I’m not great at giving people proper reaction faces, so baby showers are uniquely stressful for me. When I was pregnant with our son four years ago, I made several requests to open gifts after the main event. My requests were swiftly rebuffed. So, I sat on my throne in front of my admiring guests, leaned over my massive belly, and tried to give them the ooohs and ahhhs and “SO cute!” they came to see. By the time it was over, I was sweaty, out of breath, and exhausted, especially because I received multiples of almost every classic board book on the market.
Look, I enjoy Little Blue Truck as much as the next mom. However! At my baby shower, I received four copies of it. Two I kept, storing one on each floor of our house. I gave the two others to grandparents to keep at their houses. It worked out fine, but I sure would have preferred more variety in the baby books I received that day (as grateful as I am that people cared to give us gifts at all!).
There are thousands of incredible books I could mention and we’ve read countless already (we even have a book box subscription from Amazon), so I thought I’d help out moms like me who want fun variety in their baby books and, quite honestly, don’t want to be annoyed by the stories their toddlers ask to read over and over. Anyone who has met a toddler knows they have their little fixations that can last months at a time.
This list includes books with beautiful messages, gorgeous illustrations, and in various styles (board books, picture books, a sneaky looks-like-it’s-for-the-kiddos-but-is-actually-for-mom book). I hope it helps you think beyond Pout Pout Fish and Brown Bear, Brown Bear—two other stories I love, and that live in multiple copies within our family.
My husband can't read this book very often because it makes him cry. It's probably the most gorgeously-illustrated book we own and the message is poetic and pure: you and your child are bound together no matter where the world takes you.
You Belong Here
If you take just one of my recs, make it this one.
I grew up reading Alexander and was so excited to add it back to our library when we had kids. I love that the story is told just as Alexander would say it—with run on sentences and carpool and brothers and mischief and Australia. Alexander always helps put our bad days in perspective.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Alexander is all of us.
This was one of the best baby shower books I was gifted. It's the perfect storm of a sweet story that will make parents weepy, animal illustrations, and glittery backgrounds. Prepare the tissues!
Another tear-jerker with glittery illustrations that make the story even more magical.
This sweet -You're perfect exactly as you are- book has an important message woven into the cutest illustrations and rhyming story. Our son gets sick of me asking if we can read it every night before bedtime—that's how much I love it.
Not Quite Narwhal
Unicorns and narwhals in the same book? Okay!
What's so cute and clever about this board book is that every animal in it is made out of multiple hearts. How can you not love a book like that? This was the first in our collection that our son was able to read with us (aka he memorized it and filled in much of the story when we would take a dramatic pause). Now that we have two kids, the ending that references a tired zookeeper feels particularly relevant.
My Heart Is Like a Zoo
A catchy little board book that doesn't get annoying after the 100th time reading it before bed.
Cute rhyming stories can very much have bigger messages. This charming tale teaches your littles how to count, about creatures they might see outside, and about kindness. Plus, it ends with a great, big hug!
Little Bitty Friends
A charming little board book about appreciating sweet moments in nature.
My favorite thing about this book is that our three-year-old son flips through it with our one-year-old daughter. He points to the cow and she says Moooo! and it's the cutest thing in the world. This is a simple and beautiful book that grows with your kiddos, and it is so pretty you'll want to keep it around long after they've moved on to longer stories.
Jane Foster's Black and White
A display-worthy book full of Scandinavian-inspired illustrations that will mesmerize any baby starting soon after they're born.
In the 10th anniversary edition of this classic, the author/illustrator included a section about the evolution of Otis's character and scene development. We always see the end product, and not necessarily the process, so as a big book nerd, I loved that addition. The story, too, is a charmer: a little tractor lulls a brown calf to sleep with the purr of his motor. They become best friends and help each other out of a pickle.
I am very much a sucker for stories about unlikely friendships.
The central message in this book is about a child who loves spending time with her mama, even when her mama isn't feeling herself because of postpartum depression/anxiety. It reminds moms that our children love us just as we are and shows children that mama putting her needs first is better for the whole family.
I Love My Happy Mama
It may look like a board book for your baby, but it's also a board book for you, mama.
I can't keep myself from smiling every time we read this book. The message is an important one: that happiness is an inside job. Through a series of affirmations, the little pig in this story does a fabulous job relaying that it's important to be your own best friend. That's something we could all stand to hear more often.
I Like Me
Teaching our kids self love starts early.