The great thing - and the frustrating thing - about infants, toddlers, and preschoolers is that they are into everything. They are discovering something new all the time, beginning to label the world around them, and even deciding what they like and don't like. [Dinosaurs - yes. Spinach - not so much!]
Last week we talked about bedtime stories for your home library. This week it's all about those waking hours! One suggestion: opt for the board book edition if there is one. This audience is notoriously tough on books!
Cars and Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry. Susan Thomsen counts this and Freight Trains by Donald Crews among her son's favorites at this age. This is a timeless classic. With Car, kids can figure out what moves (and what doesn't), make the sounds of myriad transportation modes and animals, and feed that passion for things that move! Scarry did a great job of "hiding" other things in the illustrations that will keep young children glued to the page.
Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty. When Pam narrowed down her gift choices for 3-year-old niece, Jeremy was on the list. From Pam: "This title is one of my favorites of 2009, though it seems to have slipped under the radar in the book world. I didn't think the amazing message contained within was too subtle, but maybe it did escape many readers who looked at the surface and saw a simple, light story. It's a shame, because people missed one of the better combinations of art, story, and message that I've ever seen."
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. I admit, that while I love Mo Willems, Knuffle Bunny isn't a personal fave. Still, as Gina points out in her Show and Tale last November, Mo and the Bunny have LOTS of adoring fans. Here's what Karen told Gina: "My daughter loves Knuffle Bunny in all its forms (including the sequel). She adores the combination of photography and cartoons and has been able to recite the story since before she could read." What more could you ask for?
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. When we knew we were going to adopt, this was one of my first book purchases. I loved this story as a child. Even through the pages you can engage your senses, from the chill of Peter's hands to the crunch, crunch, crunch of the snow.
Picture books are a natural choice when it comes to piquing and satisfying a young child's curiosity. There are so many wonderful choices - what books do you recommend for a play-time library?
Note: The bookcover images in this post link to Amazon.com and include an affiliate code that, through purchases, may earn income for the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (aka Cybils). The Indie Bound List and aStore include an affiliate code for the Reading Tub that, through purchases, may earn income for this literacy nonprofit. You are not obligated to use those links or make purchases through them.
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.
When my son was a baby, he loved a book called Alphabet Band. An older friend had handed it down as a present. Outfitted with a side panel of buttons to push, the book talked. I can still remember the very electronic voice starting off, "Alligator number one/Squeezes the accordion." We took it with us wherever we went.
When the kiddo grew into a toddler, he decided to figure out how Alphabet Band worked. I'm not sure what he discovered, but the book did not survive the thorough investigation—and is no longer in print, either.
These days when I'm looking for gifts for babies, one favorite resource is the annual "Best Books for Babies" list at Beginning With Books, an early-literacy center in Pittsburgh. The 2009 lineup (for books published in 2008) can be found online here.
Now ten, the Alphabet Band enthusiast is happily reading (and not tearing apart) chapter books, but if he were a toddler or preschooler, I'd use the recommendations for that age group at the blog Your Friendly Librarian. I like her roundup of 2009's best, which includes the lovely rhyming picture book All the World, written by a blogging pal, Liz Garton Scanlon, and illustrated by Marla Frazee.
If a garbage truck could talk, what would it say? Make friends with a smelly, sassy garbage truck with I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullan.
Mom-blogger Laura's a fan: "A night in the life of an NYC garbage truck, including an alphabet of gross trash ('P is for puppy poop!'). My boy loves it. Also an eco message. Best book for an urban mom like me!"
What books with unexpected main characters do you love? Any other truck books to recommend?
Today's Show and Tale comes from Kathleen, a mom who picked Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny. Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd, well loved for Goodnight Moon, created another classic with this sweet tale.
"It's a wonderful way to let your child know that you'd search to the ends of the earth for her," Kathleen said.
Have you read The Runaway Bunny? What are some other comforting books that you and your child love?
by Charley Harper
I certainly don’t need a board book for my fifth and eighth graders, but I might have to buy this one anyway just for the artistic value. The lovely and interesting illustrations of Charley Harper are completely the point of this (mostly) animal ABC book. Alphabet book connoisseurs are probably wondering about “X,” and I’ll tell you that it is not “Ox.” Oh, the suspense.
Charlie and Lola’s Opposites
by Lauren Child
What can I say? I love Charlie and Lola. I love the original books. I love the show. I love the books based on the show. And now I love the board books written from the success of the show based on the original books. The books are very simple in text big and small, many and few but Child’s illustrations are wonderful.
Cat and Dog
by Jane Kemp, Clare Walters, and Linzi West
It’s surprising that it took three people to produce books this simple in both words and pictures. I also think that the two books could have been smooshed together maybe into one of those flip-over books so you’d get more bang for your buck, because seven pages isn’t much book. That said, they are cute books about, respectively and most obviously, a cat and a dog. Fun, lively pictures.
"I am interested in finding out what board books you and other readers enjoy that include diverse characters. I have spent quite a bit of time looking for board books that feature black and brown faces and families, as well as multi-ethnic groups and families. I don't think there are enough of these books, particularly for infants and toddlers. I like Jabari Asim's books and Andrea Davis Pinkney's. What else have you found?"
Excellent question! There are lots of old and new board books that fit the bill. Plus, it gives me a chance to talk about some of my favorite board books that I haven't mentioned yet.
For starters, take a look at two classics: Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang and On Mother's Lap by Ann Herbert Scott with illustrations by Glo Coalson. They're both great to read before bedtime. For an intriguing story about the creation of Ten, Nine, Eight, check out Molly Bang's website.
Be sure to check out Baby Dance by Ann Taylor. I love the exuberance and joy that radiates from both the father and his beloved daughter in Marjorie Van Heerden's illustrations.
I'm not usually a fan of books written by celebrities, but I like the rhythm and beat of Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tanya Lewis Lee. The illustrations by Kadir Nelson always make me laugh and empathize with the parents. It's available in hardcover and paperback too.
Babies love to look at pictures of other babies, and there are a number of books that do that extremely well. If you take a look at the various board books that show baby faces, you'll find a rainbow of beautiful faces.
Take a look at the delightful Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers. I love Marla Frazee's playful illustrations. Also, there's Roberta Grobel Intrater's Baby Faces series. For an international perspective, look for Global Babies by the Global Fund for Children.
If you're not familiar with the authors Andromeda mentioned above, Jabari Asim's books are great: Whose Toes are Those? and Whose Knees are These? And check out Andrea and Brian Pinkney's Family Celebration Books: Pretty Brown Face, Watch Me Dance, I Smell Honey and Shake, Shake, Shake.
I've had a particularly tough time finding Asian American characters in board books (except for books of baby faces.) Hopefully, someone like Grace Lin will get into the act.
Thanks for getting me started. I'd love to see additions to this list. Does anyone have suggestions?
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
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?
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 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.
So, you can't wait to start reading to your baby. But your audience tends eat everything they can get their hands on including the books you're trying to read.
Not a problem, board books are the answer! They are smaller, durable, and should stand up to the average book-eating child. They're perfect for babies and toddlers, right? Well, the answer tends to vary.
Typically when hardcover books are reformatted into board books, they are abridged and changed from the original. Not every picture book transfers to a board book edition gracefully or effectively.
The board book version of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney cuts out many of the original illustrations and combines several pictures together. The hardcover edition is much easier to read and the pacing works far better.
Chicka Chicka abc is an abridgement of the wonderful Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. The poor lowercase letters never recover from their fall from the coconut tree the way they do in the original. Plus, we never get to meet the uppercase letters.
But all adaptations aren't bad. Goodnight Moon makes a delightful board book that preserves all the charm of the original. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? has just the right mixture of white space, rhyme and repetition to be a great board book for babies.
Also, there are many wonderful board books that were written as board books from the start. Sandra Boynton is an author that writes almost exclusively in board book format, with funny, effective, and enjoyable results.
Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy: a touch, skritch & tickle book is one of my favorite examples, because it's truly written for babies. It's slightly larger than typical board books, which makes it easier for babies to see and turn the pages. The pictures are simple, bright and straightforward. There's something to touch or feel on every page, which is a big hit with babies. And best of all, it's funny, something Sandra Boynton was able to accomplish with a mere 26 words.
The version I own currently looks quite different from the publisher's picture. (That's just the outside, the inside looks worse). Which goes to show you, even board books can't always withstand the love and rough handling of a baby.
I'm going to be posting a longer list of board book recommendations, but first I want to know which board books you like. Are there particular authors you enjoy? Are there board books your children are fascinated with?