Peepo by Janet and Allen Ahlberg is my absolute very favourite picture book ever. It's a rhyming story about a baby's day and all the things he sees. He wakes in the morning and sees, from his crib, "his father sleeping in the big brass bed, and his mother too, with a hairnet on her head." Later in the day "he sees a bonfire burning, pigeons in the sky, his mother washing windows, a dog going by". (I'm doing these from memory so they might be a bit off. I'm tired.)
The book is set in World War II England and the illustrations are exquisite. Janet Ahlberg researched them meticulously and each picture is rich with period detail. I took this book with me last time we went to visit my Mum, who was a child during the war. Mum loved the book so much I bought her a copy of her own to pore over. Repeated readings are rewarded with new details, and the text is so charming and evocative of everyday family life that it is no hardship to read it over and over (and over and over). I buy this book for every new baby I know.
Also by the Ahlbergs is Each Peach Pear Plum, a simpler book for younger babies with two lines on each page: "Each Peach Pear Plum / I spy Tom Thumb." And then, "Tom Thumb in the cupboard / I spy Mother Hubbard." The smallest listeners will enjoy the rhythms and rhymes and pretty pictures, and older children can find Tom Thumb, or finish the lines for you. This book introduces lots of characters from nursery rhymes, fairy tales and folk tales which children will be delighted to encounter later: Bo-Peep, the Three Bears, Baby Bunting, and others.
Apparently this book has fallen out of favour because the Three Bears go hunting, and Baby Bear is prone to tripping over and accidentally firing his gun. I say pish.
Each Peach Pear Plum gets bundled with Peepo in my baby shower gift bag (along with "Breastfeeding Made Simple" by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett). There goes the surprise if I ever come to your baby shower.