This summer, we planted flowers—rows and rows of them. In the bed typically dedicated to trailing squash, we sprinkled seeds that grew into cosmos, zinnias, poppies (four kinds), larkspur, dainty dwarf zinnias, snapdragons. Walking barefoot among those rows, watching the flowers wake, became one of our favorite morning routines.
But inside our home, another kind of flower unfurled as Josie took her first steps, said her first words, and learned how to make us laugh. She shed her babyhood, in which she watched the world happen around her, and stepped into the thick of things, poking at and exploring the world and expecting it to respond.
I had watched this transition three times before, but, like watching flowers shed those green things that encapsulate crumpled petals, it is amazing every time—I think because, with each child, I see more clearly how little I did to bring about that unfolding personality and how much of it was already there, sown into each daughter before I had ever seen her face.
So, in honor of Josie’s summer of unfurling, I made a list for you of my favorite books for toddlers. We love Sandra Boynton and BabyLit books, of course, but this list is for the little ones demanding answers from the world: If I poke the cat, what does he do? If I make this face, will Mama laugh? Let’s give them big answers in small books and see what happens:
Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise, by Tomie dePaola
This exuberant book considers every aspect of creation and urges it all to praise God. Beautiful, simple, and vibrantly illustrated. (Read the full review.)
Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Sally Lloyd-Jones’ newest book leads readers through Psalm 23, drawing out the tenderness and warmth of our Good Shepherd as she paraphrases the familiar psalm into a poem that moves readers big and small. Jago’s illustrations here are stunning. (Read the full review.)
Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall
Each volume of these Bible stories is full of familiar stories, written in language that looks simple but does justice to the biggest truths of our faith. (Read the full review.)
Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by Naoko Stoop
Naoko Stoop’s sweet board book departs from the usual Noah’s Ark/Joseph’s Coat/Moses’ Moment at the Red Sea picture books and gently unwraps 1 Corinthians 13 for readers. (Read the full review.)
Hug-a-Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Fuzzy on the outside, rich and vibrant on the inside. Lloyd-Jones introduces small readers to the idea that the Bible is not just a collection of epic stories, but an invitation from God to know him, by condensing the truths of a handful of Bible stories into short, beautiful poems.
Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola’s book of gratitude is one that pokes at parents as we read it to our kids. The text and illustrations are simple but weighty, and they urge us to look around and savor the God who made all things big and small. (Read the full review.)
Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field
Prayer for a Child is a sweet but not too sweet look at prayer from a child’s perspective. My copy doesn’t show it, but this one won the Caldecott in 1945—at a time when the children reading it were living through a world war. (Read the full review.)
Lift the Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
What toddler doesn’t love lifting flaps? Sally Lloyd-Jones again distills favorite Bible stories down to their gospel essence, while Tracey Moroney’s bright illustrations give little hands plenty to do while they listen. (Read the full review.)
The Biggest Story ABCs, by Kevin DeYoung
Using the alphabet as a guide, Kevin DeYoung lays out the big story of Scripture from beginning to end in a way that points back to Jesus over and over. (Read the full review.)
Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
No booklist on this blog would be complete without The Jesus Storybook Bible. The truths in here are huge, but the format is small: perfect for introducing toddlers to Jesus through the beautiful stories of Scripture. This book is a standard second birthday gift in our home. (Read the full review.)