In our book group, one member asked, “Looking for help from the brain trust: what’s your go-to book gift for a newborn baby?” Thanks to Nancy J. Johnson, April Whatley Bedford, Suzanne Costner, Sara Egeland, Nancy Bo Flood, Linnéa Fonnest, Melanie Heuiser Hill, and Margy Stratton for contributing terrific suggestions to this list. Books are a wonderful way to encourage families to start the read-aloud habit early and often. (Many of these are available as hardcovers, paperbacks, or board books, depending on the format you wish to give as a gift.)
5 Wild Numbers
words & pictures, 2018
Learn the numbers 1 – 5 whilst discovering the world of animals and their habitats. With unique sliding circular discs on each page, children can count the animals and trace their fingers over the numbers. Clever paper engineering combined with stylish repeating patterns make this a fun interactive reading experience and the perfect first introduction to numbers and animals.
A Baby Like You
Clarion Books, 2019
Sibert Medalist Catherine Thimmesh connects babies across our ecosystem with compelling photographs and a poetic text that shows how the everyday milestones babies take parallel animals’ in the world. Rounded corners and sturdy paper make this the perfect baby shower gift!
Baby Touch and Feel: Wild Animals
DK Children, 2009
many titles in this series
An interactive and fun way to help your child learn not only words but shapes and textures too. Bold, bright pictures and colorful wild animal-inspired illustrations will be more than enough to keep your baby’s attention. This adorable picture book is a perfect first book for toddlers and makes for an ideal baby gift. Babies and toddlers can turn the tough board book pages themselves, which helps to develop their fine motor skills while building an early language foundation.
written by Haley Barrett
illustrated by Juana Martinez
Candlewick Press, 2019
The house is hushed. The lights are low.
We’re basking in a newborn glow.
Inside the cozy house, a baby has arrived! The world is eager to meet the newcomer, but there will be time enough for that later. Right now, the family is on its babymoon: cocooning, connecting, learning, and muddling through each new concern. While the term “babymoon” is often used to refer to a parents’ getaway before the birth of a child, it was originally coined by midwives to describe days like these: at home with a newborn, with the world held at bay and the wonder of a new family constellation unfolding.
written by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Simon & Schuster, 1989
A told B,
and B told C,
“I’ll meet you at the
top of the coconut tree”
In this lively alphabet rhyme, all the letters of the alphabet race each other up the coconut tree. Will there be enough room? Oh, no — Chicka Chicka Boom! Boom! Countless children — and their parents — can joyfully recite the familiar words of this beloved alphabet chant.
Viking Books, 1968
Corduroy has been on the department store shelf for a long time. Yet as soon as Lisa sees him, she knows that he’s the bear for her. Her mother, though, thinks he’s a little shopworn — he’s even missing a button! Still, Corduroy knows that with a bit of work he can tidy himself up and be just the bear for Lisa. And where better to start than with a nighttime adventure through the department store, searching for a new button!
Celebrate 50 years of this irresistible childhood classic, a heartwarming story about a little bear and a little girl finding the friend they have always wanted in each other.
Each Peach Pear Plum
Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Viking Books, 1979
A timeless picture book classic. Each beautifully illustrated page encourages young children to interact with the picture to find the next fairy tale and nursery rhyme character. With your little eye, take a look, and play ‘I spy.’
written by Susan Meyers
illustrated by Marla Frazee
Clarion Books, 2004
With an irresistible rhyming text and delightfully endearing illustrations, here is an exuberant celebration of playing, sleeping, crawling, and of course, very noisy babies doing all the wonderful things babies do best. Every day, everywhere, babies are born. They’re kissed and dressed and rocked and fed … and completely adored by the families who love them.
First Laugh, Welcome Baby!
written by Rose Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood
illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
In Navajo families, the first person to make a new baby laugh hosts the child’s First Laugh Ceremony. Who will earn the honor in this story?
The First Laugh Ceremony is a celebration held to welcome a new member of the community. As everyone — from Baby’s nima (mom) to nadi (big sister) to cheii (grandfather) — tries to elicit the joyous sound from Baby, readers are introduced to details about Navajo life and the Navajo names for family members. Back matter includes information about other cultural ceremonies that welcome new babies and children, including man yue celebration (China), sanskaras (Hindu), and aquiqa (Muslim).
Greenwillow Books, 1996
In simple, powerful words and vibrant illustrations, Donald Crews evokes the rolling wheels of that childhood favorite: a train. This Caldecott Honor Book features bright colors and bold shapes. Even a child not lucky enough to have counted freight cars will feel he or she has watched a freight train passing after reading Freight Train. Red caboose at the back, orange tank car, green cattle car, purple box car, black tender, and a black steam engine … freight train.
Good Night, Gorilla
written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996
Good night, Gorilla.
Good night, Elephant.
It’s bedtime at the zoo, and all the animals are going to sleep. Or are they? Who’s that short, furry guy with the key in his hand and the mischievous grin?
Good night, Giraffe.
Good night, Hyena.
Sneak along behind the zookeeper’s back, and see who gets the last laugh in this riotous good-night romp.
Also available in Spanish as Buenos noches, Gorila.
written by Margaret Wise Brown
illustrated by Clement Hurd
In this classic of children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.
In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. “Goodnight room, goodnight moon.” And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room — to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one — the little bunny says goodnight.
One of the most beloved books of all time, Goodnight Moon is a must for every bookshelf and a time-honored gift for baby showers and other special events.
I Love You Like No Otter
written by Rose Rossner
illustrated by Sydney Hanson
Sourcebooks Wonderland, 2020
There’s no better way to say “I love you” than with a sweet and heartfelt animal pun book! I Love You Like No Otter combines a warm message of love with beautifully illustrated animals families will love to read and share together. From baby shower gifts to bedtime read alouds all year long, this adorable board book is purrfect for anyone you love beary much!
I love you like no otter. You truly are the best.
My special little squeakheart, a step above the rest.
I Wish You More
written by Amy Krause Rosenthal
illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books, 2015
From the incomparable team of author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld, this exuberant, inspirational book for kids holds more than a single wish or even three wishes — it is filled with endless good wishes. Wishes for curiosity and wonder, for friendship and strength, laughter and peace.
Whether celebrating life’s joyous milestones, sharing words of encouragement, or observing the wonder of everyday moments, this sweet book is for wishers of all ages! I Wish You More is the perfect graduation gift or baby shower book as well as an uplifting read sure to bring positivity to all who read it.
In Every Life
Beach Lane Books / Simon & Schuster, 2023
In every life, there is love and loss, hope and joy, wonder and mystery. With glowing art and spare, powerful text, Caldecott Honor – winning creator Marla Frazee celebrates the moments, feelings, and experiences, both big and small, that make up a life.
Little Blue Truck
written by Alice Schertle
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Clarion Books, 2008
Beep! Beep! Meet Blue! Filled with truck sounds and animal noises, Little Blue Truck is a rollicking homage to the power of friendship and the rewards of helping others. Little Blue Truck is a joyful cacophony of animal and truck sounds that will have youngsters beeping and quacking — and begging for one more go-round!
Look, There’s a Submarine!
Nosy Crow, 2018
Look, There’s a Tractor!
Look, There’s a Rocket!
and many more
Each book in this series follows a vehicle on its journey across five beautifully illustrated spreads, with holes in the pages playing an integral part in driving the narrative. Little ones will love finding the holes with their fingers, peeking through, and turning the page to see what the holes become. With gentle rhyming text encouraging children to answer questions, these journeys through the ocean and into space will be requested time and time again.
Moo Ba La La La
written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
Boynton Bookworks, 1982
Sandra Boynton’s wildly popular book features her lively and spirited text that introduces readers to animals and the noises they make. A quiet final spread begs the little ones and their caregivers to OINK!, SNORT!, QUACK!, and MEOW! in a noisy animal ending.
More More More Said the Baby
written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams
Greenwillow Books, 1990
A tribute to babies and the people who love them. Here are Little Guy, Little Pumpkin, and Little Bird. Their grownups love them. So will you! For lap time, classroom reading, or anytime, and for parents, teachers, grandparents, and anyone who enjoys chanting along “more more more” with the babies. A good gift for a preschool library at home or school, and for baby showers.
Never Touch a Dragon!
written by Rosie Greening
illustrated by Stuart Lynch
Make Believe Ideas, 2020
Never Touch a Porcupine!
Never Touch a Shark!
and many more
You must never touch a dragon … unless it’s in this book! This dragon-themed touch-and-feel board book is great for children of all ages and fits perfectly into tiny hands. Kids will love reading the silly rhymes that warn of the dangers of touching a dragon – and then ignoring the advice!
Noisy Baby Animals
written by Patricia Hagerty
Tiger Tales, 2020
many other books in this series
Touch, feel, and hear the baby animals on every page of this interactive, sturdy board book, packed with appealing photographs, tactile textures, and adorable baby animal sounds. Press the touch-and-feels to hear five realistic baby animal sounds, with a button on the last page to play all five sounds again!
On the Day You Were Born
written and illustrated by Debra Frasier
A beloved classic for more than twenty years, in simple words and radiant collages, Debra Frasier celebrates the earth and extends an exuberant welcome to each member of our human family. Accompanied by a glossary explaining such natural phenomena as gravity, tides, and migration, this unforgettable book affirms the special place each child holds in the world. Many families read it aloud at annual birthday celebrations.
pat the bunny
written and illustrated by Dorothy Kunhardt
Random House, 1940
For generations, with more than seven million copies sold, Pat the Bunny has been creating special first-time moments between parents and their children. One of the best-selling children’s books of all time, this classic touch-and-feel book offers babies a playful and engaging experience.
written and illustrated by Nina Laden
Chronicle Books, 2000
also Peek-a-Zoo and Peek-a-Choo-Choo
Nina Laden’s simple rhyming text and peek-a-boo cutouts take the most loved baby and toddler game and puts it in children’s book form! Bright, engaging illustrations and the anticipation of what’s hiding on the next page, peeking through the die-cut windows, will keep little ones guessing and giggling all the way to the surprise ending.
written by Camilla Reid
illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius
Candlewick Press, 2022
The illustrator’s unmistakable, enchanting artwork, combined with an ingenious slider mechanism on every page, make this an irresistible board book for toddlers. Young children will be captivated by the peekaboo concept as they look for household items and — with something to push, pull, or turn on every spread — they won’t be able to put it down!
The Rabbit Listened
written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld
Dial Books, 2018
When something sad happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen … which is just what Taylor needs.
written and illustrated by William Bee
also Stanley’s Paintbox and Stanley’s Fire Engine and many more
An early introduction to tools commonly found at home―everything from a drill, hammer, and nails to a sander and even a glue gun. Each tool is shown in action with bold colorful illustrations in the context of a sweet, simple story about a treehouse refresh, and the surprise ending will have readers exclaiming “Aww!” Vivid endpapers will delight young readers who want to explore and identify different tools.
Time for Bed
written by Mem Fox
illustrated by Jane Dyer
Clarion Books, 1993
Darkness is falling everywhere and little ones are getting sleepy, feeling cozy, and being tucked in. It’s time for a wide yawn, a big hug, and a snuggle under the covers – sleep tight! Working beautifully with the soothingly repetitive text, each painting conveys a warm feeling of safety and affection.
Touch Think Learn: Opposites
written and illustrated by Xavier Deneux
Touch Think Learn: Colors
Touch Think Learn: Shapes and others
Combining scooped-out die-cuts with raised, shaped elements, each book is designed to offer the youngest learners an irresistible opportunity to explore their universe in a hands-on, multisensory way. Seeing the image, tracing its shape, saying its name: these modes of perception combine in a dynamic way to stimulate understanding of essential concepts. Experience green both in the beauty of a raised leaf’s surface as well as in the caterpillar that munches on the leaf’s edge. Celebrate a moon rising into the night, while simultaneously a sun sets deep into the mirroring page.
Tummy Time! A high-contrast book with mirror for babies
created by Mama Makes Books
Little Comet, 2022
The perfect gift for newborn babies! “Tummy time — placing a baby on his or her stomach only while awake and supervised — can help your baby develop strong neck and shoulder muscles, and promote motor skills.” — Mayo Clinic; And this book will keep babies’ brains busy, too, while their muscles are hard at work. The high-contrast images on one side are mesmerizing because, although young babies’ vision is blurry, they can see bold patterns with sharp light-dark contrast and saturated color. Babies are also hard-wired to recognize faces, so there are baby photos on the other side to delight your baby, and an embedded mirror — because babies love looking at themselves! The book can be spread out in front of them, or read like a book so you can enjoy reading time together.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
written and illustrated by Eric Carle
World Publishing, 1969
Carle’s classic tale of a voracious caterpillar who eats his way through the days of the week and then changes into a eautiful butterfly has been reissued in a sumptuous twenty-fifth anniversary edition with a shiny, silver-coated cover and wonderfully thick, durably pages. (The Horn Book)
Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages
written and illustrated by Marla Frazee
Clarion Books, 2006
Trying something new is never easy. Like walking, for instance. But aren’t you sick of sitting on your bottom day in and day out? Hasn’t lying around all the time become a little bit boring? This handy guide, both practical and inspirational, is here to help. With useful tips, common pitfalls, and Marla Frazee’s adorable illustrations, this book is perfect for anyone – from a baby to a graduate to a grown-up – who’s about to take a scary first step.
written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Bryan Collier
Orchard Books, 2008
Welcome to the warm circle of your daddy’s arms, the slippery kisses of your giddy grandmother, and the cool tickle of Mommy’s nose rubbing against your belly button.“Lulling, poetic text and captivating illustrations feature an African American family welcoming a new baby to the wonders of the world: from chocolate fudge to moonlight.
Where is Little Fish?
written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins
Candlewick Press, 2018
Is that Little Fish hiding behind the yellow coral? No, it’s stripy fish! How about inside the shell? That’s shelly fish, of course! Open up the treasure chest (hi, crab!) and peek behind the red coral (so that’s where curly whirly and twisty twirly went off to!). Children will leave no oyster shell uncracked and no clump of seaweed unexplored in their search for this bright and sprightly new friend.
Where’s the Ladybug?
Ingela P. Arrhenius
Candlewick Press, 2017
Where’s the Giraffe? and Where’s the Narwhal?
and Where’s the Astronaut? and many more
Five beautifully illustrated spreads show a series of friendly bugs hiding behind bright felt flaps. And there’s a mirror on the final page! A perfect book to share with very little ones.
The World and Everything In It
written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books, 2023
In the world, there are little animals, tiny flowers, and things so small you can’t see them. In the world, there are giant waves, a large sun, and things so big you can’t wrap your hands around them. There are big things and little things in the world. And everything in between — including you!
written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli
Candlewick Press, 2003
BIG Little and more
Spaghetti is yummy, but worms — and blue crayons, and sand, and other things too gross to mention — are definitely yucky when tasted. Amiably illustrated in a bright, graphic style, Yummy YUCKY stars an obliging, bald, and very expressive toddler who acts out each pair of opposites with comically dramatic effect.