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Board books are designed to survive the wear and tear of babies’ and toddlers’ inquisitive mouths and hands and offer a wonderful opportunity to share with a child snuggled on a caregiver’s lap. The best ones tell a simple story with few or no words, allowing readers to invent their own. Ideally, illustrations are crisp and clear, with limited images on each page, offering plenty of contrast between the background and the pictures. Occasionally, a picture book makes the successful transition to a board format, but be warned that not all picture books are equally engaging as board books. Too much text on the page is distracting and crowded, and the smaller trim size can make illustrations appear crammed on the page, losing detail and focus. The absolute best board books are the ones that withstand the test of time: not only in being indestructible, but also in holding young children’s interest as they explore and point to pictures, exclaiming, “again, again!” when reaching the last page. The following selections do just that.
Boynton, Sandra. Moo, Baa, La La La! illus. by author. 30th Anniversary Edition. S & S/Little Simon. 2012. ISBN 978-1-4424-5410-1. $7.99.
This classic board book, reissued in a slightly larger format, features cartoon illustrations and a rhyming text that are still as silly as ever to read aloud for a giggle.
Brown, James. Farm. illus. by author. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 978-0-7636-5931-8. $6.99.
Cut-and-relief lino prints showcase six different animals in this nearly wordless text. The black-and-white images are set on colored backgrounds for visual interest, making this a good choice for older babies.
Christelow, Eileen. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. illus. by author. Houghton Harcourt. 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-89691-5. $6.99.
The classic fingerplay comes to rollicking life in this adaptation of the picture book. The engaging cartoon art perfectly captures the antics of these exuberant chimps.
Dunrea,Olivier.Gossie. illus. by author. Houghton Harcourt. 2007. ISBN 978-0-618-74791-7. $6.95.
An endearing gosling loves to wear bright red boots. Every day. Rain or shine. What happens when they go missing? This title is a perfect example of a picture book making the successful transition to a board book.
Emberley, Rebecca. My Colors/Mis Colores. illus. by author. Little, Brown. 2000. ISBN 978-0-316-233477. $6.99.
In this bilingual concept book, each spread features simple objects on one side and the color on the other. The vividly hued collage illustrations will attract toddlers.
Flaptastic Colors. DK. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7566-5227-2. $6.99.
What color is the sun? The grass? This lift-the-flap board book features clear photographs of objects to answer each color question.
Fox, Mem. Time for Bed. illus. by Jane Dyer. Houghton Harcourt. 2010. ISBN 978-0-547-40856-9. $8.99.
This padded edition features a larger trim size, making it a better choice than the original, small board book. This version does justice to the beautiful watercolor illustrations of baby animals with their parents at bedtime.
Gravett, Emily. Orange Pear Apple Bear. illus. by author. S & S/Little Simon. 2011. ISBN 978-1-442-42003-8. $7.99.
A spare text (just five words) is cleverly rearranged on each page, and warm watercolors outlined in pen-and-ink will compel readers to look at this title again and again.
Henkes,Kevin.A Good Day. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2010. ISBN 978-0-06-185778-2. $7.99.
Thick-lined, watercolor and ink illustrations face each page of large, brief text that explores in simple terms how a bad day can turn into a delightful one.
Hills, Tad. Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin. illus. by author. Random/Schwartz & Wade. 2012. ISBN 978-0-307-98155-4. $10.99.
This charming, large board book tells the tale of Duck and Goose as they search for a pumpkin to call their own. Gorgeous oil paintings in autumnal hues invite readers into their world.
Hoban, Tana. Black on White. ISBN 978-0-688-11918-8.
––––. White on Black. ISBN 978-0-688-11919-5.
ea. vol: illus. by author. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 1993. $6.99.
These wordless titles feature high contrast, silhouetted images against white and black backgrounds. Perfect to share with newborns.
Horacek, Petr. Beep Beep. illus. by author. Candlewick. 2008. ISBN 978-0-7636-3482-7. $5.99.
A family takes a car ride to Grandma’s, depicted in sturdy die-cut pages and boldly colored illustrations. The text contains lots of fun action words to act out together while reading aloud.
Katz, Karen. Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?illus. by author. S & S/Little Simon. 2000. ISBN 978-0-689-83560-5. $5.99.
Lift-the-flap pages feature multicultural babies playing peek-a-boo with the narrator in this interactive book filled with vibrant colors and patterns.
Laden,Nina.Peek-a-Who? illus. by author. Chronicle. 2000. ISBN 978-0-8118-2602-0. $6.95.
Rhyming words and bright colors lead toddlers on a peek-a-boo hunt on pages that sport cutout sections, allowing them to preview the next object.
Light, Steve. Trains Go. illus. by author. Chronicle. 2012. ISBN 978-0-8118-7942-2. $9.99.
Rich watercolors and an energetic text spotlight eight noisy train cars and their unique sounds. This is a new classic for train lovers.
Martin,Bill, Jr.Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?illus. by Eric Carle. Holt. 1996. ISBN 978-0-805-04790-5. $7.95.
The beloved classic has made an excellent transition to a board-book format that can withstand seemingly endless readings and page turns.
Melling, David. Splish, Splash, Splosh! illus. by author. Tiger Tales. 2013. ISBN 978-1-58925-643-9. $8.95.
In this simple counting book, 10 adorable ducklings line up, ready to take a dip in the swimming pool.
Murphy,Mary.I Kissed the Baby! illus. by author. Candlewick. 2004. ISBN 978-0-7636-2443-9. $6.99.
Another picture book turned successful board book. Black-and-white illustrations offer plenty of contrast to a variety of animals that have fed, sung, tickled, and kissed the baby, with a bright yellow duckling at the end of this sweet story.
Murphy, Mary. Quick Duck! illus. by author. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 978-0-7636-6022-2. $6.99.
Little Duck hurries and scampers out of the mud, down the hill, and through the reeds–but where is he going? Shown in bright yellow, he pops off the white backgrounds, making it easy for young readers to follow along with his escapades.
Opie, Iona. Humpty Dumpty and Other Rhymes. illus. by Rosemary Wells. Candlewick. 2001. ISBN 978-076-3616-281. $4.99.
These eight beloved nursery rhymes, illustrated in Wells’s signature style, are a satisfying introduction to Mother Goose.
Patricelli, Leslie. Higher! Higher! illus. by author. Candlewick. 2010. ISBN 978-0-7636-4433-8. $6.99.
A little girl being pushed on a swing by her father urges him, “Higher! Higher!” With each turn of the page, she travels higher still, until she reaches the edge of space for a high five with an alien-child also sitting on a swing, no doubt urging his own parent to push him “Higher! Higher!” When she slows down and stops, the child turns to her father with delight, uttering a new word: “Again!” Bright acrylic paintings anchor the spreads.
Rathmann, Peggy. Good Night, Gorilla. illus. by author. Putnam. 1996. ISBN 978-0-399-23003-5. $7.99.
This nearly wordless title follows the zookeeper through his nightly walk of saying good night to all the animals–while unbeknownst to him, the gorilla has swiped his key and is unlocking the cages behind him, allowing a parade of animals to follow him home to bed.
Strickland, Paul & Henrietta Strickland. Dinosaur Roar! illus. by authors. Dutton. 1997. ISBN 978-0525-458-340. $7.99.
“Dinosaur roar,/dinosaur squeak,/dinosaur fierce,/dinosaur meek.” A rollicking and rhyming text featuring playfully colorful dinosaurs introduces the concept of opposites in this silly story.
Sutton, Sally. Roadwork. illus. by Brian Lovelock. Candlewick. 2011. ISBN 978-076-3646-530. $6.99.
Trucks and big machines are the main attractions of this noisy book that features a lot of action-based words that jump off the page, begging young readers to shout them out. Multicolored ink drawings are a perfect match for the text.
Wilson, Karma. Baby Cakes. illus. by Sam Williams. S & S/Little Simon. 2006. ISBN 978-1-416-90289-8. $7.99.
Diverse babies snuggle the same teddy bear throughout and get lots of hugs, smooches, tickles, and love in this beautiful, interactive rhyme perfect for bedtime sharing. The pastel-hued illustrations are irresistible.
Yoon, Salina. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: A Counting Nursery Rhyme.illus. by author. Random/Corey. 2011. ISBN 978-0-375-86479-7. $6.99.
This counting book offers an updated look at a classic nursery rhyme, set among the vibrant colors of a big-top circus tent. Die-cut windows create visual interest and offer a preview of the following spread as images transform from one object to the next.
Lisa G. Kropp is the youth services coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, NY.