Babies in the Bayou is unique among the "baby animal books" in that it features animals that are not cute and cuddly. Rather, we see a mama alligator (who are very protective mothers--a baby alligator stays with mom for about two years), baby turtles, and even raccoons. Jim Arnosky is a naturalist, so this isn't just an oddly sweet story; the animals are often arranged together to represent their predator/prey relationship (although not remarked upon). I frequently use this to balance the fuzzy-wuzzy titles in my baby animals story time. (If you're reading this outside of the Gulf Coast, you may want to explain that a bayou is a lake with water that moves very slowly or not at all)
D'AWWWW SO KYOOT. Sorry. Il Sung Na's books tend to do that to me. LOOK AT THE LITTLE DUCKY. If you want a huge dose of adorableness, you need to check out his books. A Book of Babies. A baby duck observes other baby animals is the basic jist of the story. Very simple text and big, bright, and bold illustrations; perfect for babies and toddlers.
Click, Clack, Peep is Doreen Cronin's latest Click Clack saga, just in time for spring! The barnyard animals are stoked over the arrival of a baby duckling....until the baby refuses to sleep. How will they--and Farmer Brown--ever get the duckling to sleep? Funny, cute, and a great read aloud!
Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too? is a must for babies and toddlers. Hold off on The Very Hungry Caterpillar if you can (I couldn't when my niece was born; she got the board book and the toy right away) and get this one for your next baby shower (or just get a bunch of Eric Carle board books). A mother animal and her baby are featured on each spread (Does a X have a mother too? Yes, a X has a mother, just like me and you), ending with an assurance that all animals love their babies, just like yours does too. So wonderful. A glossary of scientific names is included at the end of the book if you want to extend this beyond the baby/toddler stage. (Not sure if the board book version includes this glossary.)
Little Quack is not just a darling story about ducklings, but it's also a great little story about facing your fears and trying new things. Mama Duck is anxious for her ducklings to learn to swim, so she coaxes them out of the nest, one by one. Although they are reluctant to do so, they test the waters (literally) and learn that swimming is pretty cool. All except Little Quack, who holds out the longest, until he is persuaded by mom and siblings to jump in the water. And what do you know? He likes it too. A counting activity runs across the bottom of the pages, but it is not crucial to the story.
Owl Babies is one of my all-time favorite read alouds. I have been using it in story times for nearly 11 years, and I never tire of it. Three little owls awaken to find that their owl mother is gone. Although they tell each other that she'll be back soon (except for Little Bill, who repeatedly says, "I want my mommy!"--if you're reading this aloud, start the desperation level low and work it up), their worry increases. Of course, she comes back, and all is well. Although very sweet, the eating habits and perils of owl life are touched upon (they imagine that she'll "bring them mice and things that are nice," and one wonders if "a fox got her."), which adds authenticity and a little drama to the story.
Want books that have a more definite springtime theme? Check out my recent post on the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) blog.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library