Updated: Mar 6, 2020
If you are an eighties baby like me, you may not have grown up these modern classics, but in the time that has passed between you being a baby and having your own babies, some really great board books for babies have come along. These are excellent books for one-year-olds and books for toddlers alike.
I don't know about you, but for something to be considered a true classic, it has to be at least fifty years old. This seems like the magic number to know if it has truly stood the test of time. But then you have the modern classic, a category all its own. I would define this as being a least 10 years old and so well received that it becomes an "instant" classic, destined to be loved by future generations. I would say 10 years is enough time to establish that it isn't just a "fad." These are just my criteria, based on no actual research.
Recommendations: 12 Modern Classic Board Books for Babies and Toddlers.
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1. Llama Llama Red Pajama (2005)
Your collection of board books isn't complete without this llama drama of what happens after mama says goodnight. In the end, little llama is reassured that mama is always there and you can be assured that this book will be a favorite for both of you.
"Mama Llama's always near, even if she's not right here."
2. I Love You, Stinky Face (2003)
A playful, imaginative story of unconditional love marries unconventional, colorful illustration to create a vibrant bedtime story.
"But Mama, but Mama, what if I were a super smelly skunk, and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face?"
3. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (1989)
As all the letters of the alphabet race up the coconut tree, the book's rhythm, rhyme and repetition trip off the tongue as the suspense builds. Will there be enough room?
"A told B, and B told C, I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree."
4. Giraffes Can't Dance (2001)
Gerald is an awkward giraffe who really wants to go to the Jungle Dance but is met with ridicule. He looks up at the moon, sad and alone, until a cricket helps him unleash his inner groove.
"We all can dance," he said, "when we find music that we love."
5. Little Blue Truck (2008)
Little Blue teaches us the importance of being kind and helping others. When a rude dump truck gets stuck in the mud, none of the animals on the farm want to help until Little Blue steps up and they all pitch in.
"Now I see that a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends."
6. Love You Forever (1986)
This one got me. Maybe it's because I am a a boy mom and can totally relate to the feeling that your sweet little baby is growing up to be terror of a toddler, who will someday be a teenager and eventually a man with a family of his own, but that he will always be your baby.
"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."
7. The Pout Pout Fish (2008)
Mr. Fish thinks he is destined to wear a frown and bring everyone else down, because it's just the way he is. Other sea creatures try to persuade him to change his attitude to no avail until Miss Shimmer tries a new tack by planting a big kiss that turns his frown upside down.
"I'm a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face and I spread the dreary-wearies all over the place."
8. Barnyard Dance (1993)
This one will make you want to grab your partner and throw down at the hoedown with all the barnyard animals. The cows play the fiddle and the animals dance to a rhyming beat that makes this one infectiously fun.
"With a BAA and a MOO and a COCKADOODLEDOO everybody promenade two by two!"
9. Gossie (2002)
Gossie is a gosling on the go who always wears her bright red boots everywhere she goes. One day she wakes up to find them gone and goes in search of them. When she finds them - on someone else's feet - a perfectly placed page turn reveals her unexpected reaction. A subtle but wonderful lesson in friendship and sharing.
"A small, yellow gosling, who likes to wear bright, red boots. Every day."
10. The Napping House (1984)
In the style of "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" there is a comfy bed in a quiet house that (one by one) invites a granny, a boy and bunch of animals to pile in for nap time. The repetition adds to the anticipation and the illustrations draw the reader in until a flea causes a chain reaction that wakes everybody up.
"In that house there was a bed, a cozy bed, in a napping house where everyone is sleeping."
11. Jamberry (1982)
A bear and a boy embark on an adventure looking for all kinds of berries - berries for jam! The fanciful rhyme and bright illustrations captivate the imagination while the word play is just that - playful and fun!
"Rumble and ramble in blackberry bramble, billions of berries for blackberry jamble."
12. Good Night, Gorilla (1994)
As the zookeeper makes his rounds, he tells all the animals good night, without noticing that a mischievous primate has swiped his keys and is letting all the animals out. Toddlers will enjoy being in on the joke as the pictures tell the story.
"Good night, gorilla." (A mostly wordless picture book)
What did I miss? What board books for toddlers would you consider modern classics? Check to see if it's on my list of 10 Best Books for Babies with All the Feels or leave a comment below. For more all-time favorites check out 11 Classic Board Books for Babies and Toddlers.