Choosing the best books for babies and toddlers is a fun -- and important -- job.
But finding the best books for the youngest readers isn't always an easy task. For example, the winners of the Caldecott Medal, given annually to the best-illustrated book for children, often are books aimed at preschoolers or older children.
Fortunately, there's the "Best Books for Babies" group (www.bestbooksforbabies.org). Comprising librarians and other early childhood experts, the group annually reads through hundreds of books before choosing the 10 best books for babies and toddlers.
"The committee looks for books that sound good when read aloud, that celebrate the beauty of language," said Margaret Mary Kimmel, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Information Services and chair of the selection committee.
"We hope that these books will extend the experience of the youngest listener and that they will provide language and images that grow with the young child."
This year's "Best Books for Babies" list marks the 12th year that the group has worked to find the best books for these little ones. Among those involved with creating the group was the late Fred Rogers, aka "Mister Rogers," whose company, The Fred Rogers Company, continues to sponsor the "Best Books for Babies" effort.
In culling through hundreds of titles published annually for babies and toddlers, the group uses specific criteria to select its top 10 winners, including:
• Age-appropriate subject matter with uncluttered illustrations.
• Easy physical manipulation of the book, as well as book durability.
• Text, illustration and design aimed at children 18 months and younger.
• Cultural authenticity.
"Our audience of parents, teachers and caregivers along with other professionals who support the literacy development of children will find new editions of lively stories and images to bring the world of story to the very youngest audience," Ms. Kimmel said.
Here are this year's winners, listed in alphabetical order by title. All were published in 2011; some are board-book versions or new editions of previously published books. The annotations for each book were written by the "Best Books for Babies" committee.
"A You're Adorable" (board-book version, Candlewick Press, $6.99), written and illustrated by Martha Alexander.
"From cuddly puppies to bright balloons, costumed kids to bouncy babies, this board book offers entertaining illustrations on every page to help parents sing the praises of their very own special someone."
"ABC Kids" (Kingfisher, $17.99), written and illustrated by Simon Basher.
"Soft colors and simple lines make the pictures in this alphabet book perfect for "point-and-say" reading aloud to the very youngest listener; clever wordplay and unusual ideas keep things interesting and ensure that both parents and children will enjoy sharing the silliness as the years go by."
"All of Baby, Nose to Toes" (Dial Press, $6.99), written by Victoria Adler and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata.
"In sweet pictures and cheerful rhymes, a loving extended family celebrates all the wonderful features of their beloved baby."
"Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site" (Chronicle Books, $16.99), written by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.
"Although hardworking through the day, even trucks need to rest. With drowsy rhyming text, this book is the perfect way to share the end of the day with the very youngest truckers."
"Little Chicken's Big Day" (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster, $14.99), written and illustrated by Katie and Jerry Davis.
"The loving bond between parent and child comes through loud and clear in this brisk, humorous look at a busy day that features cartoon-style illustrations and a humorous repeated refrain."
"Little Pookie" (Robin Corey Books/Random House, $5.99), written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton.
"Counting down 10 unique qualities of her darling child, the pig mama in this fun rhyming board book just might inspire readers to catalog their own baby's quirks and charms."
"My Face Book" (Star Bright Books, $5.95), no specific author or illustrator listed.
"Crisp, clear photographs of babies -- smiling, frowning, yawning, silly and serious -- are sure to capture the attention of young listeners who'll likely return again and again to study the delightfully diverse faces found in this slim board book."
"My First Words" (Priddy Books, $5.99), written and illustrated by Roger Priddy.
"From the padded cover to the rounded pages and bright, clear illustrations, this collection of familiar objects, concepts and activities is perfectly designed to share with young listeners."
"Orange Pear Apple Bear" (board-book version, Little Simon, $7.99), written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.
"Gravett combines four simple words with amusing, energetic illustrations to create a playful book about seeing the world in creative ways (and tasting it, too)."
"Red Sled" (2011 republished version, Atheneum, $16.99), written and illustrated by Lita Judge.
"This almost-wordless book reveals the unlikely nighttime adventures of a band of amusing animals who borrow a child's sled to swoosh down hills in the snowy moonlight."books
Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com. First Published May 29, 2012 4:00 AM