Big Batch of Board Books

Cover for Big Bear, Little Bear

Big Bear, Little Bear by Marine Schneider (9781951836283)

Big Bear and Little Bear do a lot of things together. Sometimes they do the same thing, like wearing boots, living in the same house, and sharing the same bed at night. Other things are different. Big Bear has a car, while Big Bear is Little Bear’s car. Big Bear drinks coffee, while Little Bear’s looks more like milk. Big Bear has his own chair, and Little Bear sits on his lap. This board book is a sweet look at a parent and child and their relationship shown through objects that they use. The simplest of text allows the illustrations to tell the story more fully.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Cameron Kids.

Cover for Circle Under Berry

Circle Under Berry by Carter Higgins (9781797205083)

Compare the spatial relationships of different objects in this rhyming picture book with thick pages for little hands. The illustrations are bold and inviting, a combination of shapes and also objects like frogs, grasshoppers and an octopus who becomes upside down. There are colors to explore, shapes to find, and plenty to discover in this simple book that asks readers to participate. The text is perfect to share aloud with a small or large group who are sure to want to join in.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.

Cover for A Cub Story

A Cub Story by Kristen Tracy, illustrated by Alison Farrell (9781452174587)

A bear cub explores his woodland home, comparing himself to the other animals. He eats a lot compared to a hedgehog and compared to a moose, he eats a little. Readers get to visit his favorite spots in the forest, watching the hawks soar, smelling the woods. The cub is slower than the elk but faster than the snails near the pond. He spends his summer eating berries, playing games with friends, climbing trees, and digging for insects. In the fall, he goes fishing. In the winter, he heads to his den with his family and feeling like he is just the right size. With a lot more story than most board books, this book also has rich and warm illustrations that invite readers into the cub’s world.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.

Cover for Families Grow

Families Grow by Dan Saks, illustrated by Brooke Smart (9780593223673)

This board book embraces the many ways that families grow and add a new member. The baby begins with a wish and becomes a growing belly. That person may be Mom, or it may not. Babies are brought home and loved, some right away and others take longer. The book gently looks at surrogacy and adoption in a way that normalizes every way that a family might grow. This gentle and quiet book celebrates all sorts of families and floods the pages with love. The bright colors are warm and celebratory as each baby finds their home in a family.

Reviewed from library copy.

Cover for Here We Are

Here We Are: Book of Numbers by Oliver Jeffers (9780593466124)

Two new board books are companions to Jeffers’ earlier Here We Are book. In my favorite of the two, little ones get to visit our planet and count things along the way. Jeffers doesn’t keep it overly simple as we count three kinds of land, five things to think about, eight body parts, and ten ways to travel. The book ends with a lot of stars and finally with infinity (how much I love you.) This counting book offers amazement at our world, moments of quiet contemplation, and Jeffers’ playfulness throughout.

Reviewed from copy provided by Philomel.

A Bunch of Board Books

Cover for Everyone's Sleepy but the Baby
Cover for Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby.

Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby by Tracy C. Gold, illustrated by Adele Dafflon (9781641704403)

This honest portrayal of bedtime with a baby may be soothing to parents as much as to the baby it’s being read to. In rhyming text, this board book explores getting a non-sleepy child to bed. The rhymes are fun and manage to be silly while still being able to be read softly and quietly as a bedtime process. The illustrations show the very tired parents trying to get their little one to sleep. In the end, everyone is sleepy. Maybe even your child too!

Cover for My Heart Beats
Cover for My Heart Beats.

My Heart Beats by Rina Singh (9781459825680)

This board book is full of love for children and shares the thump of a heart beat in different languages. Told in rhymes, the languages are explained on the final pages of the book. They include Japanese, Italian, Swedish, Korean, French, and Urdu. The photographs in the book are full of smiling children infants through toddlers, interacting with an adult in their life. The result is a hug of a board book sure to make everyone smile.

Cover for New House
Cover image for New House.

New House by Dave Wheeler (9780593224922)

Very few board books explore moving from the point of view of a toddler. This clever board book fills that gap very nicely. Told in just a few words on each page, the toddler explores his new home. It has a new door, new staircase, new carpet, and new tub. When night comes it has new dark and new shadows until he is reminded that a lot of the same things came along with them, including his parents, blanket, monkey and night light. The illustrations share a story of messiness, bath and bedtime that is sure to enchant little ones who may be making a move themselves.

Cover for The Night Is Deep and Wide
Cover image for The Night Is Deep and Wide.

The Night Is Deep and Wide by Gillian Sze, illustrated by Sue Todd (9781459824812)

A gorgeous bedtime board book, this book uses repeating imagery and lines to soothe little ones to sleep. The structure here is more complex than most board books, written as an Italian villanelle. The cyclic pattern of the book, repeats phrases like “Moonlight falls on eyes that close” and “tulips close, row by row.” The illustrations show a child exploring their nighttime world as the tulips close around them, the songbirds curl up, and a hush settles over everything as the moonlight shines. The illustrations are equally stunning, with a woodblock feel and clever use of pops of color.

All reviewed from library copies.

Best Board Books of 2020

The pandemic seems to have hit this category the hardest. Most of the books I read this year were digital rather than in print. I don’t know that board books work particularly well for me in digital format, because so many of them play with textures, flaps and movable elements. Here are the four board books that managed to catch my attention in 2020:

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky

With bright illustrations, this book takes a firm stand of hope and optimism as long as hard work is done and children are raised to see themselves as part of the solution.

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell

Clever and fun, you won’t be able to stop playing with this one.

Pride 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten

Pride 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Wednesday Holmes

The illustrations are bold and bright, featuring all sorts of characters and families who are part of the LGBTQIA+ family.

The Scary Book by Thierry Dedieu (9783791374642)

Expect a mix of giggles and gasps as children explore this one.

The Scary Book by Thierry Dedieu

Cover image for The Scary Book

The Scary Book by Thierry Dedieu (9783791374642)

This board book offers plenty of creepy shivers when you take a normal sort of already frightening creature and then extend the flap. This one is not for the littlest children, though it is in board book format. It’s preschoolers and elementary-aged children who will love the wild and scary nature of the flaps opening. You may think that a bat is already pretty scary, but extend its jaws and find how sharp and huge its teeth really are. The ghost is pretty blank until you lift its head higher and discover a skeleton and some bloody spurts underneath. The wolf has a jaw that opens wider and wider, displaying a skeletal Little Red Riding Hood inside!

The words take a firm back seat to the art in this bold book with each double-page spread filled with a solid-colored background that really lets the sinister art stand out. The book is a blend of silliness and scariness, with the first flap the most surprising as they all open much wider than readers expect. Expect a mix of giggles and gasps as children explore this one.

Not for the faint of heart, readers must take their own hands directly into the jaws of the beasts to see the surprises. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Prestel Junior.

A Bunch of Board Books

Here are some great recently-released board books to embrace this summer:

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky (9780593110416)

To raise an antiracist baby, you must understand that’s it’s all about showing them that society can transform. This is not a space to be neutral, but one to be an activist. This board book explores what it takes to raise a child who is not racist in our society. First, see all skin colors, don’t be artificially color-blind. Second, talk about race. Third, politics are the problem, not people. Fourth, there is nothing wrong with people, no matter their race, sex, gender, orientation or faith. Fifth, celebrate differences. This book continues through number none which is believing that we can overcome racism. With bright illustrations, this book takes a firm stand of hope and optimism as long as hard work is done and children are raised to see themselves as part of the solution.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kokila. 

Pride 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten

Pride 1 2 3 by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Wednesday Holmes (9781534464995)

Join in the happiness of a pride parade in this counting board book. There is one parade in June with two DJs playing music. Three families, four activists, five motorcycles. Six floats go by with seven divas posing. Eight signs are held high with nine people standing together in unity. The final ten are people waving a variety of pride flags. Incredibly inclusive, this board book welcomes everyone to pride parades and celebrations with open arms. The illustrations are bold and bright, featuring all sorts of characters and families who are part of the LGBTQIA+ family.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little Simon. 

Wake Up, Let's Play by Marit Tornqvist

Wake Up, Let’s Play by Marit Tornqvist (9781782506263)

This dreamy board book invites children to join in the fun that two friends find together. They play all sorts of things, like birthday party and restaurant. They build sandcastles and play stormy seas in the bath. Busy towns with wooden tracks fill the room, and sometimes art wanders onto the walls. They play through snow and even into the night. Then it’s time to figure out what to play tomorrow! Told in very simple sentences, this board book has marvelous illustrations that are quirky and fantastical. At the same time, these are exactly the games that small children play, so it is rooted in reality. A marvel of a little book.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Floris Books.

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell (9781419739071)

This clever board book opens to reveal four separate sections, all done in sturdy board pages. Little ones are encouraged to play with the sections, as each one has an engaging question on it. Can you make a plate of only circles or triangles? Can you make one of only one color? Can you find a plate with all your favorite foods? Start turning the pages and you will discover a multi-topped pizza, Japanese sushi and miso soup, tacos, sandwiches, mac and cheese, and various fruits and veggies.

This book asks children to play with it. Families will be able to come up with their own challenges for one another since the book has 4,000 combinations. Turn all the way to the end and all of the sections end with empty plates and a few crumbs.

Clever and fun, you won’t be able to stop playing with this one. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Appleseed.

Best Books for Babies & Toddlers 2019

ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing

ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing, illustrated by Paulina Morgan

From the very first page, this board book grapples with social justice issues and demands that even tiny children start to think about our world in a more open way.

B Is for Baby by Atinuke

B Is for Baby by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Once again, Atinuke shows the beauty of Africa through a small child’s eyes.

Baby Day by Jane Godwin and Davina Bell

Baby Day by Jane Godwin and Davina Bell, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Godwin and Bell show exactly what happens when you get a group of toddlers together.

Hush Little Bunny by David Ezra Stein

Hush Little Bunny by David Ezra Stein

Caldecott Honor-winner Stein has rewritten the classic song of Hush Little Baby into a rabbit-filled delight.

Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka

Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka

A delight of a board book sure to get everyone jumping.

Love You Head to Toe by Ashley Barron

Love You Head to Toe by Ashley Barron

The book contains many similes and metaphors and even the smallest child will enjoy looking at the animals and the ways that they are just the same.

My Art Book of Sleep by Shana Gozansky

My Art Book of Sleep by Shana Gozansky

An intelligent look at art for the youngest of children.

Up, Up, Up, Down! by Kimberly Gee

Up, Up, Up, Down! by Kimberly Gee

A toddler’s day is filled with opposites in this adorable picture book.

Why by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Simple and just right for toddlers and their questions.

Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld

Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld

The pacing is exciting and fast and the book is filled with just enough danger and plenty of love.

You Are Light by Aaron Becker

You Are Light by Aaron Becker

The poetry is effective and evocative, speaking to the power of light in our world. Still, it is the design and colors that truly make this book something particularly special.

Review: All Around Bustletown: Winter by Rotraut Susanne Berner

All Around Bustletown Winter by Rotraut Susanne Berner

All Around Bustletown: Winter by Rotraut Susanne Berner (9783791374154)

Large picture-book-sized pages made of board book stock invite even the youngest of children to explore Bustletown. In these busy pages, the life of an entire village plays out. The wordless format lets each reader make up their own stories about the people in town. Some of the story arcs include an escaped parrot, a lost key and wallet, a cat on a jaunt around town, buying a Christmas tree, and heading to ice skate with a friend. It’s a delightful mix of Where’s Waldo chaos with real stories about a diverse little town.

A German import, readers will enjoy the distinct European feel of the setting in the book. Care was taken to be inclusive with the members of the town, including people of different skin colors, faiths and abilities. The busyness of the pages is at just the right level, making it a pleasure to find the character you are searching for, rather than a frustration.

Bright and friendly, this wordless picture book is great fun to explore. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Prestel.

Review: ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing

ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing

ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing, illustrated by Paulina Morgan (9781786037428)

From the very first page, this board book grapples with social justice issues and demands that even tiny children start to think about our world in a more open way. A here is for ability. This book doesn’t stop with just the associated word though, it offers a definition that is accessible for small children, taking each concept and building on it throughout the book. Ewing uses great skill in distilling large and complicated subjects such as race, gender and xenophobia. Her text is uplifting and inspiring to read.

The illustrations are filled with characters of different races, religions, abilities and genders. They are small and friendly, clambering around on the letters and shapes and bringing a bouncy and joyous energy to the entire board book.

A board book that advocates for diversity and inclusion. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.