Books make the best gifts. Period. And buying a book for a baby shower means not having to set foot inside a Babies R Us or search through online registries full of products called Chew-Choos and Boogie Bulbs. I don’t know what either of those are, and I don’t want to.
Plus, these particular books make great gifts because they were all published after the year 2000. Everyone loves the classics—Where the Wild Things Are, The Giving Tree, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, everything by Dr. Seuss—but many families already own those well-loved titles. If you choose a book off this list, there’s a good chance the baby-to-be’s parents don’t already have a copy. (Unless of course they’re teachers or librarians, in which case they’ll be impressed with your impeccable taste in literature.)
It’s important to point out that these aren’t board books (the thick-paged tomes made for young babies with a stronger appetite for grabbing and chewing than for reading). Most of these are aimed at children ages four through eight, but they still make great baby shower gifts because:
A) Books don’t go bad.
B) It’s never too early to start a child’s library.
C) These are books that parents will enjoy reading too. They’re creative and sweet and thought-provoking and hilarious and, in the case of I Want My Hat Back, a little bit shocking. Plus, a couple of the books in this list will help prepare Mom and Dad for some of the precious predicaments they’re likely to encounter in parenthood.
One more note: I do not believe in genderizing gifts for kids, especially books. You won’t find any advice here about gender. If you’re wondering if the book is good for girls or boys, the answer is yes. I would give any book on this list to any child.
1. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Written by Patty Lovell, Illustrated by David Catrow – 2001
“Molly Lou Melon had buck teeth that stuck so far out, she could stack pennies on them. She didn’t mind. Her grandma had told her, ‘Smile big and the world will smile right alongside you.’ So she did.” I love everything about this book, from the quirky little character to the colorful illustrations to the great message about being yourself even when faced with adversity.
2. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems – 2005
If you’re not acquainted with Mo Willems, you should be. He’s written dozens of children’s books and they’re all amazing (and difficult to keep on our library shelves) but Knuffle Bunny is my favorite. This cute father/daughter story about what happens when a beloved stuffed animal gets left at a Laundromat uses a combination of color drawings and black and white photographs to create unique images. Also, it’s the first in a series of three books, so it lends itself to more great gifts in the future.
3. The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers – 2007
Henry loves books. The problem is he loves to EAT them. Luckily, he figures out there’s a better way to ingest the information, one that doesn’t make him sick to his stomach. Oliver Jeffers uses a unique artistic style that adds layers of pleasure to this cute, creative story.
4. All the World
Written by Liz Garton Scanlon, Illustrated by Marla Frazee – 2009
Rock, stone, pebble, sand
Body, shoulder, arm, hand
A moat to dig, a shell to keep
All the world is wide and deep
The simple words and beautiful pictures in this book will stay with you long after you read it.
5. The Boss Baby
Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee – 2010
Having a baby changes everything. This adorable book paints a hilarious (and accurate) picture of what life is like once the new “boss” arrives.
6. Shark vs. Train
Written by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld – 2010
Who will win? Shark? Or Train? Well, it really depends on the scenario. I mean, swimming is kind of a no-brainer, and when it comes to carnival rides, Train has an obvious advantage. But what about selling lemonade? Or roasting marshmallows? This book is hilarious. I love it.
7. Press Here
Written by Hervé Tullet, Translated by Christopher Franceschelli – 2011
This interactive picture book is SO simple and SO creative. It’s one of those books that made me scream, “WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS?” Well, I didn’t, but I’m really glad Hervé Tullet did.
8. I Want My Hat Back
Written and illustrated by Job Klassen – 2011
The bear’s hat is gone. He wants it back. This simple tale will help teach kids how to make inferences while they read, but it does have a slightly controversial ending. (See, now you HAVE to read it!)
9. The Monsters’ Monster
Written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell – 2012
I love the artwork in Patrick McDonnell’s comic strip, Mutts, and I’m partial to all children’s books that are spooky, creepy, or Halloween-related, so this one is right up my alley. The Monsters’ Monster is not actually creepy though, it’s sweet.
10. Once Upon a Memory
Written by Nina Laden, Illustrated by Renata Liwska – 2013
Does a feather remember it once was a bird?
Does a book remember it once was a word?
This poetic picture book will put a smile on your face and one in your heart.
11. Grandfather Gandhi
Written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, Illustrated by Evan Turk – 2014
This nonfiction picture book, co-written by Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, teaches kids a powerful message about how to turn anger into peace, and darkness into light.
*** BONUS BOOK ***
Haiku Mama: Because 17 Syllables Is All You Have Time to Read, by Kari Anne Roy – 2006
Yay! The perfect time
to strip down naked and scream–
when Mommy’s on phone
This one’s for Mom. This collection of hilarious (and honest) haiku covers everything from nap time to potty training.
[Is there a modern picture book that needs to be on this list?
Share it in the comments!]