The Best New Books for Babies
By Kathleen Krull

I have no idea

What they are saying

But I like the sounds

Of the up-and-down voices.

So says a happy infant with a book in hand in Who’s That Baby? – New-Baby Songs (HarperCollins, $15.99). Babies love rhythm and rhyme, and this collection by Sharon Creech and David Diaz is a joy. Original short poems describe the world of a newborn, with clear, strong, gorgeous illustrations. “Grandpa” and “Two Big Grandmas” are especially tender.

You can’t always pinpoint what babies get out of being read to, but experts say it’s a lot – vocabulary acquisition, visual literacy development, an appreciation of jokes and a sense of the ridiculous. Not to mention that laptime read-alongs are an amazing, never-to-be-forgotten parent-child bonding time.

Babies love action.
Marla Frazee’s Walk On! – A Guide for Babies of All Ages (Harcourt, $16) may just be a child’s first self-help book, with real tips like getting support, remembering to breathe, and what to do when you fall down. There’s even a handy checklist: “Is your diaper weighing you down?” It’s always best if a book is as fun for the parents as for the babies, and this one surely qualifies. So does Bebe Goes Shopping (Harcourt, $16), a bold adventure for a bilingual baby at the supermercado (grocery store) by Susan Middleton Elya and Steven Salerno. All the important words – dulce, maiz, carrito, delicioso – are in Spanish. Mishaps mount up, but a caja of animal crackers saves the day. Yet another action-packed adventure ensues in Bad Baby, by Ross MacDonald (Roaring Brook, $16.95). It’s a hilarious take on sibling rivalry that siblings from newborn on up will relate to.

Babies love music.

And Jump Up!, by musician Dan Zanes and illustrated by his brother-in-law Donald Saaf (Little, Brown; $16.99), is one cheerful, catchy way to get up in the morning. With pages that fold out, a small girl and a quirky menagerie enact a morning ritual guaranteed to make the day full of laughs and love. Includes a zippy CD of the title song and four others.

Babies love being praised. In Star Baby, by Margaret O’Hair and Erin Eitter Kono (Clarion/Houghton, $16), a mother lovingly walks a baby through all the activities of the day, ending with a comforting: “Night, baby/Moon, baby/ Star, baby/ Bliss.” Do you have a praise-worthy infant who loves rock ’n’ roll? Check out Baby Brains Superstar, by Simon James (Candlewick, $15.99), featuring “the smartest baby in the whole world,” now living large as a rock star … who still needs his mommy.

Babies love counting things.

So what could be more appropriate than Ten Stinky Babies (Tricycle, $12.95)? This is a rollicking, repetitive rhyme, by Ellen Olson-Brown and Joy Allen, that counts babies getting their diapers changed one by one. And who doesn’t love naptime? Siesta, by Ginger Foglesong Guy and Rene King Moreno (HarperCollins, $15.99), features two small children elaborately preparing – in Spanish and English, and using items in six colors – for the afternoon nap. Bedtime rituals – putting away toys, the bath, the reading of books – get equally detailed and soothing treatment in Lull-a-bye, Little One, by Dianne Ochiltree and Hideko Takahashi (Putnam/Penguin, $18.99).

And some babies enjoy chewing their reading matter!
A plethora of delightful, sturdy board books can satisfy this hunger.

One appealing new series, by Emily Jenkins and Tomek Bogacki, stars Bea and Ha-Ha, whose differences (one is a ferret, the other a hippo) don’t get in the way of being best friends. The titles tell their stories: Hug, Hug, Hug! concerns the all-important blanket, while Num, Num, Num! is about sharing a bagel (Farrar, Straus; $5.95 each).

An adorable set of four board books is now available in Spanish: Sali de Paseo (I Went Walking), by Sue Williams and Julie Vivas; A Sembrar Sopa de Verduras (Growing Vegetable Soup), by Lois Ehlert; Quien Salta? (Who Hops?), by Katie Davis; and Quien Es la Bestia? (Who Is the Beast?), by Keith Baker (Red Wagon/Harcourt, $6.95 each). Each one has the bright colors and strong lines babies love.

Also newly out in Spanish are two ultra-simple, ultra-colorful “Touch-and-Feel” books by Barney Saltzberg that are sure to provide hours (or at least minutes) of interactive fun. Besos de Animales (Animal Kisses) has creatures from scratchy to furry, while Besos Cucu (Peekaboo Kisses) unveils various animals, then ends with a mirror – all babies adore seeing their reflections (Red Wagon/Harcourt, $8.95 each).

Little Quack Dial-a-Duck, by Lauren Thompson and Derek Anderson (Little Simon, $7.99), is a vibrant counting book with an attention-grabbing wheel that cleverly makes the correct number of ducks pop up. And babies who like their latté will savor the very funny Urban Babies Wear Black, by Michelle Sinclair Colman and Nathalie Dion (Tricycle, $4.95). It may be too early to introduce kids to expensive coffee drinks, but it’s never too early to introduce them to books!

Read about more award-winning books for babies:
NAPPA 2005 Award-Winners