Bright Babies has published several excellent books that are perfect for babies and toddlers. Brilliantly simple, these books use an attractive picture to define each term. The range of vocabulary is surprisingly vast. The original Bright Babies Animals has been one of my sons very favorites from infancy. The small size was perfect for little hands. Unfortunately, it's out of print and not easily found, but they have a number of other smaller books available. We also have the larger-sized Bright Babies First One Hundred WordsThis another great book that builds their vocabulary with a process that they love. Initially, my children really enjoyed pointing to a picture and asking what it is. Now they are beginning to enjoy the opportunity to show off their vocabulary.
That's Not My Monkey, is an Usborne Touchy Feely Book. As the reader searches for "my monkey" he encounters various monkeys with body parts of varied descriptions from smooth feet to hairy eye brows. He can touch the fabric on the page and experiencing all the textures for himself.
We have a small pile of Sandra Boynton books, all of which are requested repeatedly. Barnyard Dance! is our favorite. As the bright cast of barn-yard animals responds to the calls of the fiddler, we find ourselves responding as well.
Sneak-a-Peek-a-boo! Where's My Kitten? was one of the first books I saw my daughter play reading on her own. Initially, opening the flaps served as a welcome challenge for her co-ordination, and she was determined to find that kitten! This is books lends itself nicely to the question, "What is that?", allowing her to practice her blooming speech skills.
In general, I think that Dr. Suess's books are better in their original form. The board book versions only spoil the fun that is coming later. Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? is a delightful exception. This book is perfect for little ones just beginning to make intentional noises as they prepare to start talking. For my children, that developmental stage coincided with an unusual ability to destroy things, thus the welcome board book form. Adults and children can enjoy making the silly sounds together. Conveniently, the book winds down to a whispered finish, making it a great mood changer as we approach quite time or bed time.
When I first flipped open We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, I wasn't impressed. The book uses repetition and alot of black and white illustration. My children, one and two at the time, were very impressed, however. Small children enjoy repetition, and the black and white illustrations contrast with color illustrations to give excitement to every stage of the hunt. We pat our legs to walk, and put our hands to our heads in distress as we contemplate each new obstacle. Then we make the sound with fury. We whisper in the cave, and even though we've memorized the book many readings ago, they still scream at the sighting of the bear. Lot's of fun!
Both of my children thoroughly enjoyed My World: A Companion to Goodnight Moonby Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. particularly at about one year of age when they were first starting to interact with books. The short phrases reflect the way a very small child explains the world, which may be why they enjoy this classic so much. The common events described in the book are clearly from the era in which it was written (1950's, US), but the presentation could be considered post-modern in style, were it written now. My husband and I find ourselves quoting lines from this book to each other as they seem to describe our daily life as well. I have a rough and tumble little boy, and I think that this book captures his imagination in a special way with descriptions of cars, fishing, and spending time with Daddy.
Twinkle Toes (Touch & Feel) by Karen Katz was my little girl's favorite for a long time. It's a simple story about a little girl who dances her way through the adventures of daily life, and lands safely and happily in her bed. My daughter loves imitating Twinkle Toes's antics and touching the fabric on each page.
Update: The children who enjoyed these books are now devouring chapter books on their own! All those hours spent reading these again were totally worth it!