Helen Oxenbury is the illustrator of 2008's instant classic written by Mem Fox, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, happily now available as a padded board book at a very reasonable price. I first discovered Oxenbury more than sixteen years ago when my mother-in-law- gave my infant daughter a subscrription to BABYBUG Magazine, a member of the superb Cricket family of advertisement free magazines for kids of all ages. BABYBUG is a 24 page magazine with thick, difficult to tear pages that consists of stories, poems, songs and bright, colorful artwork. When we first started reading BABYBUG, Oxenbury's toddler Tom and his stuffed monkey Pippo were the featured characters and a story about them appeared every month while the rest of the content of the magazine was always changing. Now, curly haired Kim and her stuffed rabbit Carrots, written and illustrated by Clara Vulliamy, are the featured continuing story in each issue.
It's My Birthday, first published in 1993, is also now available in a padded board book at a very reasonable price and it is wonderful! On the first page, we see a little person, maybe a boy, maybe a girl - you choose - who says, "It's my birthday and I'm going to make a cake."
From there the little baker goes from house to house, animal to animal, collecting ingredients for the cake. The chickens, of course, provide the eggs, the cat's the milk, the bear the flour. Picnicking otters spare a stick of butter and so on. When the cake is made and the cherries arranged on the top, the birthday baby sits down to celebrate and share with friends! This book is perfect for the two and under crowd. Animals can be pointed out and named and their noises mimicked.
MORE BIRTHDAY THEMED BOARD BOOKS
FOR TODDLERS AND BABIES!
I have to start with the amazing Amy Krouse Rosenthal, author of many delightful picture books, including The Wonder Book, Little Pea, Spoon and the Cookies books. Rosenthal is also the creator/author of several journals for families that include The Belly Book, The Sibling Book, The Grandparent Book, Words to Remember: A Journal For Your Child's Sweet and Amusing Sayings, and The Birthday Book. Born from the idea that birthdays provide the perfect annual event to record memories from your child's life, you start at birth and fill it out up to the eighteenth birthday. Besides providing questions and suggestions about what to record, there are places for pictures and envelopes for mementos like invitations and art work. And, being the all-around crafty person she is, of course Rosenthal provides activities for the parties. This is the PERFECT keepsake to give to well meaning parents (like me) who are too busy with living life to dedicate the time needed to scrapbook, journal or engage in the other meaningful activities that record experiences and memories.
Published in 2001, Everywhere Babies, written by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Marla Frazee is my favorite book to give to newborns. Frazee's detailed illustrations follow babies through their days - eating, playing, sleeping, crying - and ends with baby's first birthday and a cakey mess. It is available in hardcover and board book and, in January of 2011 it will be available in the new "Send-a-Story" format for $4.99. I haven't seen it, but I'm guessing it is the perfect size to tuck into an envelope and send off to your favorite new baby.
David Carter's ingenious pop-up bug books just keep multiplying like, well, like bugs. He recently released five of his non-holiday themed books in a smaller format and at a lower price and they are super! Birthday Bugs features a present on every page waiting to be unwrapped and popped open. One page has an envelope on it with a removable party hat kids can really wear and the final page has a pop-up birthday cake and an envelope filled with candles so the birthday boy or girl can put in just the right number.
Somehow I missed the whole Sandra Boynton train. Sometimes, when you miss a train, it's hard to get on it no matter how many times it passes you by. However, Boynton's little pig named Pookie has hooked me. There are four rhyming board books featuring him now: What's Wrong, Little Pookie, Let's Dance, Little Pookie, Night-Night, Little Pookie and now, Happy Birthday, Little Pookie. In the first book, What's Wrong, Little Pookie, Pookie is moody and mama tries to find out why. Every question receives a negative shake of the head until, by the end of the book, Pookie is no longer upset. To me, this captures brilliantly and succinctly the ups and downs of a toddler's emotional life. In Happy Birthday, Little Pookie, Pookie is so excited for his big day that he wakes up before the sun. Mom and Dad oblige him and get up, too, making special pig-shaped pancakes for breakfast and having an all around wonderful day together that ends with (modest) presents and cake, of course. Also, don't miss BIRTHDAY MONSTERS in which a crazy crew of partiers crashes the party early and leaves late. But, don't worry - they send in a clean-up crew afterwards!
Karen Katz has done a great job creating many bright, simple board books for babies that often incorporate flaps and peek-a-boo type games. In Where is Baby's Birthday Cake? the baby (I'm pretty sure it's a girl) searches through the house for her cake, finding surprises along the way.
I love Leslie Patricelli's sense of humor and her primitive, cartoon-like illustrations. Now available in a board book, The Birthday Box tells the story of a birthday baby (boy? girl? you decide) who gets a BOX as a present from Grandma. Baby plays with the box, imagining wonderful things, leaning against it to eat cake and, in the end, filling it with pillows and blankie at bedtime. Again, all of Patricelli's books are brilliant baby gifts.
When baby is a little bit older, definitely check out Antoinette Portis' NOT A BOX. Similar in theme, minus the birthday.
My kids and I loved Rosemary Wells' bunnies Max and Ruby long before they were television stars. While I'm not thrilled with the drop in production value that comes with turing a picture book into an animated show, I am so happy for Wells to receive the attention that her long career and marvelous work deserves. Bunny Cakes takes the dynamic duo and follows them as they try to make a cake for Grandma's birthday (be sure to check out Bunny Money, which follows them as they shop for Grandma's birthday present.) When Max's attempts to help end up with several trips to the market to replace what he has ruined, Ruby finally kicks him out of the kitchen and he is free to make his own wonderful cake for Grandma. Always the diplomat, Grandma surveys her two cakes - one covered in raspberry fluff icing, buttercream roses and silver balls, the other slathered in earth worms and red-hot-marshmallow squirters - and declares that they both look so good she's not sure which to eat first! For a board book story, check out Baby Max & Ruby BIRTHDAY in which Max gets a special present from Grandma.
Below are covers from other birthday themed books that
you can read brief reviews of in my posts: