It is never too early to introduce a baby to a book. Babies love exploring and everything is so wonderfully new to them. They play endlessly with the edge of the fabric on which they lay. They toss and turn an empty cardboard box before they sit in it or it sits on their head. They clang vessels and pick up the dirt off the floor. They constantly explore and are curious about everything. This infinite curiosity has inspired some of the world’s best writers and illustrators. They have produced books that are a sort of primers to babies about the world into which they are born into.
These great books are brilliantly illustrated by some of the best the planet has to offer. Oliver Jeffers, Maurice Sendak and Eric Carle to name a few. Their well thought out books will show the light to young parents as they too take their first unstable steps through parenting.
A Hole is to Dig
We start off with the vintage A Hole is to Dig, written by the brilliant Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The book is populated with line drawings of little people who are busy at getting to know the world around them.
Consider these lines
The ground is to make a garden
Grass is to have on the ground with dirt under it and clover in it
Maybe you could hide things in a hole
This book is full of similar interesting observations about the things that surround us. Nothing is too small or too large to point out to.
Eric Carle’s Book of Many Things
Eric Carle’s Book of Many Things is another gorgeous book for babies. The glossy white sheets are filled with the rich collage-style illustrations of Eric Carle which have come to define his work. The book takes the young reader through the everyday objects we see. The objects are divided in terms of colour, numbers, opposites, habitat and more. For example, the author introduces the colour red by showcasing a variety of things in red. The animals that can be found in the sea or farm are showcased as such. The parts of the body, the different items of clothing we wear are all put in this book. The items in the book have not simply been listed but are divided into thoughtful categories which a young child can look at several times and find quite enjoyable.
Alan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg's beautiful picture book is a treat for babies and parents. The illustrations are both pleasing to the ye and comforting to see. The book has a baby as a viewer at the heart of it. Just as a photographer would view the world through a viewfinder, baby too observes the world around through an actual peephole in the page.
Here’s a little baby
One, two, three
Stands in his cot
What does he see?
Baby sees his mother and father sleeping in bed
The scene shifts to the baby in a high chair where baby can see his sisters, grandmother and mother going about their work.
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth
Oliver Jeffer’s has established himself in the hallowed hall of fame littered with toys of children’s literature. His quirky way of thinking and his ability to take a simple idea to something more that elevates the reader is truly remarkable.
The Guardian reports that Jeffers found himself pointing out to things at home as he brought his newborn son home. It was as if he was taking his infant on a house tour and quite naturally this led him to a picture book concept. In this book, he introduces his infant son and other young readers to the world that they are born into. An image of earth with a plain, hills and mountain has pointers that say pointy, cold and so on.
The book opens with a note:
To my son Harland
This book was written in
the first two months of
your life as I tried to make
sense of it all for you.
These are the things I need you to know.
Further on his book start with:
Welcome to this planet
We call it Earth.
It is the big globe,
Floating in space,
On which we live.
Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight is an avant-garde addition to a baby's library. A young boy ventures out into the night with a flashlight. The cone of light that emanates from the flashlights bring objects under the cover of the night into plain view. As the young boy points his flashlight up and then sideways there is always a treat awaiting him. The night becomes a place to discover rather than to be fearful of.
Inside Outside is another offering by Lizi Boyd that a baby can enjoy, as can the parent. A little boy observes the changing seasons and gives it his own interpretation indoors. The seasons change and soon it appears life inside and outside the house become a seamless stream for the child. Children have the unique ability to assimilate nature and somehow bring it in with them. This is a wordless picture book and a simple pointing out of markers for the season will enthral a child.
The common complaint about babies and books is that they are more likely to chew a book rather than flip the pages to enjoy the tale. True as that might be, this collection of books is diverse and enchanting. These works are of some of the best minds and artists in children’s literature who were inspired by babies. Give them a go, the baby might surprise you.