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Fun with board books

Posted by Susan on May 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Board BooksRecommendations
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Picture book author Mo Willems writes that "books aren't temples; they're playgrounds. They're meant to be played."

Since I talked last week about picture books that didn't turn gracefully into board books, it seems only fair to show the other side of the coin. I picked these two books because I think they are successful adaptations, and also because they're lots of fun to play with.

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Good Night Gorilla.jpg

The spare text and lush illustrations make this book a surefire winner. You could read this book again and again and still not discover everything that makes it so special. Here's a few fun things to look for in this deceptively simple book.

On the first page, under a crescent moon, there's a pink balloon wrapped around the door of the gorilla's cage with a banana attached to the bottom of the string. The mouse gnaws a hole in the string and releases the balloon, but he takes the banana with him. Can you find the mouse and banana on every page? How about the pink balloon? Or the moon?

(Note: it's easier to find the objects in the hardcover or paperback editions because they are bigger, but it's possible to find them in the board book too.)

The color of each key matches the color of each animal's cage. (For example, the gorilla's cage is orange, so it is opened with an orange key.) Once the cage is opened, the key stays in the lock. The zoo keeper's wife collects all the keys when she locks the animals back in their cages. When she gets back into bed, you can see the ring of keys on the floor.

Each animal has a doll in their cage (with the exception of the lion, who has a bone.) My favorite is the elephant who has Babar lying on the floor of his cage. And, there's a well known Sesame Street character in the armadillo's enclosure.

As the animals walk through the hallway in the zoo keeper's house, take a close look at the walls. All of the family photos have the zoo animals in them. And take a look at the photograph on the zoo keeper's bedside table. (You can see it best on the last page). It's a picture of the zoo keeper, his wife and the gorilla.

Aside from all of that, one of the things I like about this book is that there are so many different ways to read it. You can narrate what's happening in the story. Or not. You can make up silly animal voices when they all say good night. Or not. You can spend the whole time looking for the hidden objects. Or not. The book is your oyster.

Freight Train.jpg Freight Train by Donald Crews

Don't be fooled into thinking that this Caldecott Honor book is simply a list of parts of a train. The magic comes in the second half. The train speeds through the book and makes the reader feel they are really watching it go by.

This book translates well into the smaller format and no illustrations were harmed to make the board book.

Try playing with it. Make train sounds while reading it. Or sing it. Or clap your hands to the beat of this extremely rhythmic book. Or let your child show you the colors on each page. Or count the railroad cars. The possibilities are endless.

Now that I've got you looking for hidden things in books, take a closer look at the tender and the engine. 1978 on the side of the tender refers to the year the book was published. The letters N & A on the black steam engine stand for the initial of the authors' two daughters: Amy and Nina.

For more ways to have fun with books, check out the great suggestions in the Mo Willems article I quoted above.

Looking for more on board books? Stay tuned.


Vivian writes...

You've brought back so many wonderful memories. Good Night, Gorilla was an absolute staple in my house, with all three children. It was fun reading and acting out this book! Great choice!

Jill writes...

Good Night, Gorilla is a staple in our nightly reading routine. My two-year-old loves to say goodnight to all of the animals, but her most favorite part is the pitch black spread with the two eyes of the zookeeper's wife popping open.

We haven't read Freight Train, but it sounds like something we'll definitely have to check out.

Amber writes...

Goodnight Gorilla was, for about a year, my daughter's favorite book. When she was 14 months old, she started making the shocked face that the zookeeper's wife makes, and it was so darned cute. (She still does that, and now she's nearly three.) We have to buy another book b/c the first one got worn out.

Simone writes...

I have read both of these books to my 2.5 year old twins. Goodnight Gorilla is an absolute favorite. My son actually started loving the book while watching the companion video which is just as cute - with Brahm's Lullaby playing in the background. He actually sleeps with a pacifier and an Ernie doll so the armadillo page is one of his favorite pages. He also discovered my colorful measuring spoons that I have on a ring. He walks around calling them his goodnight gorilla keys. Freight Train is great as well - we love learning our colors along to parts of the train. Great suggestions.

Pam writes...

I think that most of the Eric Carle books make a good board books. Simple text, straight-forward pictures, and you feel like you've covered at least one classic author by the age of two.

ChowMama Stacie writes...

we LOVE Freight Train! It's totally gorgeous. can't wait to pick up Goodnight Gorilla.

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