Sunday, July 21, 2013

For the Baby Who Reads


I realize that I owe my reading public a Books for an East Coast [Summer]: Adult (but not, like, creepy adult), but that's not ready yet* (in the meantime see: Books for a New England Fall, Part I: Children's Literature, and Books for a New England Fall, Part II: Young Adult).

Instead, I'm going to talk about baby books.  That's a tough one, right?  I mean, whether it's for a gift or to outfit your personal baby library, where do you start?  There's a million books out there, and, ask anyone, some of them are total duds.  The thing about baby books, and children's books for that matter, is that you read them a lot, so, for me, it's imperative that I enjoy them too.

My criteria: enjoyable to read aloud, good illustrations, and gender diversity.

I've compiled a list of books that, for me, meet this criteria.  This is a list of books that I'm familiar with and is by no means inclusive:

Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox, by Erin Dealy.  First of all, I really love reading this book.  It has a fun rhythem, and I love a good nursery rhyme mash-up.  It's very cleverly written and crazy adorably illustrated.  Chicken pox may be a thing of the past, but I buy this book for everyone.  Edie started enjoying this book at about a year to 18 months.

Hippopposites, by Janik Coat.  This kind of looks like one of those jerk-hole design-y books that parents get so they can leave it in the living room to look cool to all their other jerk-hole graphic designer friends, but, it's actually really good.  In my experience, good opposite books are hard to come by (they get real abstract, real fast), and this one is the best I've read.  Appropriate for babies and up.

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.  It's a classic for a reason.  It's a joy to read aloud, and is a great bedtime book because while the story is exciting, it ebbs in a way that ends sweetly and quietly.  Edie loves the last page (no illustrations, "and it was still hot") which I'm pretty sure makes her some sort of genius.  This book was well received from about a year onward.

Nutshell Library, by Maurice Sendak.  In classic Sendak fashion, these are hilarious and really fun to read aloud.  My favorite is Chicken Soup with Rice.  Though, I also like One Was Johnny.  Though, Pierre . . .  they're all really good.  Edie likes the stories, but more, she loves that the books are tiny--just her size.  She loves them now, at about a year and a half.

Doctor De Soto, by William Steig.  Edie is too young for this, though I keep trying it out on her.  This is one of my favorites from my own childhood.  Dr. De Soto is so clever, and I love that he and his wife outsmart the fox (spoiler alert).  The illustrations are so charming--my favorite is Dr. De Soto's off-hours cardigan.  This is a longer book, and maybe a little old for Edie.  I shuffle it in now and then, though her interest wanes.  More suited to 3+ audience.

Each Peach Pear Plum, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.  Fun to read, charming illustrations, and see my note about nursery rhyme mash-ups.  Edie liked the sing-song story pretty early, maybe around six months.

The Jolly Postman, by Allan Ahlberg.  This one was a real favorite for me as a child.  Again with the nursery rhyme characters, the postman goes about delivering letters which you can read.  The pages are envelopes and there are real letters to each character that you can remove from the envelope and read.  Endlessly clever.  For older children, because the letters are removable.  I'm sure the book indicates, but I'd guess 5+.

The Swing, by Robert Lewis Stevenson, Illustrated by Julie Morstad.  The Swing is a poem from my favorite book of children's poetry, A Child's Garden of Verses, and is dreamy and lovely to read.  The Amazon preview won't let you look at any of the pages, so, you'll have to trust me that they're beautiful.  Peaceful and lovely yet really compelling.  Stark colors, colored flowers against dark backgrounds, and coupled with such a beautiful poem, I want to read this one over and over again.  Though Edie's interest in this one goes in and out, we started reading this to her at about a year.

The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes.  This is the perfect bedtime book; the illustrations are simple but evocative, and the text reads like a poem.  It's dynamic but quiet, and ends beautifully.  It's my favorite book to read to Edie at bedtime.  The illustrations are done largely in black and white, which even tiny babies seem to be interested in.  We started reading this to Edie as soon as I bought it, around six months or so.

Again, this is a teeny tiny sampling of the really great children's books out there.  I didn't mention the Sandra Boynton collection, which are great for tiny babies and fun to read, or the How Do Dinosaurs . . ., which are funny and hilarously illustrated, but there's a lot of good stuff out there.  Basically, don't settle, only read what you really love.



*That I've read under a half-dozen books this year has nothing to do with it (I'm not counting The Ladies Guide in Heath and Disease or Winsome Womanhood.  Or the 15+ times I've read The Awakening).  (hashtag) thesis probs.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love the Nutshell Library, and distinctly remember reading them as a child. Evie likes Chika Chika Boom Boom (I love reading this one aloud, it makes me feel like a rapper), and I love anything by Gyo Fujikawa. And of course, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go is a part of our library. I am definitely going to have to check out these suggestions, they sound fantastic.

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