Now I’m in my thirties, a lot of my friends and family are having babies – and they need books! I love choosing books for kids, especially the ones that you hope will last a long time and become a treasured part of their library growing up. I do usually tend toward the sturdier hardcovers for that reason, but there are some books only available in paperback that I am always eager to gift. I’ve listed below some of my favourites to help anyone looking for a nice baby present.
By the way, if you have any specific questions about the content of these books, sing out and ask me! Goodreads.com is also a good place to get a feel for the content of a book, so I’ve linked their review page. I’ve marked Australian authors with an (A), as that’s been a specific request I’ve had a few times when helping friends find baby books.
Animalia by Graeme Base (A)
A lushly illustrated, intricate alphabet book with so many lovely details to discover over time.
The Baby’s Catalogue by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
I had this book as a kid and adored it – I pored over it endlessly. It’s a sweet and gently humorous collection of objects a baby might encounter in their daily life: prams, breakfasts, baths, nappies and my favourite page as a kid – accidents! The accidents page included eating lipstick, falling into a toilet, and helpfully shelving books into a fish tank. As a toddler I apparently put a phone into a family friend’s fishbowl so it possibly spoke to me on a deep level.
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
This is one to be read aloud – it’s very silly, lots of fun and is written by the guy who plays Ryan in The (American) Office. Here’s a video of Novak reading his book to an enraptured audience.
The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt
I had been handselling this book for ages when I worked at Ariel Booksellers, and so I felt personally vindicated when it became an international bestseller. It’s a cute story about a young boy’s crayons who have decided they’re sick and tired of being used in the same old ways.
Diary of a Wombat – Jackie French (A)
An Aussie classic that keeps the reader up to date with the extremely full schedule of a naughty wombat.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus – Mo Willems
There are several Pigeon books and I LOVE all of them. The reader is put into the position of having to stop the pigeon from doing all manner of things (drive a bus, stay up late, eat a hotdog). The pigeon alternately rages and cajoles and it’s delightful. These are only out in paperback, so I’ve often given the first few books in this series as a present.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The bear has a hat, he’s lost it and he wants it back! The spare illustration style manages to convey so much emotion and the slightly shocking ending makes this a very memorable read. Followed by this one is This Is Not My Hat, and We Found A Hat – great gift ideas all together or individually.
Imagine by John Lennon
The lyrics to Lennon’s song Imagine accompanied by bright, cheerful illustrations, with a foreword by Yoko Ono. It was released in partnership with Amnesty International, with a portion of the proceeds going to Amnesty.
Interrupting Chicken – David Ezra Stein
I have a bad feeling this one is out of print but I LOVE it so I’m including it here. I came across it for the first time when I was teaching Year Eleven Extension English. We were doing Narratology and it was a fantastic example of embedded narrative (story within a story). (By the way, using picture books to illustrate complex literary techniques is so so much fun). Papa Chicken is reading fairy tales to Little Chicken, who can’t help but insert herself into the story and give all the characters some well-needed advice.
Mirror – Jeannie Baker (A)
Jeannie Baker is basically magic. I was once lucky enough to see an exhibition of her work and examining the artwork’s she’s constructed is awe inspiring. Mirror tells two parallel stories of two children – one in Sydney, one in Morocco. It’s wordless, constructed ingeniously and is the type of book to foster an appreciation of the similarities very different families can share.
My Very First Mother Goose edited by Iona Opie
An adorably illustrated collection of nursery rhymes. It comes in a lovely big hardcover and is something I’ve given as a christening present.
Possum Magic by Mem Fox (A)
Another Aussie classic full of love and good things. It came out in 1983, so it’s the right vintage for people who read it in childhood to now be sharing it with their kids.
When I Grow Up by Tim Minchin (A)
A more recent entry to the list, this has just been released. It’s a joyful recitation of all the things a child will be able to do once they are grown up (eat sweets on the way to work, watch cartoons until their eyes go square, and be brave enough to fight creatures under the bed). Fans of the Minchin-penned Matilda musical will recognise the lyrics from the second act opener.
Where The Forest Meets the Sea – Jeannie Baker (A)
Another Jeannie Baker classic, this one with a focus on environmental conservation and the changes that take place in a landscape over time.
Please let me know what your favourite baby gift books are! There are so many adorable babies, and they all need mountains of fantastic books.