Happy Birthday to You: Books About Birthdays

Eliza Clark
March 25, 2016

At the Savvy Source, we love to tout all of the benefits of a good school: more learning, more fun, and more friends. And more friends mean more birthdays to celebrate. Yes, there will be the parties at school, and the parties out of school, the parties with balloons, and the parties with bouncy castles. With all of the time spent celebrating birthdays, we think it's worth taking a few moments here and there to help our youngest children understand what birthdays are all about. So enjoy all the many birthday celebrations ahead of you, and also these wonderful birthday books....

Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss 

If you could have anyone, we mean anyone, magically appear at your doorstep to wish your child a happy birthday, Dr. Seuss would have to be high on the list, right? Well here he is, at the ready, and in very fine form. Only the Doctor himself could produce a "Birthday Bird" (pictured above) who, when a child's birthday comes around, "is in charge of it all" (no more party-planning necessary... wouldn't that be a relief?). And this bird has grand plans indeed. Among other delights, a visit to the Birthday Flower Jungle, getting to pick a present from the Birthday Pet Reservation, and a party at the Birthday Pal-alace are all in store. But best of all, is the Bird's joyous, raucous celebration of the true meaning of birthdays: "Today is your birthday! Today you are you!"

The Little Gorilla by Ruth Lercher Bornstein 

What happens on your child's birthday? Balloons, funny hats, cakes, presents, friends, shrieks of joy, laughter, probably some tears, and sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. Amidst all the madness, your little one might not quite yet grasp that all this means that he is getting older. When that realization hits, usually around age three or four, it is usually accompanied by pride and anticipation, but sometimes a bit of anxiety creeps in as well. Here is the perfect antidote: this little gorilla, the beloved baby of the jungle, is just as well-loved when he grows big and tall as he was when he was tiny. It's a message that every four-year-old, or forty-year-old needs to hear.

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow and Maurice Sendak 

Let's be blunt, for a moment. The whole topic of birthdays can amplify the already ample self-centered tendencies of many of our beloved children. This can be a small problem when it's time to go to someone else's birthday party. And, of course, most birthday parties are someone else's. You know the scene we're picturing: your darling, all dressed up, hair combed, and on best behavior hands her friend a nicely wrapped present and promptly bursts into tears saying, "I want a present!" Even when that someone else happens to be Mommy herself, jealousies can erupt, as in, "I want to blow out the candles!" (And of course we let her.) So it's nice to find a book for little ones about birthdays that is focused on giving, rather than receiving. The little girl of this story is looking for a birthday present for her mother. Along comes Mr. Rabbit, and the two engage in a gentle Socratic dialogue about what kind of present her mother would like. Their answer teaches about colors and birds and friendship, and is as beautiful as Maurice Sendak's watercolors. A lovely present, indeed.

The Savvy Source is an Amazon affiliate. 

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