We here at Booklights are thrilled to hear that our fellow blogger Jen will be having a baby soon! In her post announcing the big news, Jen said that she would love to hear book suggestions for babies. I'm more than happy to oblige (for Jen, and for everyone else who has a baby, knows a baby, or who has met a baby).
If you're trying to figure out what to purchase as a gift, check out this How to Buy a Book for a Baby guide I wrote a few years back. It's got the answers to a lot of frequently asked questions such as what to buy for a third (or first baby), as well as specific recommendations, how to buy great books in every price range and which formats to choose.
For this post, I thought I'd give Jen and everyone else a list of board book recommendations, although you can certainly buy hardcover books that the babies will grow into. First, let's start with the previous board book posts that have appeared on Booklights. Here's a post I wrote about board books, why to use them, and why you should be a cautious consumer when you buy them. This post tells you how to have fun with two of my favorite board books, and it inspired this one about diverse board books. Pam also wrote a great post with board book recommendations.
Here's what not to buy: Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? These are almost always given as baby shower gifts. All of them are excellent board books, though, and feel free to buy them if you are absolutely positive that the parents don't already have them.
Here's some books that are less likely to be purchased by other people:
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann is a wonderful picture book that adapts very gracefully into a board book. See this post about how to find every last thing hidden in the illustrations of this book. After you've found them all, try Rathmann's other terrific board book 10 Minutes till Bedtime. The gorilla is hiding on every page and so is the banana. Can you find the zoo keeper's house or Officer Buckle and Gloria?
The Lady with the Alligator Purse: Remember this song? The book is great too, and is so much fun to sing. For other fun board books featuring songs, Raffi has some great versions of old classics, such as The Wheels on the Bus.
Elmo's Big Lift the Flap Book: I'm not just mentioning this book because this blog is on PBS, home of Sesame Street. It's truly an excellent board book, and one the best lift the flap books available. It's sturdy, over-sized, has great variety and pictures, and I've never met a child who wasn't immediately mesmerized by it.
No discussion of board books would be complete without mentioning Sandra Boynton. It's not just that her books are funny. It's not just that her books are very purposefully written for babies. It's not that the writing and illustrations are good. It's that her books are funny and well written and well illustrated and great for babies. Adults can read her books again and again without going crazy, something very unusual in the board book field. Start with Barnyard Dance, Moo, Baa, La La La! and Blue Hat, Green Hat... which will lead you to many more.
Nina Laden has several baby friendly board books. My favorite is Peek-a Who?
Board books have come a long way in the last decade. The quality has dramatically improved as more publishers are creating books for babies, as opposed to just abridging old classics and jamming them into a board book. Check these great contemporary books out:
Babies love looking at other babies and there are many board books that fulfill that need. But, usually, the pictures are rather bland. The EyeLike Nature books solve that problem. The pictures of the babies are great and the background pictures are even better. Excellent use of photography and color make these books feel so realistic that you want to jump in the leaf pile.
Babies and toddlers love to play with their books. Lift the flap and touch and feel books are great for this age. But be careful. Babies can do amazing damage to board books (nope, they're not indestructible). Keep an eye out for books that have sturdy pages that make it hard(er) for a baby to destroy as they lift the flaps or feel the texture.
I mentioned Sandra Boynton above, and her book Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy was the first book my son ever showed interest in. As hard as it is to write a novel, think about how difficult it is to write a coherent, funny and educational book with only 26 words (or less). Here's my Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy review, and see the picture on the right to see what my copy of the book currently looks like. Like I said, nothing is truly indestructible.
The irony is that while board books are made for babies and need to be sturdy enough to (attempt) survival from their demanding clientele, the stiff pages make it hard for a baby turn the the pages. Petr Horáek (yes, it's Petr, not Peter) has written several delightful board books with attractive shaped pages that are very easy for babies to turn. Plus, they feature great onomatopoeia and bold, colorful illustrations. Take a look at Choo, Choo to see what I mean.
DK's Peekaboo! board books have lots of things that make them perfect for a baby who enjoys playing with their books. They include touch and feel; large, sturdy flaps; easy to turn pages; and bright colorful pictures of babies, all in the same book.
The most solid and sturdy touch and feel books (that I know of) currently on the market are Usborne's That's Not My... series. By this point, there are so many titles in this series that you can pick any animal or object you want such as That's Not My Kitten, That's Not My Train or That's Not My Monster. As an added bonus, a little mouse is hiding (in plain sight) on each page.
I love Rod Campbell's Dear Zoo and Karen Katz's books such as Where is Baby's Bellybutton? have great flaps and simple illustrations, but the flaps are easy to rip off. Try those a little later after your baby has (mostly) gotten over their tearing apart books phase.
It's lovely to see so much progress being made in this genre. Several publishers have really stepped up to the plate with excellent board books.
What are your favorite board books? Which ones do your kids enjoy the most? Jen and I would love to hear all about them.
The adorable photo at the top of this post is of my kindergartner. He just walked in, looked at the picture and pointed out that it looks nothing like him.