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20 classic baby books every parent needs in their nursery

Get baby off to a bright start with these classic read-alouds.
Happy father showing picture book to son while sitting on carpet at home
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/ Source: TODAY

Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and we hope the little guy celebrated with one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami … and a nice, green leaf.

The colorful insect gourmand has plenty of reasons to celebrate. At 50, he remains a best-seller and was ranked second among the top picture books of all time in a poll by the School Library Journal (behind Maurice Sendak's “Where the Wild Things Are”).

The birthday of a beloved children’s classic got us thinking about the board books and picture books any child needs in her library. Books make excellent baby shower gifts and gifts for newborns. They’ll outlast that dust-gathering stuffed animal, and create memories for parents and children for years to come.

Limiting this list to 20 was difficult because we think children should have ALL THE BOOKS! But these will get a baby off to a great start.

20 Best Baby Books

  • 1. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, $7, Amazon

The Eric Carle classic is basically perfect. You can pair it with a stuffed caterpillar or a caterpillar onesie.

  • 2. "Where the Wild Things Are," by Maurice Sendak, $13 (usually $19), Amazon

Maurice Sendak's misbehaving wild thing Max might seem naughty, but this book is a celebration of unconditional love. Parents will eat it up with a "Wild Things" onesie.

  • 3. "Goodnight Moon," by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, $8 (usually $9), Amazon

The classic bedtime story has put generations of babies to sleep. And of course there's a onesie to match.

  • 4. "The Going to Bed Book," by Sandra Boynton, $6, Amazon

You can't go wrong with any Sandra Boynton board book (my personal vote is for "The Belly Button Book"). This is a bedtime classic.

  • 5. "Good Night, Gorilla," by Peggy Rathmann, $7 (usually $8), Amazon

Peggy Rathmann's zookeeper thinks he's saying goodnight to all the animals, but the gorilla — and little readers — know otherwise.

  • 6. "The Snowy Day," by Ezra Jack Keats, $8, Amazon

Ezra Jack Keats captures the excitement of a snow day through the eyes of a child.

  • 7. "Knuffle Bunny," by Mo Willems, $15 (usually $18), Amazon

Trixie's misadventure with a beloved stuffed animal lost at the laundromat captures hearts of little ones and their parents.

  • 8. "Harold and the Purple Crayon," by Crockett Johnson, $7, Amazon

Harold creates his own universe with his purple crayon, showing just how far imagination can take you.

  • 9. "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert, $8, Amazon

What better way to learn about the alphabet than through a rhyming romp of childish adventure and grown-up love?

  • 10. "Llama Llama Red Pajama," by Anna Dewdney, $15 (usually $18), Amazon

Going to bed alone can be frightening, and Anna Dewdney's llama channels that anxiety and is soothed by his (slightly irritated) Llama Mama.

  • 11. "Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type," by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, $7 (usually $8), Amazon

Farmer Brown's cows use a typewriter to request electric blankets. Labor disputes have never been so entertaining.

  • 12. "Giraffes Can’t Dance," by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees, $5 (usually $7), Amazon

Gerald is too knobby-kneed, too weird, to dance with other jungle animals, until he finds the secret to unlocking his talent.

  • 13. "Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson, $6, Amazon

"Owl Babies" is a loving approach to separation anxiety that will resonate through the toddler years and into school.

  • 14. "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site," by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, $9 (usually $17), Amazon

The construction site trucks all get tucked in tight in this charming rhymer that toddlers love.

  • 15. "Snow," by Uri Shulevitz, $12 (usually $19), Amazon

When a little boy notices snowflakes, his elders dismiss him, until the snowfall transforms the city into something magical.

  • 16. “Little Blue Truck,” by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry, $8, Amazon

The friendly little blue truck is a lively, rhyming read-aloud that demonstrates the power of friendship and teamwork.

  • 17. "The Wonderful Things You Will Be," by Emily Winfield Martin, $11 (usually $18), Amazon

This sweet, rhyming tribute to possibility has been giving the Dr. Seuss classic "Oh, The Places You'll Go" a run for its money.

  • 18. "Dear Zoo," by Rod Campbell, $6, Amazon

A child in search of a pet sends a letter to the zoo, and ends up with quite the grumpy, noisy menagerie. (Don't worry; they all go back.)

  • 19. "Global Baby Bedtimes," by Maya Ajmera, $7, Amazon

Babies are hardwired to look at faces, and it's important for them to see some that are like theirs and some that are different.

  • 20. "All the World," by Liz Garton Scanlon and Marla Frazee, $8, Amazon

This soothing incantation introduces children to the world around them and assures them they are part of it.

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