That last question is the most important, I think, and has helped me when deciding what makes a quality book -- classic, children's or otherwise. Obviously, we all have childhood favorites, but who can remember them all without wandering bookstore and library shelves for days at a time? And I don't think anyone wants to wade through the drivel found on most chain bookstore shelves. There ARE some great children's books out there, which I found out from a professor in our Master's program who loved using picture books with ESOL students in the middle grades; however, weeding out the wheat from the chaff is a time-consuming and overwhelming process. Where to begin? So, for other parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, or anyone wishing to buy a present for a particular little boy (or girl, as may be in your case), here are a few time-tested lists.
This is a monster list of titles by a professor at Covenant College. You will probably have read or at least recognize many of these titles, and I count it joy that we have copies of a number of these gems. There is always room on our shelves for these titles...
These are judged based on the illustrations, but also tell good stories. A place to start for younger kids (like J!) who can't read yet and don't understand the words but love looking at pictures.
Awarded annually to the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children," many of these titles I fondly remember from grade-school, including From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Twenty-One Balloons, and, of course, A Ring of Endless Light.
A list of books for 3, 4 and 5 year-olds that are time-tested.
How could I neglect to mention this?
A ginormous list of books, categorized by age. Overwhelming, but a good resource nonetheless.
Additionally, here are some short lists of well-designed, eye-catching simple books for infants.
And, for those of you just itching to write and create something for your little one:
How to Make Your Own Board Book
P.S. For those wanting to buy gifts for baby J, and you want to know what we already have, check our our Library Thing catalog -- our attempt to keep track of every single book we own. It's constantly being updated, and I'm woefully behind (about halfway), but I promise to update it completely in time for Christmas shopping!