Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top 10 (or 11) Books for Babies 15 Months and Under

I meant for this to be a top 10 list but apparently I can't count.

My babies love books. I'm not saying it like I'm bragging like they're so advanced. It's more like they love holding books, opening books, turning them over, and chomping on them. They pretty much freak out when they realize they're going to be read to. All I have to do to make them go insane is make the sign for book. They start making panting, happy sounds and try to crawl after me as I go to the next room where I store the books.

I used to read to the babies by putting one in my lap and one in a Bumbo seat, but they've outgrown the Bumbos. Even before they outgrew them James would hurl himself out to get to the stack of books behind me so he could help himself. These days I put the pile of books I'm going to read to them on top of the changing table so they can't get to them, and they just gather round me. James loves to stand in front of me and practice his professional wrestling maneuver of falling on me repeatedly, while I read. Their favorite part is when reading time is over and I give them a few to hold. I have to be selective because James has succeeded in ripping a couple board book pages. James is the bodybuilder-ripping-a-phone-book of the baby set.

We keep a few books on the sofa for convenient access but we have to hide them behind the cushions because the twins will freak out if they see them. (We're not fooling anybody though because as soon as they are on the sofa they're reaching to see what's behind the cushions.) At their 12 month check up the pediatrician asked if we read to the babies and I accidentally let it slip that we hide books from our children. And he was like, "Why are you hiding books?..."

Who Loves You Baby? (by Nina Laden)
Well first of all, good luck finding this 2007 book. It's going for $55 used on Amazon (yeah right), though I'm sure it must be available somewhere else. There's a mirror on the last page of the book and each page has the eyes cut out of a different animal (so far it sounds like the Room Full of Crazy in a serial killer's lair). There's also a caption on the facing page ("You are my Lovey Dovey." "You are my Busy Bee." etc.) If positioned correctly, your baby can see their own eyes/face inside the animal's. You know you have the mirror positioned correctly when you see your baby get a big grin. I've also seen the twins turn over the book to see if something was behind the mirror (but then again, they seem to do that to every book). And best of all, the babies have put their mouths right up to the mirror and kissed the other baby. (Well, at this age it's more of a mouth on the mirror than a real kiss, but still, sweet.)

Julia is my Lovey Dovey. (10 months)

James is my Busy Bee. (10 months)

Tails and Heads (two books, both by Matthew Van Fleet)
Wow. Tails is yet another book that's out of stock on Amazon, but at least it's available used at a normal price. This is marked as appropriate for ages 2-5, but the babies love it now AND hopefully they'll continue to love it for a few more years. This book has it all - textures, parts that move when you pull the tabs, half pages they can race to flip open, and cute illustrations and rhymes. James loves it so much he ate the swishing tail that moves and Mark had to pull it out of his mouth. He still grabs for that stump of a tail when I read it. He is a boy obsessed.

Heads is in print, has texture and eye-popping, clever parts of the book that move, and is actually even better than Tails. If you end up really liking these books, the same author put out Dog, a fun book with more texture and motion. (There is also Cat if you're so inclined.)

Hooray for Fish (by Lucy Cousins)
Are you kidding me? Are all the books I'm recommending out of stock? Again, it's available from other Amazon sellers. My friend Leslie got this for the twins from the Monterey Bay Aquarium because inside the book there's a "twin fin-fin fish." The story with Mom at the end is darling, and the illustrations are detailed and hold my babies' attentions which is hard to do when there are no flip-up parts.

Tubby (by Leslie Patricelli)
This is part of a series of books in the same style. (I'm sure Potty will be a winner when the time comes.) The drawings and writing are funny and charming for adults and babies. I try to read this before and after my babies take their daily weekly bimonthly bath.

Where Is Baby's Belly Button? and Where Is Baby's Mommy? (by Karen Katz)
Karen Katz has a whole series of really cute flip-up books. I have a bunch including Where Is Baby's Birthday Cake?, Daddy and Me, Grandma and Me, and Grandpa and Me. Where Is Baby's Belly Button? is the simplest (in fact it was the first favorite book of the twins) and helps teach parts of the body. Where Is Baby's Mommy? chronicles a search for Mommy who's playing hide and seek. Baby looks for Mommy in some uh.. interesting places. For "Is Mommy behind the shower curtain?" I like to add "about to have the shock of her life."

James enjoying Where Is Baby's Mommy? without hurling himself backwards out of his Bumbo seat. (10 1/2 months)

Baby Talk (by Dawn Sirett)
This is a short and simple book showing an emotion for each baby (hungry, sad, sleepy, etc.) My twins like lifting up the flaps and enjoy looking at the babies. They always seem to smile when they see the "happy" baby.

That's Not My Monster (by Fiona Watt)
It's currently unavailable on Amazon but listed by one seller for $999! (There are many others in this "touchy-feely" board book series that might be as good.) That's Not My Monster is simply the best textural book I've seen. The babies always want to touch the textures in this book, as opposed to some books with such lame textures I have to lead the twins' hands to them. The one exception is the fluffy texture - James never wants to touch soft texture in books! (Typical boy or James?) Besides fluffy, the textures include bumpy, bobbly, and rough. Rough is like sandpaper, and the babies fight to touch it.

Guess Who Farm Friends (by Jodie Shepherd)
Yet another book not currently being sold new by Amazon. (Did all my books go out of print immediately after we received them?) If you get past the surreal aspect of animals covering up their faces with their hooves to play peek-a-boo, this is a nice and different sort of lift-the-flap book. There are rhymes, you can do different animal voices while reading, and you can teach them what sound each animal makes. (James thinks it is HILARIOUS to hear me say "Peekaboo. I'm a horse" in horse voice.) Beware the pop-up tableau of animals on the last page - my babies love to attack it. There was a mauling incident we won't speak of involving the horse. Let's just say now he can't hold his own head up. His head may end up in a pop-up Godfather board book soon.

Fisher Price Little People: Christmastime Is Here!
There are many Little People books - this just happens to be the one I have. There's really no story to it. The babies go nuts for this one because each page has a lot of flaps for them to lift. You will find yourself saying what happens under each flap repeatedly. ("The frog has a long stocking." "It's a book of the book." "The bunny tripped on the ice." "Puppy dog is giving her a kiss." "The elf is taking a bath.") These sentences may seem nonsensical now but if you've read this book you KNOW what I'm talking about... My babies were obsessed with the ornament numbered 23 on the last page (not sure why) and it finally tore off from overuse. One nice thing about this book is that when you are tired or want to watch TV you can plop your baby in your lap with this book and let her entertain herself.

My brother and dad reading Christmastime Is Here! to the twins (and by "reading" I mean letting the babies lift up the flaps). (12 1/2 months)

Honorable mentions:

-Corduroy (by Don Freeman). This is the version with a large board book shaped like a bear. Not much to the story but James loves it.
-Anything in the Peekaboo! series. We have Hoppity Hop Peekaboo! and Playtime Peekaboo! (these have texture and the babies' beloved flaps), Noisy Peekaboo!: Vroom! Vroom!, and Noisy Peekaboo: Choo! Choo! (flaps that create sound if you choose the right answer).

Julia holds Noisy Peekaboo: Choo! Choo! (10 1/2 months)

Pssst! Julia! You can find Squeaky Mouse under the cheese slices!


  1. Thanks for the recommendations! I was able to order Who Loves You, Baby?; Hooray for Fish; Tubby; and That's Not My Monster off of for reasonable prices, new. (Although I'll need to pay shipping, unlike on amazon.)

    I ordered Noisy Peekaboo: Choo Choo off of amazon.

    Now I'm going to send a few recommendations back at you. Ronan's favorite book of the moment is Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis. (Surprise, surprise --- out of stock on amazon! Check alibris!) Really musical prose incorporating train sound effects, and nice illustrations. Also happens to picture an African American boy in the book, which is a nice change. This was also one of Asher's favorite books when he was a baby.

    Another great one by Nina Laden is Peek-a who? Also incorporates a mirror at the end, and is amazingly in stock.

    We have a few of the other That's Not My... books. Ronan likes That's Not My Dragon and That's Not My Snowman.

    Karen Katz' holiday books are a lot of fun. Where is Baby's Pumpkin? has been a big favorite with both my boys. We also have Where is Baby's Dreidel?; Where is Baby's Valentine; and Where is Baby's Christmas Present?

    Wilson Sanger's World Snacks series is a lot of fun, and perfect for children of a foodie. We have First Book of Sushi; Yum Yum Dim Sum; Chaat and Sweets; A Little Bit of Soul Food; and most importantly for a good Jewish baby, Let's Nosh!

    Finally, if you don't already have a copy Jamberry by Bruce Degen is awesome. Neat illustrations with lots of details; poetic language; and fun to read for the adult.

  2. Stacy, now that you ordered them I feel pressure in that I hope you like them!

    I put all your recommendations on our baby registry so I'll remember them. They sound great.

    I first became aware of "That's Not My..." books at your house. I read "That's Not My Dragon" to Ronan once. (When I went to the bookstore I thought I was getting the one I read Ronan. Now I realize I was wrong.)

    I have four of the five world snacks books that a friend gave us before the babies were born. I thought I knew my chaat and I still learned a couple terms. Let's Nosh! is my favorite.

  3. Stacy, er... I read it to ASHER, I meant to say.

  4. And Stacy, I always love getting book recommendations! I realize after I posted that I should have included something asking for readers' own recommendations.

  5. That's a great list. I'll check out a few now that I have really young ones again! My 3-year old is starting to enjoy some of the ones from my childhood - Shel Silverstein, Chris van Allsburg, and of course Dr Seuss!

  6. Thanks! I've never heard of Chris Van Allsburg (oh - apparently he wrote Jumanji), but I'll have to check him out.