Maeve Visser Knoth: The baby book-of-the-month club continued

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The baby book-of-the-month club continued

Let me continue with my list of favorite baby gift suggestions. Some of the best books come in and out of print but many are readily available.

Month 4:
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This is a lovely little rhyming book that asks the young listener to look around the picture to find characters who are peeking out from the bushes of behind the stairs. The characters, as in many of the Ahlbergs' books, are familiar ones from folk literature. Cinderella, Tom Thumb and the Wicked Witch all make an appearance. of course our new baby won't recognize the names...but will have fun with a hide-and-seek story and begin her cultural literacy. If you find a used copy of the Ahlberg's Baby's Catalog pick that up as well. It is a gem.

Month 5:
In the Tall Tall Grass by Denise Fleming

My son used to laugh and laugh when I read Fleming's very colorful, lush story of the creatures who live in the tall grass. He loved to hear me say "zip, zap tongues snap!" so I would repeat that line over and over. The large bright art is right for babies and the words sound perfectly lovely.

Month 6:
Baby Says by John Steptoe

I very much like the shining bright faces of the baby and his older brother. Steptoe's baby almost climbs off the pages into the reader's lap as he tries to win over his grumpy older brother with his charming baby smile. There are very few words but oh so much story in Steptoe's lovely book.

Month 7:
My Very First Mother Goose by Ione Opie

I don't know how I could have gotten to the seventh month of this gift giving without including a Mother Goose collection. There are many great choices but the Opie collection with Rosemary Wells' illustrations is easy to find. Helen Oxenbury's collection is another good one, as are the collections illustrated by Tomie DePaola and Arnold Lobel. The important thing is to include a good Mother Goose collection in every baby's new library. Of course there are plenty of ugly, poorly designed Mother Goose collections also, so beware.

Month 8:
Of Colors and Things by Tana Hoban

Tana Hoban created such beautiful and thoughtful books for young children that most home libraries should have several of her books. I particularly like of Colors and Things for young children because the concepts are simple enough for babies, but will grow as the child grows. On first reading, this is a simple book that will encourage reader and child to identify colors. Over multiple readings, you will find yourself broadening the young child's world by discussing pages in much more details. Which things on this page are good to eat? Which things are to play with? Which ones are soft? The book will be one that is read again and again over many years. Watch also for Hoban's book Construction Zone for babies and toddlers who love trucks.

Month 9:
More More More Said the Baby by Vera Williams

Three short stories describe the love by adults for the babies in their care. A father, grandmother and mother in turn chase and kiss the babies they love. This is a very simple book that exudes affection through Williams' brilliantly colored paintings. The baby is the center of each page just as she is, in those early years, the center of a parent's world. Avoid the board book version of this book- the art suffers when it is shrunk to fit into a book one fourth the size of the original.

Month 10:
Ten Nine Eight by Molly Bang

Once this gentle book becomes part of a baby's library, it will become a regular at bedtime. Starting with "Ten small toes, all washed and warm..." Bang counts down to "one big girl all ready for bed." The text has a lovely quiet rhythm and the objects on each page are the familiar important things of a baby's day.

Month 11:
Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

When the zoo keeper says goodnight to each of his charges, the gorilla sneaks about letting the animals out of their cages. They quietly follow the zoo keeper home and climb into his bed. There is much to love in this little book. Rathmann's sense of humor is fabulous, the details will have children looking at each page again and again, her story is so fresh and her use of just a very few words shows a perfect sense of comic timing.

Month 12:
Walk On! by Marla Frazee

This brand new book celebrates and encourages a baby to get up on her feet and take some steps. Frazee's babies are wonderfully chubby and touchable. They roll and fall and stretch and pull themselves up...finally taking steps on the last page of the funny, sweet book. Look also at Marla Frazee's retelling of the song Hush Little Baby.

I have finished my list of top twelve baby book gifts, but there are so many other titles that I would hate for a child to miss. Michael Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt and John Burningham's Mr. Gumpy's Outing are the perfect antidote to the quiet bedtime stories. Read these to an energetic, wide-awake toddler. Read Amy Schwartz's fabulous Some Babies and a baby will see that all the details of her day are really part of her story!


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