes & Noble.

  9. Available at Powell's
    ABC: A Child's First Alphabet Book by Alison Jay
    It is Alison Jay's frame worthy artwork that sets this book above all other alphabet books I've read. Although the text is usually the same old “Aa is for Apple” the artwork is beautiful and filled with many other “A” objects to be found. The pictures also includes clues to the next page and vestiges of the previous. There is enough going on that it doesn't become tiresome for adults. Berzo could identify all the letters of the alphabet by 18 months, entirely due to this book.

  10. Available at Powell's
    Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (Illustrator)
    This book has no text, only funny vibrant illustrations that tell of a mischievous gorilla that steals  Zoo Keeper Joe's keys, follows him throughout his evening rounds, releasing all the animals as he goes.  The animals follow Joe with the intention of snuggling down in Joe's room for the night.  Not having text frees you to narrate the story, ask your child questions about what they think Gorrilla is doing. For added fun, dig out a set of your baby's colorful keys to "unlock" the cage doors just like Gorilla does in the story.

  11. Available at Powell's
    On My Leaf by Sara Gillingham
    This series of finger puppet books by Sara Gillingham are all sweet and fun. The text is short and simple, which is best for babies and there's no end to the creative, funny things you can do while animating the finger puppet. 

  12. Available at Powell's
    On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
    This book came as a gift for Berzo's baby shower, which was wonderful because I would have passed this up at the bookstore. When Berzo was a baby, it didn't appeal to her, the text was too long and the pictures were too busy—but I loved it. And my older daughter adored hearing it as I read the poetic lines to them, my voice thick with love, while our eyes dined on whimsical artwork.

Three Essential Books for New Parents
These make great gifts for new parents, and may save some sleepless nights. Be sure to gift them before baby comes, you know, when they still have time for reading.
  1. Available at Powell's
    The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp
    This book helps new parents comfort crying newborns. The advice is particularly relevant for the “fourth trimester” or first three months of life. There is nothing more bewildering than holding a well fed, dry, burped baby that won't stop screaming. There is help, and it is in this book.

  2. Available at Powell's
    What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff
    This book goes month to month through the first year of baby's life, explaining what milestones baby should be reaching and what is up and coming. It is filled with almost every “is this normal?” question I had. It was a little creepy at times reading the same concern I expressed to my husband stated verbatim in this book. Paradoxically, our parenting journeys are all unique and yet exactly the same.

  3. Available at Powell's
    The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley
    Sleep. The one luxury new parents crave above all others. Pediatrician's standard advice (and in the What to Expect book) is tough it out until about four months, then, if they pass their physical, let “them cry it out”. If you, like me, are too tenderhearted for this, or it simply didn't work, there is another way. This book is loaded with practical advice and encourages you to pick and choose ideas  to build a custom solution that fits your family chemistry. It is hope for the attachment style parents.

Importance of Inscriptions:
Never miss an opportunity to tell a gift recipient how much you love them by writing a thoughtful inscription.  As a parent, don't miss reading these to your little one.  My girls insist I read the inscriptions on their books, even if I was the one who wrote them. I hope my words and voice will remain with them, even after I have gone.

**Note: For you, my dearest reader, I set aside my literary elitist tendencies, with no little difficulty, and included the books my family loved the most, despite their widespread popularity.  *gasp*

Raising a Reader provides tips and ideas for helping your child build a lifelong love for literature.

Boots reading Goodnight Moon with her Oma

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