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Baby to Preschool, Our Favorite Books

Elizabeth Haner
The list author says: "When I had my son, I wanted to make sure he was exposed to books early on. I spent a lot of time at the library, hunting down recommendations from Amazon, friends and family and reading many, many children's books. I bought new and used picture books and had boxes of my husband's childhood books gifted to me by my mother-in-law.

A picture book doesn't make it with me unless I love the illustrations. You won't find any books here with a faux-childlike, stick-figure illustration style. You will find books that challenge kids to look closely and develop their visual memory and imagination.

These books were all enjoyed by my child from age 1 through 2.5. The list is somewhat slanted towards bears and trains, because that's what my kid likes."
It Looked Like Spilt Milk
It Looked Like Spilt Milk
"A wonderful concept book. The dark blue and white illustrations are magnetic. There is also a board book version."
Why Is Blue Dog Blue?
Why Is Blue Dog Blue?
"A colors book by an artist, that goes far beyond the primary and secondary spectrum."
Kitten's First Full Moon
Kitten's First Full Moon
"Kevin Henkes ROCKS and this was one of our very favorite first story books. A hungry kitten mistakes the full moon for a bowl of milk and goes chasing after it."
First the Egg (Caldecott Honor Book and Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book (Awards))
First the Egg (Caldecott Honor Book and Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book (Awards))
"First the egg, then the chicken...simple text for early and pre-readers, easy to memorize, richly textured illustrations."
Three Jovial Huntsmen (A Mother Goose Rhyme)
Three Jovial Huntsmen (A Mother Goose Rhyme)
"Too bad this is out of print. My son loved finding the animals hidden in the drawings; it was one of his early favorites, and a good one for learning to pick out subtle visual cues on the page. The finely-drawn, humorous illustrations follow three bumbling huntsmen and their dog through the woods. They never see any animals, although deer, raccoons, ducks, etc. are hiding all around them."
Picture This...: A Child's First Picture Book
Picture This...: A Child's First Picture Book
"We found this one at the library and loved it, and immediately got some more Alison Jay books. The pictures all refer to each other in interesting ways; the same objects are portrayed in different contexts, so you can treasure-hunt for, say, the airplane or the rabbit throughout the book. Her ABC and 123 books are the same way."
Goodnight Moon
Goodnight Moon
"No list is complete without this one."
In the Night Kitchen (Caldecott Collection)
In the Night Kitchen (Caldecott Collection)
"This is the hands-down bedtime favorite at our house. Mickey tumbles into the Night Kitchen, whose 3 bakers need milk for their cake batter. He sculpts an airplane out of bread dough and flies up, up, "over the top of the Milky Way" to fetch milk from a giant bottle. Crisis averted, he slides down the bottle and back into bed."
Tomie's Three Bears and Other Tales
Tomie's Three Bears and Other Tales
"Tomie DePaola has illustrated some excellent books for young children. This one includes simple, straightforward versions of the Three Bears, the Little Hen, and the Three Little Pigs."
The Runaway Bunny
The Runaway Bunny
"No matter where this little bunny imagines hiding, his mother is sure to find him. If he is a fish--she will be a fisherman. If he is a hidden flower, she is a gardener. A reassuring book."
Orange Pear Apple Bear
Orange Pear Apple Bear
"This book only has five words, and four are in the title. Funny and adorable."
Bark Park
Bark Park
"Dogs of all types take a trip to the park in this rhyming, descriptive book. The cutout illustrations do a nice job of capturing the essence of different breeds. Finding the mouse on each page is a nice game!"
That's Not My Monster... (Usborne Touchy Feely)
That's Not My Monster... (Usborne Touchy Feely)
"Fun textures to touch. There are other "That's not my..." books to choose from by the same author."
A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse)
A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse)
"A persistent mouse teaches a grumpy bear how nice a friend can be. Kids like yelling "There was the mouse!" and finding the critter in his various hiding places. I was charmed by the interior of Bear's house, a classic backwoods-hippie dwelling with a clawfoot bathtub and a large shabby armchair."
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Chicka Chicka Book, A)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Chicka Chicka Book, A)
"I've heard from teacher friends that this rhythmic, catchy ABC book is hugely popular with all preschool kids. My kid certainly loves it."
The Very Lazy Lion
The Very Lazy Lion
"Popup books are fun for babies. Jack Tickle has written several similar to this one."
The Teddy Bears' Picnic
The Teddy Bears' Picnic
"This one is especially good if you know the tune to the song it's based on. A little boy follows his teddy into the woods to spy on the teddy bears' secret picnic. The nouveau-Victorian pictures of teddy bears eating, swimming, playing hide-and-seek invite repeat reads."
Again! (Baby Bear Books)
Again! (Baby Bear Books)
"Once is never enough when Baby Bear is playing a game with Grandbear! John Prater has some other neat Baby Bear books, unfortunately many are not available in the U.S.--he is a British author."
An Island in the Sun
An Island in the Sun
"Gorgeously illustrated, simple repetitive words, a boy sails to a Meditteranean island on a sun-burnished day, meets a dog and catches fish."
Black? White! Day? Night! - A Book of Opposites (Ala Notable Children's Books (Awards)) (Neal Porter Books)
Black? White! Day? Night! - A Book of Opposites (Ala Notable Children's Books (Awards)) (Neal Porter Books)
"A really neat opposite book. Each page has a flap with a window; the picture in the window illustrates the first concept, then transforms into its opposite when the flap is raised. A black bat becomes the mouth of a white ghost; a tiny bug becomes the eye of a huge elephant."
What the Grizzly Knows
What the Grizzly Knows
"As you settle down to sleep, you dream that your teddy bear turns into a grizzly--and so do you! A wonderful, positive book about dreaming."
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Brown Bear and Friends)
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Brown Bear and Friends)
"A call-and-response sort of text. Eric Carle's bold and unique paintings."
Draw Me a Star (Paperstar Book)
Draw Me a Star (Paperstar Book)
"The artist's drawing of a star leads to drawing many other things...a celebration of creativity."
Can You Choo Choo Too? (Little Orchard)
Can You Choo Choo Too? (Little Orchard)
"Good for getting them to make noises and participate."
My First Number Board Book (My First Board Books)
My First Number Board Book (My First Board Books)
"I love DK Publishing. No matter what your kid is into, no matter what stage they are at, DK has an impeccably photographed book to suit."
My First Colors Board Book (My 1st Board Books)
My First Colors Board Book (My 1st Board Books)
My First ABC Lift-the-flap Board Book
My First ABC Lift-the-flap Board Book
Old Bear
Old Bear
"Another Kevin Henkes classic. An old bear dreams his way through all the seasons of the year and wakes up in spring."
The Little Engine That Could mini
The Little Engine That Could mini
"A valuable message in life--always try. A classic story when your child's attention span is ready for something a bit longer."
"More More More," Said the Baby (A Caldecott Honor book)
"More More More," Said the Baby (A Caldecott Honor book)
"Three children get lots of love from their caregivers."
Nutshell Library: Alligators all around /  Chicken Soup With Rice / One was Johnny / Pierre
Nutshell Library: Alligators all around / Chicken Soup With Rice / One was Johnny / Pierre
"All four of these books are awesome. They are the basis for "Really Rosie," an animated musical tv show, music by Carole King. Get the "Really Rosie" CD as well."
Where the Wild Things Are
Where the Wild Things Are
"The classic tale of Max's trip to the land of the Wild Things."
Roar! (Carolrhoda Picture Books)
Roar! (Carolrhoda Picture Books)
"Stunning, brilliant illustrations of animals. Each animal is described in verb-rich verse."
Moongame (Moonbear)
Moongame (Moonbear)
"My kid loves the moon and bears, so this was a slam-dunk. Frank Asch has a whole series of wonderful books starring Bear and his friend Little Bird. This one is about playing hide-and-seek."
Moon Glowing
Moon Glowing
Little Bear (An I Can Read Book)
Little Bear (An I Can Read Book)
"We got an omnibus collection of Little Bear stories. They are illustrated by Maurice Sendak and just right for pre-readers."
Frog and Toad Together
Frog and Toad Together
"I. Love. It. We follow childlike Frog and his more mature friend Toad's excellent adventures in planning (A List), patience (The Garden), self-discipline (Cookies), courage (Dragons and Giants), and narcissism (The Dream)."