Baby Shower Idea: Books Instead of Cards

I helped to host a baby shower this weekend, and someone came up with a great idea that I wanted to pass along.

We asked guests if they could bring “a gently-used children’s book in lieu of a card” to help our friend start the book collection for her first child. Guests wrote notes inside the front covers, and this way she’ll have the beginning of a rich library with sweet sentiments she’ll read over and over instead of cards on a shelf in the closet.

What children’s book would you have contributed?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I almost always give books now at the baby showers I go to. These are the latest:

    Good Night, Gorilla -
    Babies –
    Each Peach Pear Plum –

  2. Oops, messed up the link at that one!

    Good Night, Gorilla

    Basically, I try to give them a spectrum of book so that they don’t end up with just all board books for new babies. I especially love “Babies” and “Each Peach Pear Plum” because I grew up with those myself and they aren’t as commonly known these days. Babies especially is sweet and has more of an international flavor.

  3. My friend did this for my baby shower. We both love and cherish reading. It was the greatest. And my girl got started with a great collection of books. The Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is also a great program to tell new moms about. Both of my girls get a free book in the mail every month. They love book mail!

  4. I love anything by Sandra Boynton (I can still read Moo Baa Lalala in the dark, lol!) Otherwise, I tend to go for an Australian classic, like Possum Magic (Mem Fox) or some of the Jackie French ones (Diary of a Wombat is absolutely gorgeous). I tend to give books for baby gifts and even for first or second birthday gifts.

    Sandra Boynton –

    Possum Magic –

    Jackie French –

  5. What a lovely idea!

    One of my daughter’s very favorite books is Global Babies:

    It’s not very text-heavy and doesn’t really have a story, but she’s been fascinated by the baby faces for years now. I think it helps that the babies pictured are, well, from all over the globe. So she gets to see a diverse array of kids.

  6. Jennifer B says:

    Jamberry by Bruce Degen

    The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown – everyone knows “Goodnight Moon”, but this one is less likely to be repeated and it was a favorite of our daughter’s.

    I also snatched up quite a few copies of “My First Winnie the Pooh” – a board book with some of AA Milne’s most loved verses appropriate for little ones. They’re now out of print I think, but it was a favorite of my daughter’s and I enjoy sharing our love of this little board book with other new parents.

  7. Oh my goodness I LOVE this idea! I am always on the hunt for great ideas for “green” baby showers. Personally, there was little I could use at the baby showers friends threw for me because I breastfed and never used bottles, and since I cloth diaper I don’t need disposables.

    Books my kids loved: Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, anything by Eric Carle, any title by Maurice Sendak such as Outside Over There, In The Night Kitchen, and others.

    • From a “green” standpoint, I also love the idea of making them “gently used.” Plus, new books can be significantly more expensive than cards.

      I have been buying gently used copies of “My Counting Book” aka How Many Friends Has a Smiley Lion? from Amazon for showers. It is now out of print, so people won’t get five copies of it. Both my kids loved this book.

      • We have that book too. It is so tattered and old, and I love it. I’m trying not to be sad about old favorites that are out of print.

        • Who is the author of “My Counting Book” aka How Many Friends Has a Smiley Lion? I’m trying to find it on Amazon now, but can’t locate it. Thanks!

  8. Whenever I’m asked to give a book, I give Kitten’s First Full Moon. It’s just… perfect.

    • I love this book, thanks for the reminder! I will have to put that on the Christmas list for my son who is taking a late interest to books (unless they have “things that go” in them).

  9. i love this idea, too! my sisters & i did it for another of our sister’s baby shower, although we didn’t specific if it should be used or not. the only problem we ran into was duplicates. my sister didn’t want to get rid of any though, because of the messages on the inner covers. do you have a remedy for that one?

    • I don’t think she received duplicates, maybe one, but I would probably just keep or share them.

    • We did this for our 2 year old’s baby shower and some of the guests just wrote their notes on post its and put them inside the front cover. We can tape them in, but can also keep a hold of them when it’s time to replace the book or pass it on.

  10. This is easy… I always try to give Good Night Moon and/or Guess How Much I Love You at baby showers. My girls loved those books!

  11. My friend did this for my baby shower with my first and surprisingly I didn’t get any duplicates. With my second, a group of friends also put together a basket of books for her and her big brother. Books make the best gifts!

    We have so many favorites, but I often give The Big Red Barn or books by P.D. Eastman (Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb; Big Dog, Little Dog; Go, Dogs, Go).

  12. My friends did this for me seven years ago when I was expecting my first. We still read many of those books to this day. Our favorite and most read is “Goodnight Moon” with an animal picture book that is tattered and worn at a close second. It’s a great idea! :)

  13. What a brilliant idea! I’m so filing this one away.

  14. I hosted a shower like this as well. We wrote “in lieu of a card, please bring a favorite book, poem or story for the new family.” A few brought small poems framed that made great nursery art. One person interpreted “story” as an opportunity to type up some funny stories about the parents to be when they were in college and beyond. It was a great and special idea!

  15. I love that idea! I would donate “There’s no such thing as a dragon” by Jack Kent. I love it as a child and my kids love it now.

  16. Funny you should post. When ever I hear a friend getting pregnant, I give 3 books immediately:

    – Dr. Seusse: Green Eggs and Ham – my DS used to read that to my babies while “in the oven” and ever since

    – Boribon Get’s Sick – Hungarian story about a bear that comes down with the flu, needs to take some medication, rest a lot and take a cold bath when spikes a temperature. This is blueprint good for kids.

    – Eric Carle: The Hungry Little Caterpillar – helps with days of the week, counting, concept of before and after, and generally super sweet

    I also tell my friends that reading to your children should start as early as possible, by age 4 month for sure. It helps bonding in multiple ways and creates great developmental opportunities.

    If you happen to raise twins, books are the best: they don’t have to share, mami is there for both.

  17. YES! I love this idea. I don’t even want a “traditional” baby shower; we’re capable of providing the necessities for a baby. What my baby really needs is a lifetime reminder that people loved them before they were even born.

    I want an all-book baby shower where everyone brings their favorite children’s story. And it’s an even better idea to have them in lieu of cards. Cards are usually read and then tossed; books are forever.

  18. I love giving anything by Lisa Wheeler (Sixteen Cows and Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum are favorites) or Phyllis Root (Rattletrap Car, One Duck Stuck are two we love). Also Mary Quattlebaum’s Underground Train is a delight.

  19. We’re hooked on the Karma Wilson “Bear” series. Bear Snores On, Bear Wants More, Bear Feels Scared, Bear Stays Up for Christmas. They’re all fantastic.

  20. I love this idea and fully plan on stealing it!

    What book? Oh, the choices, but I guess I would give my childhood fave “Sunday Morning”. The illustrations are so 70’s perfect, perfect.

    Here’s a peek:

    • Judith Viorst used to be one of my favorite authors when I was growing up.

    • Judith Viorst is probably my favorite children’s author of all time. We read her books so much that my youngest’s middle name is Alexander–my boys picked it out in honor of her son who is in so many of her books.

  21. This was the BEST thing my classroom did for me and our baby boy! I LOVE reading books to him from my students!!

    I would add “Goodnight Gorilla” to a new nursery collection.

  22. What a great idea.
    I would give “Stellaluna” , “Ox-cart Man” or “The Rainbow Fish” – 3 which are big favourites in our house.

  23. This is such a great idea! My favorite book for little ones is “Guess How Much I Love You”.

    • Guess how much I love you is a favourite here too! I read it every night when my eldest was little, so much so that I could remember it without the copy in front of me! The board version got so worn on the spine I asked for a new copy from friends when my younger son was born. They also bought us the guess how much I love you seasons books set. But they don’t beat the original. My boy l

  24. Love this idea! I try to give books as baby gifts, but I love the idea of a whole shower of books. I have quite the collection already from my childhood, but it would be fun for kids to have their own to take with them. I would have to throw in a copy of “Mashed Potatoes: A Little Brother Story” ( because my husband wrote it! But another favorite children’s book that I love to give is “Make Way for Ducklings” (

    • My parents met in Boston, and we grew up in the midwest-Make Way for Ducklings is one of my favorites. Now when I visit Boston I still have to see the duckling.

      • This is a favorite in our house as well. We took our oldest to see the ducks when he was four. It made him love the story even more.

  25. The Julia Donaldson books are really fun, as are The Lighthouse Keeper series (both from the UK).

  26. I love many of the books listed but wanted to add something new. I always liked The Little Red Hen. It’s fun for me to read to my boys now for the nostalgia. From the picture in the post – we have that same Cinderella book and the Grover “Monster at the End of this Story” book. My 3 year old is loving the Grover book now.

  27. I am biased since my family breeds standard poodles.
    The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind by Charlotte Zolotow.

    And, of course, Curious George.

  28. Harold and the Purple Crayon
    Henry the Explorer (and the other Henry books)
    Go Dog, Go
    Goodnight God
    We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
    What Makes a Rainbow?
    Miss Rumphius
    The original Winnie the Pooh stories

    Great idea!

  29. The Napping House. Best book for putting your child to sleep ever because of the rhythmic nature. And amazing illustrations.

    • Ooh this is another favorite! My daughter still needs board books (I tried a “real” book last week and she ripped it) but in a few more months The Napping House will be going into regular rotation!

      • There is a board book version of The Napping House. I found a large one at Target just the other day.

  30. “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. My sweet mother-in-law read this to me at both my boy’s baby showers, and now I read it to them…and I get a little misty every time. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

  31. My DIL and friends have been doing this for the past 5 years or so–my 4 year old grandson is still ‘reading’ thefavourite board books and discovering dome of the ones given then for older children. He loves both of Deborah Diesen “Pout-pout fish” books and so do I! One of the shower invitation went something like this:

    There’s a baby on the way
    and we can barely wait
    so please come join us
    and help celebrate!

    Baby Shower and BBQ honoring
    …., ….and Baby!!

    And a message from BABY…

    I want to be a bright child
    As smart as I can be.
    That is why I’m hoping
    My mom will read to me.

    If you plan to bring a card
    Please take another look.
    I would like to learn my ABC’s
    From your favorite storybook

    Please sign your name
    As your personal touch.
    Baby ……thanks you
    Beary, beary much.

  32. Goodnight Moon, all my four kids love it! I also like to find really old, vintage Golden Books that are back it print. They have precious drawings.

  33. Blueberries for Sal and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel are two of our favorite children’s books. Recently I started giving copies of The Jesus Storybook as baby shower gifts. I absolutely love that book.

  34. vermontmommy says:

    Oh, I would have loved such a party.

    Oh, too many to name but here are some of the picture books that we enjoy. Lots are ones that I read as a child.

    Anything by Richard Scarry – I read this as a child and my kids love them.

    Kevin Henkes – A Good Day – This was not published for my older two but my youngest loves it.

    Roxaboxen – one of my son’s favorites.

    Miss Suzy – loved it when I was a kid and mine love it too.

    All in a Day – Again, not out when my oldest two were young but my youngest loves it.

    Rosemary Wells’ nursery rhyme board books – a favorite of all three

    The Very Hungry Caterpillar – favorite of all three.

    Random House of Poetry – loved it as a child and my three still love it.

    Shel Silverstein – loved as a child and mine love them too. Our 11 year old asked for his latest book for Christmas.

    Make Way for Ducklings or anything from Robert McCloskey

    Mike Mulligan or anything by Virgina Burton – one of my son’s favorite’s

    The Snowy Day – loved by all three

    Harry the Dirty Dog

    Rosie’s Walk – They all loved this.

    Anything by Barbara Cooney, Tomie dePaola, Gail Gibbons, Audry Woods, Ezra Jack Keats, Pat Hutchins, Helen Oxenbury…

    Honestly, I could go on an on. I love such things.

  35. As a bookworm myself, I love this idea! Lately I’ve been gifting a stack of board books instead of clothes or diapers or whatever.

    Favorites include Goodnight Moon, many Sandra Boynton books, and those Touch & Feel animal books!

  36. I have given books for baby showers for a few years now. I love The Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon and any Boynton books. I also give a book for every birthday after that that I think the child would like with a small toy. I love reading and hope in a small way I’m instilling that love in the kids I know. I’m sure at the time the kids are thinking “BORING” when they open my gifts but maybe they’ll get into the adventures that reading brings.


  37. It’s so hard to pick just one, but I’m going for An Adventure With Billy Bunny (A pop-up book) by Maurice Pledger It’s just sweet.

  38. I almost always give books at baby showers, and I love the idea of writing a message inside the cover. I have too many favorites to list them all, but some older books (but new to me) that my son really enjoys are the Frances books by Russell Hoban:

    • Bread and Jam for Frances and Bedtime for Frances are in my top five favorite picture books to read aloud. Thanks for adding these gems!

  39. Books have been my default shower gift for a few years now. I try to give a few for the baby that have some kind of connection to things the parents value. (Recently gave some really fun number/counting books to expectant parents who are both math teachers.) But the one I always give is for the parents: Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook. Now classic book that builds the case for reading aloud, provides information about how to do it, and contains lists and lists of great read aloud titles.

    • This is a great book! It tells about so much more than just reading aloud and great books to read. I resisted reading it for so long because I already new how important reading aloud is. Now, I recommend it. :)

  40. Tracy (@fromthekiwigirl) says:

    I love Dr Suess and Peter Rabbit but recently gave a friend ‘Where the Wild Things Are’…traditional and fun.

  41. Cathie Australia says:

    What a great idea. I can’t believe nobody has said The Paperbag Princess, or Princess Smarty Pants, also The Paw series is particularly good for adventurous girls. My girl 19 now, so you will have to google. Can’t beat Dr Suess “The Lorax” and Oh Oh the places you’ll go.

  42. Oh, I just love, love, love children’s books. I can’t pick a favorite. Part of what makes it a favorite is how the child responds to it. There are some great books out there that tell stories without any words – just pictures. Mercer Mayer has some of my most favorite.

  43. This is what my friends did for my baby shower. It was lovely. These are three of my favorites. They have great rhythm and the words just flow. Great for little ones and slightly older ones too.

    More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera Williams

    Night Pirates by Peter Harris

    Charlie Parker played Be Bop by Christopher Raschka

  44. Pat the Bunny.


    and of the Francis or Corduroy books.

    What a great idea!

  45. Every bubs should have a copy of ‘Where is the Green Sheep?’Best.Book.Ever!!

    • I’m a children’s librarian – and “Where is the Green Sheep?” by Mem Fox is on the storytime’s greatest hits album. Seriously. It is always a success in storytime.

  46. I like giving books, diaper (disposable and cloth), hand written notebook with personal tips for parents to be from experienced parents.


  47. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney is our go to book for baby showers at our church. The tradition was started 8 years ago by a church member who gave the book with handwritten bible verses that reference love to our then assistant pastor’s wife at her shower. I have a copy and it’s the dearest book in our collection.

  48. I love the idea of the books in lieu of a card with the writing inside. For my baby shower, everyone was asked to bring a book to start our library. I love the books we received but the added notes in the few who thought of doing it, are extra special. It is also nice to remember who gave us what books now 6 years later. :)

  49. My friends did this for my last shower. It was so nice to have a lasting gift that my little guy (and his siblings) can enjoy for years.

    My fave books for little ones are the Sandra Boynton ones, Baby’s First Bible, the Little Golden Books (the older ones more so than the new), and Guess How Much I Love You in boardbook.

  50. I love giving books for gifts! Baby shower or otherwise. So many great ones have been listed here. One thing I will NOT give is an electronic book that makes noises. Annoying and takes the actual joy of reading away!
    I love OLD books and a few of my faves are the Golden books illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Love her drawings!
    I also love any Robert McKloskey or Lois Lenski book!
    How to do LESS laundry

  51. I hope your friend’s library is blessed with an abundant assortment of treasures.

  52. If it’s a baby girl, I give A is for Annabelle, illustrated by Tasha Tudor. My daughter and I memorized that one and wore out our first copy. She bought me the hardback when she was all grown up. :)

  53. We did this at my oldest son’s baby shower (he’s 2 now) and I’ve loved reading the messages and knowing that people care so much about him (especially helpful for mommy while we’re going through some tough developmental issues).

    One book I haven’t seen mentioned yet is one that I discovered this summer during our library’s reading program. Me and my kids LOVED this book!
    The Red Lemon –

    The illustrations were wonderful and really colorful! Both boys enjoyed looking through it!

    • I will have to check out the Red Lemon.

      A new “boy” book for my digger crazy little guy (who points out the trucks in Frances and any other book we read) is “Good Night, Good Night Construction site.” Cute story and neat illustrations. I would splurge on this for a shower gift since letting our books go is tough still with a young reader still in the house- it would also be a great 2nd birthday book for a little guy- my 5 year old daughter loves it as well.

  54. What a super fantastic idea!!

  55. The Velveteen Rabbit. What a wise old book.

  56. A Sandra Boyton book or a Frog and Toad book by Arnold Lobel.

  57. We did this for both the baby shower and his first birthday, gently used favorite toys and books are the way to go!

    Our faves: one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish and fox in socks by dr suess

    Gossie the gosling (such a good book about sharing!!!)

    Anything by Richard scarry (particularly his trilingual picture dictionary)

    The little gorilla

    Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?

    Such a great list to add to the site – Thanks everyone!

  58. That’s a great idea. I still have a number of the books from when my kids were little. They’re great collectibles, and good to hand down from one generation to the next.

    We used the Dr. Seuss series to help my kids learn to read. Pop-up books are great fun too.

  59. That is a great idea.
    Even thought baby showers are not something we usually do (I come from Portugal in Europe), I think that giving away books is always better than gifting cards.

    Miffy books are a favourite in our house so I think I would those.

  60. I used to work in a bookstore, in the kid’s section, and I can tell you the top sellers for baby gifts, far and away, are “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown and “Pat the Bunny” by Dorothy Kunhardt. And I can understand why; they’re classics many people grew up with.

    But because those are so popular, I try to give my [alternate] favorites — in board book of course — and I was glad to see at least two of them mentioned above:

    “Good Night Gorilla” by Peggy Rathman (look for the red balloon throughout the story);
    “Snowy Day” Ezra Jack Keats (I loved this one growing up, the way the child is all bundled up to go out into the snow looks like how it feels to be all bundled up like that, LOL);
    and “Carrot Seed” by Ruth Krauss.

    Love, love, love children’s books and giving children’s books. Thanks for the post, Rachel!

  61. Great idea!

    I would bring Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.

  62. Oh, I love that idea.
    I would try to find a book I grew up with – now it’s vintage! – which had fables in it.

  63. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood. I love the illustrations and the rhythmic words.

  64. “like”

    Except that almost all of our baby books are not in the “gently used” category….how about “almost read-to-shreads”!

  65. I’m giving books for Christmas this year for all the kids.
    Favourites include:

    (for babies)
    Where is the green sheep? Mem Fox
    Where to, Little Wombat? and other books by Charles Fuge, illustrations so delightful

    (for toddlers)
    The Gruffalo,(if you can get this on dvd it has a beautiful soundtrack)
    Room on the Broom, both Julia Donaldson
    (both such nice rhyming stories)
    Bears in the Night, Stan Berenstain

    I purchase online from
    The paperback of the wombat one is only AU$3.28. Great for a toddler.
    It’s free delivery and ALWAYS much cheaper.

  66. we always give books for baby and children gifts! Our church threw us a book shower when our oldest was born – it was a wonderful way to get our collection started (plus, I wanted the pleasure of dressing my babies).

  67. I just chose to give Eric Carle’s “the Very Hungry Caterpillar” (in English) to a Polish family for the new baby’s first name day. As a young adult I started collecting children’s books – mostly from local languages during my travels – and I really struggle to give anything other than books. You can never outgrow a beautiful book.

  68. So thrilled about this post!! Thanks for sharing, I’m hosting a shower in Jan. and can’t wait to use the idea! My little one loves The Barnyard Dance and Good Night Gorilla.

  69. I am 9 months pregnant and my family and friends did this for me at my baby shower. This was such a wonderful gift that my daughter and I will both cherish for many years to come. My aunt printed labels with “This book belongs to Ava Grace” with a “From” line and everyone filled in their name. Some people even wrote in a message or poem to my daughter.

  70. I did the same thing for my sister’s shower, BUT, we added a quilt. Each person brought their fav children’s book & then copied a picture from it on a quilt square & then we colored them at the shower (with cloth markers). Then my sister had a homemade blanket for the baby along with the books :)

  71. We love to give On the day you were born, by Debra Frasier ( Such a sweet book. Oh, and The Lorax – that one’s a staple too. :)

  72. Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo!

  73. What a lovely idea!! our favorites were anything by Virginia Burton !!

  74. Anything by CS Lewis ….

  75. I had to add one I haven’t seen — this is for the three-eight-year-old-ish crowd:
    Dogger, by Shirley Hughes

    It is instantly related-to and loved by the kids I have read it to, AND it has an excellent subtle portrayal of healthy, POSITIVE sibling relationships — something I find lacking in most children’s literature. Sooo glad this is back in print.

  76. I’ve been to several build-the-library baby showers and I LOVE the idea! At my house, we love Chugga Chugga Choo Choo and Machines at Work, Goodnight Moon and Goodnight Gorilla, and The Monster at the End of this Book.

    And I always like to give (and get) hardbacks (or board books for tiny ones). They’re so much more expensive, which I hate, but those skinny little paperbacks don’t last and don’t make for much of a library.

  77. Oh so many great books! My kids have both loved “The Monster At the End of this Book” with Grover. It’s just pure silliness.

  78. Love it! I’m hosting my sis’ baby shower in February and I will definitely do this.

  79. Audrey Sheppard says:

    My son always liked the book Night House, Bright House by Monica Wellington, so I’d probably give that one.

  80. Practical, unusual & therefore fun idea! The Very Hungry Catapillar is the earliest book I remember having, So I’d choose that : )
    Saffron´s last post…Beetroot Relish

  81. Love that you have a picture of my Ten Terrible Dinosaurs, thanks!
    How about Dinosaur Roar! Shameless self publicity!

  82. I love this idea! I’d bring Little Pea, which is a lovely little book I discovered only after becoming a mom.