Board Book Round-up

Spring Board Book Round-up

Time for our semi-annual Board Book round-up! There doesn’t appear to be very many new books out this season, which is a shame, as many parents seek out new board books to read to their babies and toddlers.

Individual Titles

Baby Animal FarmBlair, Karen. Baby Animal Farm. Candlewick, 2014. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-7069-6.

A group of young multicultural toddlers visit a farm, and repeat the sounds the animals make: “Chase the chicks. Cheep, Cheep, Cheep.” Eight animals are shown, and the group has lunch and looks for a lost teddy bear, making this a board book with a fair amount of plot. Each page has about six words at the most, and the repetition of the animals’ sounds will grab the attention of listeners. Storytime presenters can also use the animal sounds to get the audience to repeat parts of the text, making this a fun interactive call and response tale.  The light watercolor illustrations on cream colored backgrounds depict very young children of various ethnicities, interacting with the animals. No adults are depicted, but the final illustrations shows the toddlers in their strollers, asleep after their busy day at the farm. An excellent choice for libraries and for storytime.

McQuinn, Anna. Leo Loves Baby Time. Illus. by Ruth Hearson.   Leo Loves Baby TimeCharlesbridge, 2014. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-58089-665-8.

Leo is the younger brother of Lola, the character from McQuinn’s “Lola at the Library” series of picture books. This book stars Leo, who goes with his mom to the baby storytime at his local library, where they share books, do a knee bounce, play with scarves, and sing songs. The book is a hybrid – it is the size of a larger board book, with pages made of thick paper and coated in plastic to stand up to wear and tear. Few board books feature nonwhite human characters, so this diverse group of babies, as well as African-American Leo and his mom, are a welcome sight. Libraries will want several copies, to circulate and to use at lapsit or baby bounce storytimes.

Ladybug GirlSoman, David. Ladybug Girl Says Good Night. Illus. by Jacky Davis. Dial, 2014. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3893-5.

Although Ladybug Girl stars in a series of picture books, the board books featuring the character are not adaptations, they are original stories made for the board book audience. Here, Ladybug Girl gets ready for bed by taking a bath, brushing her teeth, and asking “eight more books, please?” The watercolor and ink illustrations feature white backgrounds, and depict an average suburban home.


One two threeThompson, Carol. “Little Movers” series. Child’s Play, 2013. $4.99 each.
One, Two, Three…Jump! 978-1-84643-615-4.
One, Two, Three…Climb! 978-1-84643-617-8.
One, Two, Three…Run! 978-1-84643-616-1.
One, Two, Three…Crawl! 978-1-84643-614-7.

In this delightful quartet of mid-size board books, babies are shown crawling, running, etc. The concept of opposites is inherent in the narrative: “Crawl in. Crawl out.” With just a few words per page, these are designed for babies and those who have just learned to walk, perfect in format for the target audience.  The cartoon sketch illustrations feature babies of all ethnicities, shown in action against white backgrounds. The ink sketches are filled in with deep watercolors, with a few collage elements to add interest. Some babies wear glasses or an eyepatch, and all are engaging without being cloyingly sweet. Libraries will find these popular with parents, and fun to read at lapsit storytimes.

Braun, Sebastien. “Lift the Flaps” series. Candlewick, , 2014, $5.99 each.  Who Can Swim
Who Can Jump? ISBN 978-0-7636-6753-5.
Who Can Swim? ISBN 978-0-7636-6752-8.

Although the series is called “Lift the Flaps,” the flaps are actually half-pages that cover something for the reader to guess. The pages and flaps are made of sturdy thick paper so these should stand up to library circulation, and would be great for a library storytime.
The text repeatedly asks the title question (which allows listeners to participate by calling out the phrase), then when the flap is turned, the brief text names the animal jumping or swimming. In the boldly colored gouache illustrations, part of the animal is visible even when the flap is closed, allowing the toddler to guess the animal. This series is a great example of the type of simple text and distinctive artwork that combine for an age appropriate, engaging board book.

Lewis, Anthony. “Hands-on Songs” series. Child’s Play, 2013. $4.99 each.
Five Little Ducks. 978-1-84643-630-7.
Humpty Dumpty. 978-1-84643-627-7.
Jack and Jill. 978-1-84643-629-1.
Old Macdonald. 978-1-84643-628-4.
Wheels on the Bus. 978-1-84643-626-0.

In this series of five larger board books, the texts are all song lyrics. Some of the time the lyrics are shortened, like in Wheels on the Bus and Old Macdonald, so hopefully the adult reading to the toddler will repeat the text when appropriate and make a song of it.
The charming colored pencil with watercolor illustrations all feature a group of toddlers acting out the song with toys; for example, Old Macdonald is a child with some animal toys, not a real farmer. Or, Humpty Dumpty is not an egg but a child sitting on a pile of pillows. But these will work well, especially with an enthusiastic reader who gets the toddlers to sing along.
The one aspect of this series that is unsuccessful is the “Hands-on” element mentioned in the series title. Each illustration has some small arrows next to the child pictured, supposedly demonstrating a key word in American Sign Language. But unfortunately there are some instances when it is difficult to figure out the movement needed to sign that word. Readers will need a different resource to learn the signs if they want to incorporate sign language into their baby storytimes, which is a practice that is encouraged. Still, these will find an audience and could motivate parents to check out some baby sign language DVDs.

For Adults

A is for activistNagara, Innosanto. A Is for Activist. Triangle Square/ Seven Stories Press, 2013. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-60980-539-5.

Oakland resident Innosanto Nagara’s debut is a clever alphabet book for older children and adults, celebrating those who work for social justice. Although it is on board pages, and is the small square size of a board book, this will have more appeal to tweens, teens, and adults who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and other efforts to help those in need. In fact, libraries and others would welcome a larger hardback edition of this innovative and original book.
Arranged like an alphabet book, each page lists a few words representing a letter of the alphabet that would fit the theme. For example, “F is for Feminist. For Fairness in our pay. For Freedom to Flourish and choose our own way.” The rhyming text of the book could be presented as a school play for the Martin Luther King, Jr. or Cesar Chavez holidays, as well as Labor Day. Of course, more conservative parents may object to the book, but many Bay Area families will appreciate its message, including advocating for LGBT rights, immigration reform, and environmental concerns.
The colorful collage illustrations are striking, resembling labor reform poster artwork. It appears that some of the elements include block prints, photos, paint, and other media, with a black cat appearing in every spread. The artwork is another reason this would benefit from a larger edition, where readers could really pour over the pictures.

Penny Peck, San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science


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