I met 2-year-old Tacy when I sat down to read with a group of children who were waiting with their families at one of our medical clinics in the Dominican Republic. ¿Donde Está Spot? may have been the first book Tacy had ever seen or touched, and the amazement on her face brought joy to my heart. Imagine seeing a picture book for the first time. Now, imagine turning the page, and turning another, discovering delights at every turn. I think of Tacy often, and all the other very young children with whom I have experienced the wonderful newness of reading. Here are some new books for the newest readers.


Baby Day bookBabies love babies. They love meeting other babies and seeing their pictures in books. Baby Day is someone’s first birthday, and here come many babies to celebrate. There are friendly babies and bossy babies, smiling babies and fussy babies. Not much drama here, until an ice cream cone is claimed by a hungry dog. But there’s cake, and a disastrous photo op, and then it’s time for wriggly baby, tired baby, cranky baby and all the other partygoers to wave bye-bye and go home. This one is a gentle story of a familiar day, with the sweetest characters anywhere.
Baby Day by Jane Godwin and Davina Bell, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Atheneum, 2018) Ages 1 – 3.


Dear Little One bookDear Little One by Nina Laden, encourages very young children to get outdoors and notice all the amazing things out there. “Take in the sights/Take in the sound/Take in the scents that excite and astound.” Melissa Castrillon illustrates a walk in a lush, magical garden that teaches a child to be grateful for “the wind, the rain, and the snow,” and to be in awe of everything that grows around her.
Dear Little One by Nina Laden, illustrated by Melissa Castrillon (Simon and Schuster, 2021) Ages 2 – 5.


Darling Baby bookProlific artist and designer Maira Kalman kept a journal of the summer months she spent by the sea with her newborn granddaughter. She excerpts this journal in the beautiful book Darling Baby, and illustrates it with scenes from the baby’s first experiences with the world, and her own first months as a grandparent. The result is a delight, as they nap together on the grass, find stones on the beach, watch geese and fish and thunderstorms, and celebrate this new and wonderful life.
Darling Baby by Maira Kalman (Little Brown, 2021) All ages.


Childcare Education Institute


Catch that Chicken bookTiny Lami, in Catch That Chicken! is so fast, she’s the best chicken catcher in her West African village. Illustrator Angela Brooksbank portrays the liveliness of this busy compound in dazzling colors, and author Atinuke tells a spirited story of Lami’s success … until Lami falls out of the baobab tree chasing a chicken that’s even speedier than she is. Fortunately, quick thinking helps her maintain her reputation as the fastest chicken catcher in town. Atinuke and Brooksbank have collaborated on several board books for younger children; Baby Goes to Market and B is for Baby are also filled with bright illustrations of village life.
Catch That Chicken! By Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank (Candlewick, 2020) Ages 2 – 6.


Stroller Coaster bookWhen our first grandchild was a toddler, we would take her for stroller walks on a hilly road with many speed bumps. Each time we crossed one, we’d all make bumpy noises and laugh and wait breathlessly for the next bump in the road. Matt Ringler’s Stroller Coaster brings back that happy memory. An exhausted parent straps a cranky toddler into her stroller for a wild and crazy ride through a bright, bilingual neighborhood-turned-amusement park. Illustrations by Raul the Third and Elaine Bay are appropriately manic; even the endpapers are fun!
Stroller Coaster by Matt Ringler, illustrations by Raul the Third and Elaine Bay (Little Brown, 2021) Ages 2 – 5.


We All Play bookJulie Flett, a Cree and Metis artist, has recently illustrated two beautiful, earth-toned books for young children about their close relationship with the natural world. We All Play, written by Flett in Cree and English, celebrates the many similarities between the joyful ways that human and animal children play, and features a glossary of animal names in the Cree language. Flett also illustrated Little You by Richard Van Camp, a member of the Tlicho Dene Nation, which is a love letter in both English and Anishinaabemowin to a new baby.  Parents and nature surround the newest family member with love: “You are the birth of everything new/you are perfect/you are you!”
We All Play/kimetawanaw by Julie Flett (Greystone Kids, 2021) Ages 1 – 5.
Little You/Gidagaashiinh by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett, translated by Angela Mesic and Margaret Noodin (Orca, 2021) Ages 1 – 3.

Jean Dugan, a long-time friend of Exchange, has been connecting kids with books for over 40 years. She helped establish a library program in the ­elementary schools of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and later brought her love of children's ­literature to the public library there. This is her final column for Exchange, and we thank her for years of wonderful ideas and friendship.

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