Two close family friends of ours have had babies during the past month (hooray!), three more are expecting arrivals in the next several weeks, and we just learned some new friends whose son is Kaspar’s age exactly will welcome their next installment in June. Maybe there’s something in the water? Whatever it is, I’m super excited to warmly welcome all of these little people, and especially to do some new-baby gifting! Why? Because new-baby gifting gives me an excuse to browse and buy children’s books, which is one of my very favorite things to do.
I love children’s books. My own childhood hummed along to Goodnight Moon, Blueberries For Sal, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Kaspar’s enjoying his own copies of those books now (all of which were gifted to him by friends and family upon his big debut). He listens intently when we read to him, even if some of the stories are somewhat over his head. His collection also includes newer discoveries—some with sweet inside-cover inscriptions from the people in his life who love him (gifted book bonus)—that are sure to become classics, at least in our house. Here are a few of my favorites:
All in a Day: This book’s cut-paper illustrations absolutely captivate Kaspar, and he bounces along to its simple, poetic text. It’s a great reminder about how special, and fleeting, the small but simple moments-- and days-- that make up our lives are… and how important it is to live them well. I like to read this to Kaspar first thing in the morning. I get kind of choked up at the end, which is really quite positive, but also, well, existentially compelling, and for some reason that makes me cry. In a good way. This is an awesome new-baby gift book about a little boy, his friend the chicken, and life at large.
All The World: I LOVE this book. Kaspar doesn’t actually think it’s very interesting right now (he listens for a few minutes but wants to move on before we’re through… at which point I try to cajole him to let me read the rest), but I know then when he’s a bit bigger it’ll be more his speed. I actually discovered it at The Strand in New York, filed the title away in the back of my mind, and happened to see it at our local library here in Austin. Turns out the author lives here! In any case, I’ve bought a copy, and I’m going to get it signed. The book’s text lilts back and forth between small, beautiful objects and activities in life (“A moat to dig, a shell to keep”), and its big, beautiful point (“All the world is wide and deep”). Its illustrations, which are expressive, vibrant and accessible, show children, families, and people of all colors and combinations doing their human life thing. It’s relatable, not preachy—it’s perfect-- an ideal “Welcome to the World!” kind of book to give.
Planting Seeds: This is a counting board book that’s beautiful enough for gifting. Its rhyming text and colorful, textured illustrations show rabits planting and tending seeds, and then preparing a feast from carrots. It’s a sweet celebration of rain, sun, soil and family/community. We read it repeatedly, many times in a row. I’m thinking of creating a themed new-baby gift around this book by including this “Locally Grown” carrot-sportin’ onesie and maybe some carrot cake cupcakes for the new parents… Do you have any other ideas around this theme?
Everywhere Babies: This book, moms, is a treasure (especially for someone hopped up on new-baby hormones). There are babies everywhere on its pages—sitting up, crawling, playing, walking, laughing, rocking… Kaspar loves to look at it, and he’s actually consistently shown specific interest in whatever part of the book depicts what’s coming up next for him developmentally (like, right now he stares and stares at the “Every day, everywhere, babies are walking” spread). This one also makes me cry. It’s not sad—but it ends with an explicit expression of how much we love our little ones, and I can barely read it aloud, cuz inside I’m thinking “It’s true, I do love you, you amazing, wild little person of mine.”
Please Puppy, Please: This book might actually be better as a big brother or big sister gift, and the baby could get its precurser, Please Baby, Please. Both come to you straight from Spike Lee, with text that reads like a fun playground rhyme. They highlight and celebrate babyhood, sibling-hood, puppy-hood, and the imperfect perfection of it all. Their painted illustrations are fun, modern, crisp and hyper-expressive. Kaspar loves both of these books, and so do I.
Welcome, Precious: This is an obvious new-baby gift book, but isn’t one that everyone gives and gets. It’s text is poetic, but not rhyming, and its illustrations are kind of abstract, although they still recognizably depict a baby’s sensory introduction to the world around him through his family’s loving facilitation and embrace. It captures the magic that discovering one’s world entails, and the intimacy of the parent-child relationship that makes that process possible. Good stuff.
So what are your favorite picture books for gifting to new babies, their siblings and their families? What are you reading with your kids right now that you’re excited about? What are some things that you include in a new baby gift that make it personal, or extra special, somehow? I can’t wait to hear your recommendations and ideas!