June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Board Book Buzz | Editors’ Picks

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Catch the buzz! The SLJ editors have selected and annotated 50 board books as the best of the season. Our picks include stories, concept books, nonfiction titles, catchy rhymes, and lift-the-flap fun for babies, toddlers, and preschool audiences.

Adams, Jennifer. New York. illus. by Greg Pizzoli. 22p. (My Little Cities). ­Chronicle. Apr. 2017. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781452153889.

PreS–The sights and sounds of the Big Apple are explored in this clever and fun look at opposites. “Building high (the Empire State Building),/Building low (New York Public Library),/Moving fast (subway),/Moving slow (ferry to the Statue of Liberty).” Times Square, Central Park, Yankee Stadium, Coney Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge are also showcased. The simple text is presented in an array of jazzy fonts, and Pizzoli’s graphic style cartoon images are pleasing and loaded with child appeal.

Baruzzi, Agnese. Opposite Surprise. illus. by Agnese Baruzzi. 30p. Minedition. Apr. 2017. Board $12.99. ISBN 9789888341375.

Toddler-PreS–This inspired concept book introduces kids to the idea of opposites through a series of playful images that aren’t quite what they appear to be. “Empty or full?” asks Baruzzi. The facing page depicts a seemingly empty fish tank but folds out to reveal a group of orange and red fish. Another page asks, “Hot or cold?” The facing page portrays a shining sun that folds out to become a dripping pair of Popsicles. Vibrant colors, simple objects, and an imaginative premise combine for a thought-provoking experience.

Bee, William. Stanley’s Numbers. ISBN 9781561459766.

––––. Stanley’s Opposites. ISBN 9781561459773.

ea vol: illus. by William Bee. 20p. (Stanley). Peachtree. Aug. 2017. Board $6.95.

Toddler-PreS–Lovable duo Stanley and Little Woo educate readers about basic concepts. In Numbers, they prepare for a picnic and readers count along with them as they near the final celebration. In Opposites, they act as counterparts in a comedic fashion. In both volumes, the intermittent appearance of vertical spreads is visually refreshing and allows for more dynamic scenes: for ­instance, Stanley carrying nine cheese wheels, with Little Woo happily riding on top. Kids will be asking for these by name.

Bianchini, Bob. Charlie Rides: Planes, Trains, Bikes, and More! illus. by Bob Bianchini. 20p. Abrams Appleseed. Apr. 2017. Board $8.95. ISBN 9781419722929.

Toddler-PreS–Charlie is a boy on the move. He loves to bike with his father, zoom down a hill in the snow, go fishing on his grandpa’s boat, and ride on planes and subway trains. Whether Charlie is at an amusement park or soaring in a hot-air balloon, his dad is always by his side, and the boy’s favorite ride of all is on his papa’s shoulders. The boldly outlined graphic style artwork is fresh, appealing, and fun. A perfect selection for toddlers and preschoolers on the go.

Big Cats. ISBN 9781426327018.

––––. Look Outside. ISBN 9781426327025.

ea vol: 24p. (Look & Learn). National Geographic. Feb. 2017. Board $6.99.

PreS-K–The “Look & Learn” series encourages interactive learning by presenting little ones with an observation (“The tiger cleans its fur with its tongue”) followed by related directions (“Find the tiger’s tongue. Stick out your tongue.”). The clean layout and ­vibrant photos set these books apart—­readers won’t be able to resist such images as a toddler ­enjoying a pile of leaves or the head-on ­quizzical stare of a snow leopard.

BiGGS, Brian. I’m a Police Officer. illus. by Brian Biggs. 20p. (A Tinyville Town Book). Abrams Appleseed. Aug. 2017. Board $7.95. ISBN 9781419723230.

Toddler-PreS–Kathy, a police officer, puts on her uniform and heads off to work. In her capacity to protect and serve the citizens of Tinyville Town, she explains, “No task is too big, or too small” and she must be ready for anything. When the bakery and grocery store are robbed, Kathy springs into action. She listens carefully, takes notes, and follows clues. Young sleuths will solve the case right along with Kathy. The mixed-media ­cartoon artwork is bold outlined and energetic. A modern, engaging look at a community helper and a fun addition to the series.

Birds & Other Animals with Pablo Picasso. illus. by Pablo Picasso. 30p. (First Concepts with Fine Artists). Phaidon. Apr. 2017. Board $9.95. ISBN 9780714874180.

Toddler-PreS–This entry in the series uses sketches from Picasso’s notebooks to teach animal recognition. The text includes facts about the creatures pictured—that flamingos stand on one leg, that camels’ humps grow and shrink, that dogs and horses can learn to perform tricks—plus a short, ­kid-friendly essay about the artist at the end. The single-line drawings are beautifully simple, but their subjects are instantly recognizable and will likely inspire more than one kid (or parent) to pick up a pencil.

Carle, Eric. My First PEEK-A-BOO Animals. illus. by Eric Carle. 16p. (The World of Eric Carle). S. & S./Little Simon. Jun. 2017. Board $7.95. ISBN 9781534401051.

Toddler-PreS–With a winning combination of descriptive rhymes, sturdy peek-a-boo flaps, and iconic colorful collage images, Carle introduces young listeners to an elephant, tiger, turtle, monkey, horse, butterfly, frog, and lion. This is part guessing game, part interactive manipulation, and pure fun. Sure to be a lapsit favorite.

Chapman, Jared. Vegetables in Underwear. illus. by Jared Chapman. 22p. Abrams. Apr. 2017. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781419723773.

Preschool–This charmingly absurd story delivers exactly what its title promises: an array of cheerful vegetables parading around in brightly colored undies. It sets up numerous oppositional relationships (clean/dirty, big/little, funny/serious) and includes a trio of sad baby vegetables who are too little to wear underwear.

Crozier, Lorna. More Than Balloons. illus. by Anne Miller. 26p. Orca. Apr. 2017. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781459810280.

Baby-Toddler–A lyrical tribute to unbounded love illustrated with fanciful pastel illustrations featuring bunnies, bees, balloons, and blooming flowers. “I love you…More than a lake loves a loon, More than a bang loves a boom.” A sweet and satisfying selection for parent/child bonding.

Degen, Bruce. Jamberry. illus. by Bruce Degen. 34p. HarperCollins/HarperFestival. May 2017. Board $9.99. ISBN 9780062643797.

Toddler-PreS–Razzamatazzberry! An exuberant rhyming classic story, now in board book format, celebrates berries of all shapes and flavors as a bear and boy canoe over a waterfall, get tangled in a maypole, and ride a train en route to the Berryland Festival.

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. Race Car Count. illus. by Michael Slack. 32p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Mar. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781627799348.

PreS-K–This board book adaptation of the Wacky Races–esque counting book doesn’t disappoint. The horizontal format permits Dotlich and Slack to depict full action scenes that are never overwhelming. Kids will root for their favorite souped-up vehicle and delight at the restart of the race at the end of the book, all while secretly strengthening their one to 10 counting skills.

Gehl, Laura. I’m Not Hatching. illus. by Joyce Wan. 32p. (Peep and Egg). Farrar. Jan. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9780374305420.

Toddler-PreS–Egg refuses to hatch—it’s just too frightening out there! A chick named Peep offers words of encouragement, describing all the fun they’ll have once Egg emerges. Egg shoots down every one of Peep’s ideas: riding sheep is “too bumpy,” while splashing in puddles is “too wet.” Depicting rounded, thick-lined, smiling animals, the cartoonish illustrations are high on the cute factor. Gehl’s repetitive text, punctuated by a refrain of “I’m not hatching,” will speak to youngsters who are reluctant to come out of their shells, and may even inspire them to try new and potentially scary things, just like Egg, who eventually comes around.

Gill, Shelley. If I Were a Whale. illus. by Erik Brooks. 20p. Little Bigfoot. Feb. 2017. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781632171047.

PreS–This lively introduction to the giants of the sea opens with the verse, “If I could be anything,/do you know what I’d be?/I’d be a whale/in the deep blue sea./Scooping up fishes/and flipping my tail,/I’d be a minke/or beluga whale.” Pilot whales, gray whales, blue whales, orcas, and narwhals all make appearances and are depicted in lush and saturated watercolors. The rhyme is simple and effective and lets the buoyant art do the heavy lifting. Sure to make a splash with young nature lovers.

Glaser, Rebecca. Cows Moo. ISBN 9781681521251.

––––. Horses Neigh. ISBN 9781681521268.

––––. Pigs Oink. ISBN 9781681521282.

ea vol: 14p. (Farm Animals). Amicus. Apr. 2017. Board $7.99.

Baby-Toddler–Striking close-up photos of noisy newborns and mature farm animals swatting flies, grazing in meadows, and wallowing in the mud will have children and adults oohing and aahing (and mooing, neighing, and oinking) as they flip the pages of these charming, bound-for-handling books.

Gomi, Taro. What Do You Wear? illus. by Taro Gomi. 20p. Chronicle. Mar. 2017. Board $6.99. ISBN 9781452150284.

Toddler-PreS–Gomi looks to the animal kingdom to address the subject of clothing and getting dressed. Sheep is shown wearing “a fluffy jacket,” Gorilla sports “a cozy sweater,” Snake shows off “a snug stocking,” and Zebra rocks his “striped pajamas.” The penultimate spread shows a surprised boy in his birthday suit, but with a page turn, the book ends with, “Quick, let’s get dressed! That’s better!” as he pulls on a shirt and pants. An upbeat choice with clever, appealing artwork.

Henkes, Kevin. Birds. illus. by Laura Dronzek. 32p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Feb. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9780062573056.

Toddler-PreS–Throughout the seasons, a child listens to the many feathered creatures outside her window, observing their colors, size, movements, and favorite perches and imagining what it feels like to soar. A handy, portable board book version of the lovely picture book.

Hoban, Tana. Black White. illus. by Tana Hoban. 36p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. May 2017. Board $8.99. ISBN 9780062656902.

Baby-Toddler–A much-beloved wordless classic in a board book format. Hoban ­expertly uses full-page black-and-white silhouettes to invoke everyday objects/sights (banana, pacifier, kittens, etc.). The large trim size allows the boldness of the design to come through—little ones can practically see themselves in the glossy black. The emphasis on shapes makes this perfect for babies and young children developing their image recognition skills.

Jackson, Ellen. Picky Eaters. illus. by Amy-Clare Barden. 16p. Sterling. Jan. 2017. Board $7.95. ISBN 9781454919018.

PreS–This lift-the-flap rhyming board book introduces a number of animal diets. Readers can find the answer to what a particular creature eats by lifting the flap: “Caterpillars on a twig…eat their milkweed to grow big.” Barden’s digital illustrations are soft and appealing, with just enough texture to be eye-catching. While this is ostensibly a validation of pickiness, Jackson does ultimately urge little ones to try new foods—good luck with that!

Low, William. Trucks to the Rescue! illus. by William Low. 22p. Holt. Aug. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781627795753.

Toddler-PreS–Familiar outside issues meet their perfect vehicle-related solutions: “Stoplight’s out—traffic jam. BUCKET TRUCK to the rescue!” Low’s artwork is stunning, using thick brushstrokes and rich colors and shadows to re-create detailed city and suburban scenes—readers will want to linger on each spread. The various truck drivers include both men and women.

Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions. photos by Molly Magnuson. 14p. Abrams Appleseed. May 2017. Board $7.95. ISBN 9781419723834.

Baby-Toddler–Full-color head shots depict a diverse group of toddlers exhibiting a range of facial expressions that indicate a variety of emotions, from happy to sad and surprised to amused. Directives, such as, “Can you make a HAPPY face? or “Find the SAD baby!,” engage young listeners throughout. A guessing game and a mirror offer youngsters interactive opportunities.

Mara, Nichole. So Many Feet. illus. by Alexander Vidal. 34p. Abrams. Appleseed May 2017. Board $12.95. ISBN 9781419723186.

PreS-K–This large-format board book on the different types and purposes of feet features a menagerie of friendly cartoon creatures. Mara starts off simply (“slow feet” for giant tortoises), and her choices grow in complexity (“scratchy feet” for chickens). Kids will learn how each animal’s feet are useful; for instance, the duck’s webbed feet help it swim. A delight for those who can’t get enough of Dr. Seuss’s The Foot Book.

Mitter, Patricia. My Colors Book. illus. by Patricia Mitter. 24p. Cornell Lab. Aug. 2017. Tr $8.95. ISBN 9781943645435.

Toddler-PreS–From the purple martin to the orange oriole, 10 avian creatures are highlighted in this brightly illustrated tabbed guide—the first in a new series. For each bird, a line of text offers a detail about its search for food or its song. Companion iOS and Android apps, which provide corresponding bird sounds, can be downloaded for free.

Mühle, Jörg. Bathtime for Little Rabbit. illus. by Jörg Mühle. 20p. Gecko Pr. Aug. 2017. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781776571376.

Toddler-PreS–Little ones are asked to help the adorable bucktoothed bunny from Tickle My Ears with his bath routine. Directions to shampoo his hair and rub him dry encourage tactile learning, while the small, humorous shifts in his facial expressions will reward close looking. Mühle’s choice of light blue (during bath) and pale yellow (post-bath) colored backgrounds is a calming one.

Puck. Babies Around the World. illus. by Violet Lemay. 20p. Duopress. Mar. 2017. Board $7.95. ISBN 9781938093876.

Babies-PreS–Babies and their families greet neighbors and friends throughout the day in New York, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, London, Paris, Cape Town, Cairo, Beijing, and Tokyo. The final spread has a papa bidding his baby “Nite nite!” in San Francisco. Fun digital collage landscapes grace each spread along with the standard greetings (and translations). A fun way to introduce different parts of the world and the universality of baby love around the globe.

Rayner, Catherine. One Happy Tiger. illus. by Catherine Rayner. 24p. Tiger Tales. Jan. 2017. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781589252349.

PreS–A reimagining of Augustus and His Smile as a counting concept book. Beginning with “One sad tiger sitting alone” readers count all the friendly creatures and natural phenomena the tiger encounters until the all-is-well ending, “One happy tiger and ten little friends.” The rewards of curiosity and the willingness to break out of one’s shell are deftly communicated. A tender work to share one-on-one.

Riggs, Kate. Counting on Birds. illus. by Jori van der Linde. 14p. Creative Editions. Mar. 2017. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781568463001.

Toddler-PreS–The nesting activities of a pair of common songbirds and the subsequent birth, feeding, and first flight of their three fledglings offer a counting exercise for young listeners. Warm green, brown, and yellow tones illuminate the wooded landscape.

Riggs, Kate. Crowds of Creatures. illus. by Fiammetta Dogi. 14p. Creative Editions. Mar. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781568463018.

Toddler-PreS–A playful romp through the animal kingdom and the various terms used to describe family groups. Riggs’s rhyming couplets are light and easy to read (“A flock of geese flies to nest/A colony of ants works without rest.”) and are well paired with Dogi’s illustrations, which were created with paint by airbrush and then by hand. The spread on the troop of monkeys is particularly spirited.

Riggs, Kate. Under the Sea. illus. by Tom Leonard. 14p. Creative Editions. Mar. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781568463025.

Toddler-PreS–Scenes of aquatic life are paired with a lesson on simple prepositions. “Clownfish wiggles out of an anemone” is followed by “Octopus waits in a dark den.” (The words out and in are capitalized and in a bolder font than the rest of the text.) Leonard’s full-spread illustrations, done in acrylic, are detailed and realistically capture each creature performing the act stated in the text.

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Bear in the Chair. ISBN 9781626724976.

––––. Dog Changes His Name. ISBN 9781626724983.

ea vol: illus. by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. 18p. (Dog and Bear). Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Feb. 2017. Board $5.99.

Toddler-PreS–Seeger’s highly acclaimed slice-of-life tales get the board book treatment. In Bear in the Chair, the teddy bear is too frightened to descend from a tall chair, but Dog offers encouragement. Dog Changes His Name sees Dog unsatisfied with his dull moniker, and though the dachshund suggests alternatives, Bear points out that none of them are fitting. Both stories end on a quirky, deeply satisfying note, and the textured images of the expressive characters, elegantly placed against a white background, are a delight.

Tildes, Phyllis Limbacher. Baby’s First Book of Birds & Colors. illus. by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes. 18p. Charlesbridge. May 2017. Tr $7.99. ISBN 9781580897426.

Toddler-PreS–Foliage and birds of corresponding hues are highlighted in this bursting-with-color avian primer. Rendered in glorious detail, a scarlet tanager and northern cardinal sit in a summer red maple while a branch of forsythia hosts a goldfinch and yellow warbler.

Treml, Renée. Ten Little Owls. illus. by Renée Treml. 24p. Random. May 2017. Board $9.99. ISBN 9780143780564.

PreS–Beginning with one little wombat ­waking up with the moon, readers count to 10 as a litany of nocturnal Australian animals rise from their respective abodes and enjoy their night before the sun rises. The verb in each spread is also highlighted, often in a large font size and a different color. Treml’s detailed black-and-white illustrations of the animals nicely contrast with the pastel colored backgrounds.

Velthuijs, Max. Where Is Frog? illus. by Max Velthuijs. 14p. Firefly. Sept. 2017. Board $8.95. ISBN 9780228100027.

Toddler-PreS–Where is Rabbit’s friend, Frog? Lifting the flaps allows listeners to peek behind doors, under a table, and in a basket but yields no clues until Rabbit and readers spy a lump under the bedcovers. A simple text and bright, uncluttered illustrations encourage hands-on exploration.

Wall, Laura. Goose on the Farm. illus. by Laura Wall. 36p. HarperCollins/Harper Festival. May 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9780062324405.

Toddler-PreS–Sophie and her constant companion, Goose, go on a school trip to the farm. Though Sophie and her classmates have fun playing with the rabbits and feeding the lamb, Goose feels left out, and things get worse when he is scolded by a hen for accidentally sitting on her eggs and then falls in the mud. But a friendly goat helps put things right. Wall’s loose illustrations, set against simple, colorful backdrops, are the perfect accompaniment for the reassuring, concise text. In his big green boots, drooping Goose is utterly relatable. Children learning to navigate social situations will find this a heartening selection, and there are a few quirky surprises here, too.

Walters, Eric. An African Alphabet. illus. by Sue Todd. 28p. Orca. Mar. 2017. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781459810709.

Toddler-PreS–Stunning, animated linoleum images featuring heavy black lines, vibrant colors, and a range of familiar (elephants and flamingos) and not-so-familiar (pangolins and servals) critters make this ABC book one that children will request again and again.

Walters, Eric. Bedtime 123. illus. by Josée Bisaillon. 26p. Orca. Sept. 2017. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781459810730.

Baby-Toddler–This gentle, soothing counting book is just the ticket for lulling babies to slumber. As one moon rises, two stars come out, three owlets rest high in the treetops, and four fawns settle in the soft grasses. The count continues and includes fox cubs, puppies, kittens, chicks, bunnies, and ducklings. The last spread depicts a smiling baby tucked snugly in bed, with its eyes shut tight. The lovely mixed-media artwork, done in rich earth tones, is textured and expressive. This is the stuff of sweet dreams!

Weill, Cynthia. Animal Talk: Mexican Folk Art Animal Sounds in English and Spanish. art by Rubí Fuentes & Efraín Broa. ISBN 9781941026694.

––––. Colores de la vida: Mexican Folk Art Color in English and Spanish. art by artisans from Oaxaca. ISBN 9781041026670.

––––. Count Me In!: A Parade of Mexican Folk Art Numbers in English and Spanish. art by the Aguilar sisters. ISBN 9781941026700.

––––. Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish. art by Quirino Santiago & Martín Santiago. ISBN 9781041026670.

ea vol: 30p. Cinco Puntos. Apr. 2017. Board $9.95.

Toddler-PreS–This bilingual concept book series has been reissued into a board book format that will be even more appealing to little ones. While Opuestos (about opposites) and Colores de la vida (about colors) feature only one or two words on each, Animal Talk (about animal sounds) and Count Me In! (about numbers) have longer narratives and might even be used during baby storytime. Each entry has either ceramic or wood sculptures created by Oaxacan folk artists that elevate these works above most bilingual concept books. The intricately crafted figures jump off bright, vibrant background colors in electric pinks, yellows, blues, and greens. Their expressive faces will elicit giggles from both tots and their grown-ups. Must-have ­selections for all bilingual collections.

Wilson, Karma. Bear Counts. illus. by Jane Chapman. 26p. S. & S./Little Simon. Jul. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781481499521.

Toddler-PreS–Bear and his woodland friends are enjoying an idyllic summer day, culminating with a swim in the pond. Bear counts “five!/Five ducks in the water./Five lively ­river otters./Five lovely lily pads./Five pinching crawdads./Numbers, numbers everywhere./Now YOU can count, just like BEAR!” Learn to count with irresistible furry creatures and fun things to point to and name.

Winteringham, Claire. Claire Winteringham’s Alphabet Parade. illus. by Claire Winteringham. 22p. Pomegranate. Mar. 2017. Board $10.95. ISBN 9780764976599.

Toddler-PreS–Winteringham takes young viewers on an alphabetical romp through the natural and physical world, with a few whimsical additions in the mix. The lush watercolor images form a parade as the creatures and objects prance across the pages. Uppercase and lowercase letters are introduced along with alliterative vocabulary, such as “Antelope, Ants, Apple tree, Armadillo/Bear, Beehive, Birds, Bug, Bumblebees, Bush, Butterfly.” A lighthearted little package perfect for seek-and-find activity and phonic awareness.

Wolf, Sallie. Truck Stuck. illus. by Andy Robert Davies. 28p. Charlesbridge. Jan. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781580897815.

Toddler-PreS–Chaos ensues when a too-tall, bright red rig gets jammed under a viaduct, holding up a whole line of (labeled) vehicles whose drivers express their dissatisfaction with honks and beeps. Exuberant cartoon art and lively fonts capture the circus atmosphere. Children parading by come up with an ingenious solution. Finally, it’s “all clear./Big Cheer!/Out of here./Good luck,/big truck.”

Young, Cybèle. Nancy Knows. illus. by Cybèle Young. 32p. Tundra. Mar. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781101918920.

Toddler-PreS–The combination of minimalist sketched artwork with photorealistic imagery makes this charming story of an elephant who knows she’s forgetting something important stand out. Exploring different ways of organizing information (e.g., by shape, by color, neatly or messily, by which sense you use to experience it), the book relates a truism children will appreciate: sometimes relaxing and clearing your mind is the surest route to success.

Yuly, Toni. Cat Nap. illus. by Toni Yuly. 32p. Feiwel & Friends. Jun. 2017. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781250112613.

Toddler-PreS–This board book edition of Yuly’s book of opposites loses none of its original charm and energy—who doesn’t love a game of hide-and-seek? Readers follow along as Cat tries to hide and take a nap but is continually thwarted by rambunctious Kitten. Kids can look for Cat throughout the book, and a tiny gray mouse offers kids a slightly more challenging creature to find.

This article was published in School Library Journal's July 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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