At my sister's suggestion, I've decided to create and share a list of books I'd recommend for a baby shower gift basket. The problem is, I'm having trouble choosing. I want selections that are at least a tiny bit unexpected (in other words, no Goodnight Moon), but still good enough that they're sure to please.
Here's what I've got so far--let me know if you think they qualify. And please, please, please send suggestions!
First: We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
We're Going on a Bear Hunt is such a favorite. It's about a family of five who set off together to nab a bear. After an arduous journey they find the bear, only to realize that this was not the wisest of plans. Everything about this book works: the rhythm of the language; the repetition; the humor; the adventure; the gentle tension and tiny bit of fear; the ultimate safety of home. Not to mention the illustrations by the incomparable Helen Oxenbury.
Second: Owl Babies, written by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Patrick Benson
Owl Babies is a beautifully illustrated story of three worried owlets waiting for their mother to return from a flight. It captures so simply the fear of separation; in just a few words each owlet is given a distinct personality; and the message in the end is so perfectly reassuring: "'WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS?'" the owl mother asks, after she's returned. "'You knew I'd come back.'" And they agree. Like We're Going on a Bear Hunt, Owl Babies is available as a sturdy and gnosh-able board book.
Third: Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Last Stop on Market Street won every award there was to win (including the Newbery and the Caldecott) when it came out, and deservedly so. It tells the story of a boy and his grandmother traveling through their city one afternoon, the boy asking understandable but negative questions ("Nana, how come we don't own a car?") and the grandmother answering in a steadfastly upbeat and unusual way ("Boy, what do we need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you."). The ending gets me every time. This is a book for slightly older kids, but it's one I bet every family will love.
Fourth: Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.
The premise of Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears is simple: Little Mouse is recording her fears in her journal. It's such a cleverly designed book, and the very best part is that each page says, at the top, "Use the space below to record your fears." This might've been intended as a direction for Little Mouse to follow as she uses her journal. Thank goodness my girls interpreted it to mean they should record their fears. As a result, all these many years later, the book is an out-and-out treasure. Here's an example of the fears my girls confessed to on one of the pages:
Girl A: "I am scared of flushing the toilet."
Girl B: "I'm scared of change in anyone close to me."
My heart is filled with gratitude every time I open this book. All families should have their own copy and scribble fears all over it.
Fifth: Puppy, Puppy, Puppy, written by Julie Sternberg (ignore that part), illustrated by Fred Koehler
Okay, yes, it's self-serving for me to include Puppy, Puppy, Puppy. But I'm basically beside the point--I only wrote the words, and there aren't that many. Focus on the illustrations Fred came up with, like this sweet one:
Each is fabulous and together they tell the story of the love between a baby and a puppy, and the similarities between them. Because of Fred the book is funny and has tremendous heart. So I'm putting it on the list.
What have I missed? Marcie has written picture books, of course--I'm going to let her decide which one(s) I should add. And what are your favorites? Please let me know.