Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Books

Books for Birthdays: Gift ideas for all ages!

Reposted from

The problem: it’s Saturday morning, there’s a birthday party this afternoon, and you haven’t managed to sort out a present for the birthday kid. What’s a busy parent to do? Enter this handy guide to buying books for birthdays, featuring titles categorized by age and interest.

Entertaining, educational, and (relatively) inexpensive, books make great birthday presents. I love giving books to my niece and nephews, and when it’s time for the birthday party circuit at the end of the summer, I usually buy half a dozen copies of the same book to give to my son’s friends. If you don’t spend as much time reading children’s and young adult literature as I do, check out my suggestions below for creative ideas that move beyond the classics!

This post is Part 1 of 2 – check back on Saturday for third grade through high school. [Edit: this is actually Part 1 of 3 – here’s Part 2 for elementary school and Part 3 for teens.]

Books for Birthdays, Part 1: Gift ideas for babies and children up to second grade

Babies (up to 2 years old)

If I Were A Fox (Jellycat): Touch-and-Feel books are perfect for babies, and these beautifully made books by Jellycat will suit the youngest readers and their parents. Jellycat makes this title for a whole range of animals, so if foxes don’t strike your fancy, try If I Were A Hedgehog/Elephant/Lion…you get the picture.

Who’s There? (Crozon): My favorite lift-the-flap book! Crozon’s illustrations are whimsical and clever; the same sombrero that rests on Dog’s head flips to become a sailor hat on Cat, and pudgy fingers can peel a paper banana to see what’s inside. Both of my boys (ages 3 and 1) loved this book!

Please, Baby, Please (Lee): From too-early wake-ups to cereal-bowls-as-hats, this title sweetly captures the whimsical adventures of baby as she makes her way through the day one mess at a time. Funny for parents and little ones alike!

Toddlers (2 to 3 years old)

The Cow Loves Cookies (Wilson): From the author of Bear Snores On comes this sugary sweet story about farm animals. With her usual rhythm and rhyme, Wilson crafts a riddle about what animals normally eat and why the cow loves cookies instead of her usual food. It’s a modern classic!

Tap the Magic Tree (Matheson): This interactive story puts the power of seasonal change in readers’ fingertips: follow the book’s instructions and watch magic unfold. If you have a fidgety little one, I highly recommend this title to help you harness that energy for storytime.

Interrupting Chicken (Stein): I gave my niece this book when she was around 3 years old, and she was still requesting it as a bedtime read in first grade! Stein’s funny story about a little chicken who can’t wait to talk will entertain readers of all ages.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old)

Journey (Becker): A picture book in the most literal sense, this story without words encourages creative storytelling from parents and young learners. My son loves to “read” this story about a girl who goes on a magical journey and meets a new friend. Wrap it up with a box of chalk and your recipient will be able to draw her own

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Chalk (Thomson): Again, we’re into the picture-only books in our house! This slightly scary story about chalk drawings coming to life in the park will delight imaginative kids and also pairs well with a box of sidewalk chalk (obviously).

Waiting (Henkes): This beautifully illustrated picture book with simple text perfectly captures life’s ebb and flow from the perspective of toys resting on a windowsill watching the world (gradually) pass by.

Tiddler (Donaldson): If you love The Gruffalo or you know a little one who likes to tell tall tales, Tiddler the Story-Telling Fish is the book for you! Donaldson’s rhythmic undersea adventure will tempt young readers to join in on the chorus.

Kindergarteners (5 to 6 years old)

Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover (Bell): Rabbit and Robot must navigate the ups and downs of their first sleepover – and Rabbit’s attempts to control everything. This funny, creative story about friendship and differences is great for early early readers – it’s more challenging than a classic picture book, but easier than The Magic Treehouse books. Plus, it’s part of a series, so happy readers can enjoy Rabbit and Robot’s other adventures down the line.

Last Stop on Market Street (de la Peña): In this story about the power of community, a boy and his grandmother travel through their city on the bus to help others. Beautifully written and accompanied by vibrant illustrations, this story belongs in every child’s library.

First & Second Graders (6 to 8 years old)

Maps (Mizielinska): Travelers young and old will be enthralled by this oversized, illustrated encyclopedia of countries around the world. It’s not a story, but young learners will pour over the intricate maps as they learn about each country’s unique (and not stereotypical) culture. Buy the coordinating workbook for older kids.

Geronimo Stilton: Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye: Follow Geronimo, a mouse on a journalistic mission, as he investigates mysteries around the world! With cartoon-style illustrations and colorful (literally) text, this series is perfect for beginning readers.

Otto the Book Bear (Cleminson): Technically, this title would also suit preschoolers – with soft, classic illustrations, children of all ages will love this story featuring a cuddly bear who comes alive and wanders away from his storybook home. When he’s accidentally separated from the familiar pages he loves, Otto struggles to find a new, cozy place to live. It’s a big world out there, even for a bear!



Texan, teacher, writer, reader: that’s me in a nutshell. Originally from Texas, I now live in London with my husband (he’s a Brit) and our two boys. I spend my time devouring books (especially young adult/middle grade fiction), baking cookies and generally going in ten directions at once. More than a decade ago, I moved to London for a teaching job, met my husband, stayed, and started a family. The last few years have been a whirlwind: in 2013, we moved to Austin, TX and I decided to stay at home with our son; in 2014, we bought and renovated a house in South Austin; in 2015, we welcomed our second son at a local birth center...and in 2016, we packed up and moved back to London! 2017 is set to see more changes as our eldest little starts school and I head back to the classroom. Read on for renovation info, book reviews, creative writing posts, and the general flotsam and jetsam of my life.

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