A Bevy of Board Books

The very best in recent titles for babies and toddlers, from engaging interactive stories to snuggly bedtime tales, curated by the SLJ reviews team.

Culling from the loads of board books we’ve received in recent months, the SLJ reviews team has selected and annotated an eclectic bunch (a virtual bevy!) of books for babies and toddlers from the season’s offerings. In addition to colorful and clever concept books, engaging interactive stories, and snuggly bedtime tales, we’ve included some informational board books for the youngest learners curious to know more about their world.
 

Fiction

ALLEN-FLETCHER, Carly. Goodnight, Seahorse. illus. by author. 22p. Muddy Boots. May 2018. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781630763336.
Baby-Toddler–A tiny yellow seahorse says goodnight to an octopus, a starfish, a wobbegong, and other friendly inhabitants of the coral reef before heading off to bed. Allen-Fletcher’s vibrant cartoon artwork is saturated with color; lush shades of blue, purple, yellow, and orange will have little ones poring over each spread. A concluding “Animals of the Coral Reef” lists all of the big and small creatures found throughout. Though slight, this book is high on the cuteness factor.

ARRHENIUS, Ingela P. ABC Shapes: Beyond Squares and Circles to Cubes and Squircles. illus. by author. 36p. (Little Concepts). Walter Foster Jr. Apr. 2018. Board $12.95. ISBN 9781633225145.
Toddler-PreS–From arches to zigzags, this book highlights shapes that are more complex or less commonly seen than squares, circles, and triangles. Arrhenius’s cheerful, mod illustrations turn a Gaussian curve and helix into a roller coaster and a cube and deltoid into a jack-in-the-box. Though many, if not most, of the shapes would be of more interest to a mathematician than a toddler, the book is a solid addition to libraries where ABC Colors is popular.

AUSTIN, Ruth. Happy Grumpy Loved: A Little Book of Feelings. ISBN 9781946873071.
-----. Hide Seek, Stinky Sweet: A Little Book of Opposites. ISBN 9781946873088.
-----. Wiggle Jump Tickle: A Little Book of Actions. ISBN 9781946873095.
ea. vol. illus. by Kanae Sato. 24p. (A Little Book of...). Compendium. Jun. 2018. Board $12.95.
Toddler-PreS–Textured pages, cheerful colors, and simple, graphic illustrations distinguish these three books. Hide Seek, Stinky Sweet focuses on opposites, with a girl and her cat demonstrating being hot or cold, wet or dry, etc. Wiggle Jump Tickle turns kids’ attention to actions, as a boy sees and grabs an egg, then befriends the bird that hatches from it; the two dance, play, bounce, and splash their way through the day until it’s time to read and sleep. The boy and girl unite in Happy Grumpy Loved to illustrate feelings, along with a dog and alligator. The emotions are positive (friendly, excited, content) and negative (jealous, worried, embarrassed), culminating in a big hug where everyone feels loved. The set is a terrific choice for toddlers exploring new concepts.

BRANTZ, Loryn. Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice! illus. by author. 22p. Disney-Hyperion. May 2018. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781368022798.
Toddler-PreS–The irrepressible tot is back. As she begins to learn new words for bottle, bath, and equal rights for all, Feminist Baby also begins to use her voice to create community and change. From dressing up to coloring, the depictions of imaginative play are irresistibly bright, energetic, and adorable. Brantz’s magenta, cyan, and yellow palette will engage little ones, and the text’s humor will ring true with kids and adults alike.

CAPUCILLI, Alyssa. Good Night, Biscuit. illus. by Pat Schories. 24p. (Biscuit). HarperFestival. Jun. 2018. Board $9.99. ISBN 9780062661210.
Toddler-PreS–It's time for bed, but Biscuit the puppy, like so many fictional and real-life youngsters before him, has too much to do before he can turn in. He needs a snack. And a drink. And a story. And his doll. Capucilli’s simple, repetitive text will ring true with children, who will recognize themselves in Biscuit and his elaborate nighttime rituals, while Schories’s soft, utterly charming illustrations hit a reassuring note. This delightful selection transitions effortlessly from early reader to board book format.

COAT, Janik. Llamaphones. illus. by author. 36p. Abrams Appleseed. Mar. 2018. Board $15.99. ISBN 9781419728273.
Toddler-PreS–Employing full-page images of llamas bearing quizzical expressions, Coat offers delightful examples of familiar and not-so-familiar homophones. There’s a tactile quality to some of these pictures, depicted in shades of green against a white background: a striped llama illustrates “rows” (that are raised) while another features “fairy” sparkles (also raised). A standout, oversize board book featuring cheeky humor and art.

COAT, Janik. What Are You Wearing Today? ISBN 9780500651438.
COSNEAU, Olivia. How Do You Sleep? ISBN 9780500651445.
ea. vol. illus. by Bernard Duisit. 14p. (Flip Flap Pop-Up). Thames & Hudson. Jan. 2018. pap. $14.95.
Toddler-PreS–Pull-tabs, flaps, and a fold or two engage small hands as they discover how a host of animal characters dress for various weather patterns, moods, and environs, and, how and where joeys, bats, and puppies sleep. Vibrant, contrasting colors and charming details will catch the eye of the youngest book lovers, while offering a quiet activity as the bedtime countdown begins.

DYCKMAN, Ame. Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard. illus. by Alex Griffiths. 22p. (Wee Beasties). Little Simon. May 2018. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781534410800.
Toddler-PreS–Huggy the python hugs the things he loves with great enthusiasm—often to their detriment. A balloon pops. Ice cream is squished. A fuzzy little dog is about to receive the Huggy treatment, but the python begins to learn how to be gentle. A sweet way to teach rambunctious toddlers to restrain their enthusiasm that stands on its own as an amusing story. A winner.

ENOS, Randall. Jibber-Jabber. illus. by author. 14p. Creative Editions. Mar. 2018. Board ISBN 9781568463155.
Toddler-PreS–A raucous listening experience awaits preschoolers. This book opens with a cacophony of sound from squeaks and squawks to growls and howls. Striking, textured woodcuts highlight a varied color palette and share pages with a large print text that echoes the book’s wild and wonderful liveliness. Onomatopoeia at its best.

FULLER, T. Nat. Creature vs. Teacher: A Book of Rhyme. illus. by Alex Eben Meyer. 16p. Abrams Appleseed. Jul. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781419731556.
Toddler-PreS–A large Frankenstein-style monster tries to distract a gender-neutral professor with bright pink hair in this rhyming story. The professor’s head is buried in a book while the creature tries to get them to “look!” at his juggling. The creature flies a kite, while the professor sits and writes. But when the creature starts to dance, the professor gives him a glance and soon they’re wiggling and giggling together. Meyer’s playful illustrations contain plenty of details to point out to young children; the professor’s goldfish echoes the action in each spread. A fun addition.

FULLER, T. Nat. Hero vs. Villain: A Book of Opposites. illus. by Alex Eben Meyer. 16p. Abrams Appleseed. Jun. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781419728259.
Toddler-PreS–A story of friendship unfolds through an examination of opposites. The hero, a brown-skinned girl in a cape, loves to go “up in the air” and to build things, while the green crocodilelike villain prefers his underground lair and destruction. But when the villain sees how sad his actions have made the hero, he brings her a cupcake and helps her rebuild. Though they started the book as enemies, they end as friends. Meyer’s dynamic illustrations drive the story, conveying action and emotion. Highly recommended.

HENKES, Kevin. When Spring Comes. illus. by Laura Dronzek. 36p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Feb. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 97800627416
Toddler-PreS–Waiting is a hard concept for toddlers to wrap their heads around, and the passage of time is harder still. Yet Henkes introduces small seasonal changes that occur in a before-and-after format that describes the much-anticipated first signs of spring. Throughout the succinct text, he repeats the refrain, “But if you wait...” Dronzek’s bold acrylic paintings are as light dappled and exuberant as a spring day. And when the season has indeed changed, is the waiting over? No way. The long days of summer are just on the horizon. A simply delightful, essential purchase.

HILL, Kelly. Anne’s Colors: Inspired by Anne of Green Gables. ISBN 9780735262843.
-----. Anne’s Numbers: Inspired by Anne of Green Gables. ISBN 9780735262850.
ea. vol. illus. by author. 22p. (Anne). Tundra. May 2018. Board $7.99.
Toddler-PreS–The much-beloved, red-haired orphan from Green Gables has inspired a line of board books. Set in the world of L.M. Montgomery’s iconic Anne Shirley, these oversize works explore early concepts in an accessible format, while also highlighting some of the important characters, locations, and plot points of the classic. In Colors, Anne’s story is presented most clearly, from start to finish. Along the way, readers encounter only two words on the verso and a touching scene to reinforce the featured color on the recto. In Numbers, the title character wanders through the woods and counts the flora, fauna, and critters she encounters. The series is craftily illustrated by Hill with charming and adorable hand-embroidered images that practically pop off the page. Perfect for lapsits and one-on-one sharing.

HUGHES, Shirley. Alfie Gets in First. illus. by author. 30p. (Alfie). Red Fox. Nov. 2017. Board $11.99. ISBN 9781782956587.
Toddler-PreS–After an outing to the shops, Alfie’s mum opens their front door, and before she can stop him, Alfie scoots in and slams the door shut to find himself locked in. Everyone else, including the concerned neighbors who arrive on the scene, are locked out. With a little bit of coaching, encouragement, and assuaging of tears, all ends well. A trademark Hughes tale filled with detailed illustrations and brimming with warmth.

KELLY, Ellsworth. Up, Down & Other Opposites with Ellsworth Kelley. illus. by author. 30p. (First Concepts with Fine Artists). Phaidon. Mar. 2018. Board $10.95. ISBN 9780714876290.
Toddler-PreS–Phaidon’s latest art title uses Ellsworth Kelly’s paintings to illustrate ideas about size and direction: vertical lines versus horizontal ones, short rectangles versus tall rectangles, the back of a painting versus the front. Kelly’s bright colors and bold shapes make his work a natural fit for young learners; this is one of the best of the series. An artful addition.

MCCLURE, Nikki. Mama, Is It Summer Yet? illus. by author. 30p. Abrams Appleseed. Apr. 2018. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781419728280.
Toddler-PreS–Each time a young boy asks the titular question, his mother replies, “Not yet, my little one,” as she points out a promising sign that the season is indeed changing. New leaves unfold, woodland creatures build their nests, garden seeds sprout, and blossoms appear. At long last, honeybees buzz, the sun warms, and strawberries are ripe and sweet. This spare, lyrical look at the seasons and the passage of time is brought to life by McClure’s signature high-contrast cut-paper artwork. A treat worth waiting for.

Mrs. Peanuckle’s Bug Alphabet. ISBN 9781623369392.
-----. Mrs. Peanuckle’s Flower Alphabet. ISBN 9781623369415.
ea. vol. illus. by Jessie Ford. 28p. (Mrs. Peanuckle’s Alphabet Library). Rodale Kids. Feb. 2018. Board $7.99.
Toddler-PreS–In the same spirit as “Mrs. Peanuckle’s” previous alphabet books (Fruits and Vegetables), these two colorful entries feature a wide variety of subjects in their individual themes. Young ones will expand their vocabularies with these silly and information-filled volumes covering new species from the common ant to the multisyllabic zorapteran in Bugs and the starry aster to vibrant zinnia in Flowers. Ford’s artwork continues to shine, and the mixed media (paint, runny ink, and colored pencil crayons) give the spreads a textured, must-touch look. These are sure to delight budding entomologists and botanists.


MROZIEWICZ, Elsa. Peek-a-Who? illus. by author. 22p. Minedition. Sept. 2018. Board $11.99. ISBN 9789888341573.
Toddler-PreS–Shaped like a triangle, this ingeniously designed guess-who book will delight and occupy little ones repeatedly. Toddlers are asked “Who says…” before being prompted to unfold the flaps and see the responsible creature up close. Mroziewicz’s art is vibrant and folksy; an orange-red cow, a blue cat, and a colorfully patterned green snake are just a few of the familiar animals featured. A perfect marriage of art, design, and lovable furry, scaly, and feathered friends.

MUHLE, Jorg. Poor Little Rabbit! illus. by author. 10p. (Little Rabbit). Gecko. Aug. 2018. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781776571772.
Baby-Toddler–Oh no! Little Rabbit has taken a tumble and hurt his arm. (And there’s blood!) The plaintive bunny gazes out tearfully, ears drooping, as an unseen narrator urges readers to apply a bandage, sing a nursery rhyme, stroke Little Rabbit’s ears, and wipe his nose until he’s all smiles again. Thick-lined, expressive images of the title character against bold backgrounds fill each page, accompanied by soothingly matter-of-fact text. Youngsters who have coped with owies of their own will enjoy getting to turn the tables and comfort the injured little one.

PESENTI, Antonia. Rhyme Flies. illus. by author. 40p. Phaidon. May 2018. Board $14.95. ISBN 9780714876399.
Toddler-PreS–Striking illustrations join with rhyming wordplay in this impeccably designed volume. With lots of white space, a simple sentence in bold black type is presented on the verso, which is accompanied by a corresponding image on the recto. Each spread also has a dramatic gatefold flap that offers a silly rhyme, often riffing off the previous text. The fanciful art plays up the whimsy, as a suitcase becomes a fruit-case and cheese on toast becomes sneeze on toast. An excellent selection for early learning and pre-literacy skill-building.

RAY, Mary. Goodnight, Good Dog. illus. by Rebecca Malone. 32p. HMH. May 2018. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781328852427.
Toddler-PreS–Tales of wide-awake little ones are plentiful, but this sweetly whimsical story more than holds its own. His head full of the fun he had today, a dog wanders around as the rest of the household sleeps. But bedtime isn’t quite as far away as the little canine thinks it is. Quiet, lyrical prose will gently shepherd both dog and alert little ones to slumberland, while adorably blobby, muted illustrations adeptly capture the feeling of nocturnal stillness.

SAVAGE, Stephen. Supertruck. illus. by author. 34p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jan. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781250141545.
Toddler-PreS–Budding vehicle and superhero fans need look no further—Supertruck is here. Dramatic, graphic style artwork shows a city caught in the clutches of a blizzard. A lowly garbage truck sneaks into a garage and emerges as Supertruck, pushing a powerful plow that allows him to save the day and clear the streets before resuming his appointed rounds. The blocky, unassuming, anthropomorphized vehicle joins the ranks of such heroes as Little Tug, Katy, and Little Toot. A super selection.

TECKENTRUP, Britta. Mi pequeño ardilla. ISBN 9788491450894.
-----. Mi pequeño zorro. ISBN 9788491450887.
ea. vol. illus. by author. 16p. (Mi pequeño). Picarona. Jan. 2018. Board $11.95.
Baby-Toddler–These textured, nature-focused Spanish-language titles feature the adventures of a rambunctious squirrel (ardilla) and a friendly fox (zorro). Each entry follows the critters through the seasons as they explore their surroundings, make friends, and hibernate for winter. The series is made 100 percent from recycled paper and is printed with eco-friendly inks. These sweet stories are best shared one-on-one because of the sometimes murky printing, but young animal lovers won’t mind.

THOMPSON, Carol. Dance. ISBN 97818 46439599.
-----. Dressing Up. ISBN 9781846439605.
-----. Music. ISBN 9781846439612.
-----. Sing. ISBN 9781846439629.
ea. vol. illus. by author. 12p. (Amazing Me!). Child’s Play. May 2018. Board $4.99.
Baby-Toddler–An exuberant group of toddlers bop, boogie-woogie, sing, and swing their way through a series that challenges listeners of any age to sit still. In an assortment of colorful hats, overalls, shirts, capes, and masks (when not in the bathtub), these noisy tots play instruments, create costumes, and belt out songs, while radiating unadulterated enthusiasm and joy.

TSIANG, Sarah. Toesy Toes. illus. by author. 26p. Orca. Apr. 2018. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781459813427.
Baby-Toddler–In alliterative, rhyming couplets accompanied by lively and energetic photos, Tsiang celebrates the cutest baby toes. Depicting toddlers of several races, abilities, and ages, this book presents tots in a variety of situations, from breastfeeding to playing at the beach, each proudly showcasing their squiggly toes. Young ones will giggle at the subjects’ smiling faces and at the fun-to-read-aloud text. Lightly colored and patterned backgrounds make the bold, black type stand out, and the dynamic images, often featuring siblings or adults, will keep the youngest of readers engaged. A strong selection, especially where photo-heavy board books are lacking.

VICKERS, Roy Henry & Robert Budd. One Eagle Soaring. illus. by Roy Henry Vickers. 20p. Harbour. Aug. 2018. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781550178289.
Toddler-PreS–Counting from one to 10, Budd and Vickers identify common West Coast animals in this Canadian import. The light rhyming text (“One eagle soars high. Two moose wander by”) is deepened by Vickers’s bold layered artwork that effortlessly shifts between up-close renderings to expansive landscapes. The glossy and raised textures peppered throughout each spread also add depth and fun for readers. An artful addition to counting and animal books.

VON KITZING, Constanze. The Chilly Penguin. illus. by author. 24p. Barefoot. Sept. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781782854067.
Toddler-PreS–A lone penguin, complete with a tiny hat, aims to find a solution to his chilliness and ends up embracing a friend in a “warm and snuggly” hug in this humorous story. Von Kitzing makes great use of page turns; a close-up of the penguin happily knitting is followed by a pulled back shot of him wrapped up a comically long scarf that extends the length of the spread with the line “still chilly.” A sweetly funny story of problem-solving and friendship.

WINTERINGHAM, Claire. Numbers in the Garden. illus. by author. 24p. Pomegranate. Mar. 2018. Board $10.95. ISBN 9780764981708.
Toddler-PreS–Luminous watercolors accompany children as they amble through this concept garden. Each colorful spread offers one image and a large numeral on either side; for example, the first spread depicts the numbers one and two, with a corresponding list of items to find in the picture (“1 Apple, 1 Bush,” and “2 Boots, 2 Geese,” etc.) As the numbers increase to 20, it becomes trickier—and more fun—to discern the separate visual elements.

ZIMMERMAN, Andrea & David Clemesha. Trashy Town. illus. by Dan Yaccarino. 26p. HarperFestival. Feb. 2018. Board $9.99. ISBN 9780062491039.
Toddler-PreS–There’s plenty of work for Mr. Gilly. Visits to the school, a pizza parlor, a playground, and other locales yield the sanitation worker lots of refuse to the chant of “Dump it in,/smash it down, drive around the Trashy Town!” At the end of a long (and fruitful) day, there’s only one more thing to clean…Mr. Gilly! A final scene depicts the cheerful fellow in the bath, surrounded by bubbles. Bold, flat colors illustrate this toddler favorite.

ZUCCHELLI-ROMER, Claire. TouchThinkLearn: Wiggles. illus. by author. 26p. (TouchThinkLearn). Handprint. Apr. 2018. Board $14.99. ISBN 9781452164755.
Baby-Toddler–Little fingers will dance and play through the pages of this interactive book featuring spirals, lines, dots, and more to trace and tap. Neon colors pop against a cool blue-gray background, and the white ink of the instructions is legible but unobtrusive. Enjoyable for kids and caregivers alike. Recommended.

Nonfiction

BURKE, Zoe. Counting Bugs & Butterflies. illus. by Christopher Marley. 24p. Pomegranate. Mar. 2018. Board $10.95. ISBN 9780764981296.
Toddler-PreS–Crisp, color photos of insects from katydids and cicadas to jewel beetles to lantern flies are highlighted in this strikingly illustrated concept book. A numeral and one word (either butterflies or bugs) appears on each page of artfully arranged creatures. A final spread adds a game element (“How many have antennas?”) and labels the 12 brilliantly colored critters.

DENEUX, Xavier. Jungle Animals. illus. by author. 20p. Twirl Bks. Apr. 2018. Board $10.99. ISBN 9781027603665.
Toddler-PreS–Vivid color contrasts heighten the humor and drama of fanciful images of land, sea, and airborne jungle denizens. A bright red snake with assorted spots writhes and wraps itself up, down, around, and across glossy black pages, while an anteater scoops up insects on its long sliver of red tongue against a deep, forest-green background. Twelve creatures, eights spreads, and a dose of silliness add up to loads of fun.

ELIOT, Hannah. Ramadan. illus. by Rashin. 24p. (Celebrate the World). Little Simon. Apr. 2018. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781534406353.
Toddler-PreS–This joyous celebration of the Muslim holiday will delight practitioners and newcomers alike. Kid-friendly text describes the customs and traditions that come along with the month-long holiday, while seamlessly informing those who are not familiar with it. The first-person narrative style gives this an inviting and inclusive feel. Rashin’s stunning illustrations are warm and vibrant, depicting the diversity that can be found in the community of believers of all races—from bustling cities to arid deserts. A must-have for all collections.

FREYMANN, Saxton & Joost Elffers. Foods with Moods. 18p. photos. Scholastic/Cartwheel. Mar. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781338194418.
Toddler-PreS–With a snip here and a bit of pruning there, an assortment of familiar fruits and vegetables transform into communicative creatures. Running the gamut of emotions from happy and sad to prideful and confused, this smile-inducing, colorful photo book is guaranteed to have youngsters taking a second look at the food in the market and on their plates.

GILLINGHAM, Sara. Boats Are Busy. illus. by author. 32p. Phaidon. May 2018. Board $9.95. ISBN 9780714876719.
PreS-K–Bold primary colors, smart design, and savory facts make this boat book a treasure. Gillingham introduces 15 different naval vessels and nautical codes in short, upbeat sentences that make age-appropriate connections for readers: “Research vessels are like floating classrooms!” Each ship receives its own spread and the artwork matches the action being described in the text (planes taking off from an aircraft carrier). Seafarers and landlubbers alike will navigate toward this selection.

HUTTON, John. Fiona’s Friends. photos. by Cincinnati Zoo. 14p. Blue Manatee Pr. Sept. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781936669684.
PreS–This follow-up to Fiona’s Feelings is equally adorable and informative. The social media star introduces youngsters to her fellow animal friends at the Cincinnati Zoo in rhyming text. The photos are clear and well matched to the text; the image of baby aardvark Winsol sleeping is particularly striking. A delightful selection to introduce nonfiction to little learners.

KANTOR, Susan. What Is Soft? illus. by Erin Barker. 14p. Blue Manatee Pr. Apr. 2018. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781936669639.
Pre–A tender ode to soft textures with a bedtime twist. The narrative lists the many things that soft can be, from a breeze to “the little fawn nibbling leaves.” (Only one sentence points to what soft isn’t: loud.) Barker’s bright rosy artwork and her inquisitive cast of young characters are a treat that viewers will want to revisit again and again. This quiet winner is a little complex, but it’s likely to inspire thoughtful conversations with youngsters—not to mention, cuddling.

MORRISON, Eleanor. C Is for Consent. illus. by Faye Orlove. 14p. Phonics with Finn. May 2018. Board $14.95. ISBN 9780999890806.
PreS-Gr 1–A much-needed primer on consent for kids and their adults. A young child navigates a party with family and friends and confidently says yes and no to hugs, kisses, and other types of touching. The text is straightforward but impactful: “Mom’s friend gives Finn a present. Does that mean he has to hug or kiss that person? Only if he wants to...It’s his choice what happens to his body.” The cartoon art is set against pastel backgrounds, further adding to the unintimidating tone. Discussion questions conclude this necessary work.

 

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