Top 5 Books for Babies and Toddlers

One of the great things about ABC is that the people who buy the stock for the store usually really love the sort of books they buy. I’m one of the children’s books buyers in Amsterdam, and my passion is picture books. Especially the sort of picture books designed for babies and toddlers. Here are five of my favorites

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

In my opinion, this is the finest picture book ever created, and the board book format is the best edition to buy it in. I remember this from my own childhood, and each time I read it – and I still do read it regularly! – I’m transported to a time when I was five years old and I thought this was the most delicious book I had ever seen. I think it still is.

I love the bold paper-collage pictures, the die-cut holes in the foods the greedy bug eats, and the way the pages change size as the book progresses. I also like the way Carle cleverly incorporates basic concepts like numbers and the days of the week into his story, making this a great book for use in classrooms. It’s the perfect baby book, and the perfect picture book for the under 5’s too.

2. Alphabooks by Julie Aigner-Clark

I’m not usually a fan of books based on children’s TV shows or films. They seem to be written by people who have no idea about what makes a good children’s  book, in the knowledge that they will sell just because of the characters they are tied to, rather than because they have any merit in and of themselves.

That being said, I think that this box of 26 little board books, based on the popular Baby Einstein DVDs is excellent, in all sorts of ways. The books have engaging pictures that include photos and fine art, as well as images of the Baby Einstein characters. There are 6 pages in each book, one word per page, and the choice of words, even for the tricky letters like X and Q, are clever and interesting. Each book is the perfect size for little hands, and great to share and talk about, and small enough to be taken everywhere.

3. Peek-A-Who? by Nina Laden

On one side of each two-page spread in this colorful book are the words “Peek-a…”, and on the other is a hole with something hiding behind it. What could it be? Turn the page to find out! It could be a cow (Peek-a-MOO!) or a ghost (Peek-a-BOO!) or your own face reflected in the mirror at the back (Peek-a-YOU!)

The pictures are bold enough for the youngest of babies, and the text is short and predictable enough to help little readers predict when to turn the page. Peek-A-Who? is silly and funny and cute and never gets old.

4. Peepo by Janet and Allen Ahlberg

This book from the early 80’s harks back to a much earlier time in the authors’ childhoods, when baths were taken in front of the kitchen hearth and toys came without batteries. For that reason, it seems to be ignored in our Amsterdam children’s section, which is a huge shame, because it really is a delightful book, perfect for bedtime reading.

Gentle, relaxing, rhyming text and illustrations on one side of each spread shows a baby in his crib, or high chair, in his bath, or baby carriage. Opposite is peephole with a tiny peek at what baby might be looking at. Turn the page and a there’s detailed, whimsical baby’s-eye-view of a typical daily activity – a walk in the park, bedtime, dinner time. The book exudes warmth and love, the text and pictures tell a tale of a baby much adored and doted on. Peepo is lovely to snuggle up with and to fall asleep to.

5. Where’s Spot by Eric Hill

Naughty Spot’s mum has called him for dinner, but Spot is hiding somewhere in the house. Lift the flaps and help her find him!

There are so many excellent lift-the-flap books with a similar format that it’s hard to choose just one. But Where’s Spot is the granddaddy of them all. First published in 1980 –  it was one of the very first lift-the-flap books – it has aged very well, perhaps only the typeface, giving it away. The pictures are bold and spare, the text could not be simpler, and the surprises behind the flaps are a lot of fun. It’s an essential first book, a guaranteed hit with the youngest of readers.