"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?
Whether it's a colorful character or a great rhyming text, there are certain books that just beg to be read aloud. As I mentioned in my earlier post about favorite picture books, it was impossible for me to choose just ten. So here's part two: my favorite read aloud books.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd.
If ever a book was meant to be read aloud, it's this one. Goodnight Moon has a perfect cadence that matches the illustrations beautifully. This book can lull anyone to sleep.
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow.
The bouncy rhythm and repetition of this familiar rhyme makes it a natural candidate to read aloud. Christelow's drawings add a whole new dimension by allowing the reader to see the growing exasperation of the doctor whose advice is consistently ignored. And, the last page (which shows the mother jumping on her own bed once the monkeys have finally gone to sleep) always gets a huge laugh.
Jamberry by Bruce Degen.
What a joyous celebration of language. Bruce Degen strings together wonderful phrases such as "raspberry, jazzberry, razzamatazberry" that just roll off the tongue. The vibrant pictures bursting with color are a perfect compliment to the text. Plus, I love the "Boys-in-Berries" pun on the side of the berry train.
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley.
Emberley confronts childhood fears head on in this book about a big green monster. But his creative papercut illustrations go a step further by allowing the reader to literally strip away every single scary part. It's great fun to read aloud and it empowers kids by showing them that they have the power to get rid of monsters all by themselves.
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer.
This book works every time I read it aloud, whether it's to a crowd of during storytime or to my son at bedtime. Famed cartoonist Jules Feiffer uses delightfully silly illustrations, terrific pacing and repetition to make this book a surefire hit with the preschool crowd. This is another book that ends with a great punch line.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and Jon Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert.
This rollicking, rhyming book is always lots of fun to read aloud. Not your average alphabet book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom has flair, style and a playful story. If you've only read it as a board book, be sure to check out the full edition where the letters manage to get themselves untangled. I always end the book by singing the alphabet song and following along with the large printed alphabet on the end papers.
The Baby BeeBee Bird by Diane Redfield Massie, illustrated by Steven Kellogg.
Who can resist the baby beebee bird? All the animals in the zoo who are trying to sleep, that's who. Steven Kellogg's new illustrations add a wonderful exuberance to this old read aloud favorite. Everyone will want to join in with the baby beebee bird. Warning: this book causes the side effect of hearing your child say "beebeebobbibobbi" for the rest of the day!
The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin.
I love how Grover connects with the audience in this book. The ropes and brick walls that Grover creates in an attempt to keep the reader from turning pages are simply delightful and egg the reader on. I've read this book at countless storytimes, and every time the kids beg me to keep turning pages even as Grover implores them not to. Like Go Away, Big Green Monster, this book empowers kids to keep turning pages and to confront their fears in a very humorous way.
The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Bernard Westcott.
"Miss Lucy had a baby, she named him Tiny Tim" is often familiar to adults as a jump rope song. Nadine Bernard Westcott has adapted this simple rhyme into a joyful book that's lots of fun to sing along with. This one is great for all ages.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems.
This is a fantastic book to read aloud. The simple text and illustrations build slowly and expertly to an extremely humorous climax. I always love hearing the kids in storytime shouting "No!" loudly at the pigeon as he keeps trying to drive the bus. And of course, I have a weak spot for the pigeon. This book also turned up in Jen and Pam's top picture book lists.
What books do you love reading aloud? What books do your children love listening to?