Not Just for Babies! Board Books are Having a Growth Spurt

Feelings, families, and fun collide in this roundup of engaging board books that are not just for toddlers. There are surprising titles for every taste. featuring prickly porcupines, celebrations, learning, and more. 


Illustration by Brooke Smart

Feelings, families, and fun collide in this roundup of engaging board books that are not just for toddlers. There are surprising titles for every taste. featuring prickly porcupines, celebrations, learning, and more. Publishers continue to introduce more nonfiction into the mix, decoding board games (Chess), taking on the topic of gestation (How Big Is Baby?), and offering street savvy (Caution! Road Signs Ahead). Young prereaders will soak up the knowledge, and adults will enjoy the ride, too.

10 Hugs and Kisses. 20p. $7.99. ISBN 9781452170947.
Smile, Baby! 12p. $8.99. ISBN 9781452170923.
Welcome to Shape School! 20p. $12.99. ISBN 9781452170930.
ea vol: (Beginning Baby). Chronicle. Jun. 2021. Board.
Toddler-PreS–This new series of novelty board books finds the perfect balance in developmentally appropriate material that will be entertaining for caregivers and babies alike. Smile, Baby! incorporates interactive text about facial features with an embedded mirror throughout. The simple text is complemented by illustrations of animals using the body part specified. “Where is baby’s nose?/ There is baby’s nose!” includes illustrations of a fox sniffing a flower. 10 Hugs and Kisses features the same animal friends showing affection to one another as they count to 10. The entire series will be welcome in libraries.

Listen Up! Train Song by Victoria Allenby. illus. by the author. 24p. (Big, Little Concepts: Bk. 2). Pajama Pr. Aug. 2021. Board $17.95. ISBN 9781772782134.
PreS-K–Train lovers will delight in this board book featuring photos of trains. Each spread corresponds with musical text. A refrain of “Let’s sing a…song all down the track” makes this title a perfect match for story hours about things that go. Onomatopoeic words for various trains and train parts will encourage listeners to repeat and follow along. The back matter provides three developmentally appropriate activities and prompts to increase and extend engagement with children, making this a first purchase for the shelves.

Five Little Ducks by Allie Busby. illus. by author. 26p. (Nursery Time). Child’s Play International. Sept. 2020. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781786284105.
PreS-K–This treasury is a great introduction to finger play and nursery rhymes, including such classics as “Open, Shut Them” and “Sleeping Bunnies” as well as some lesser-known gems like “Leo the Lion” and “Hop a Little.” Simple illustrations of children with various skin colors accompany each rhyme and add to the book’s appeal. A general purchase for large library collections or librarians searching for new story time rhymes.

Caution! Road Signs Ahead by Toni Buzzeo. illus. by Chi Birmingham. 84p. Penguin Workshop/Rise. Mar. 2021. Board $17.99. ISBN 9780593224328.
Toddler-PreS–Backseat drivers will delight in this board book featuring 35 different road signs. Using tactile shapes, the title showcases unique and recognizable signs. Each sign has a short one-sentence explanation: “Firehouse/ Prepare to pull over if fire trucks come out of the firehouse.” Children will catch on quickly and are likely to memorize the messaging and become sign decoders during long car rides and trips around town. A great purchase for most libraries.

The Sun Is a Shine by Leslie A. Davidson. illus. by Slavka Kolesar. 20p. Orca. Apr. 2021. Board $10.95. ISBN 9781459826267.
PreS-K–This poetic board book expresses thanks to nature from a child’s perspective. Each spread is dedicated to a specific aspect of nature such as the sun, wind, rain, or snow. The verso features tender thoughts about the natural resource and the right one includes an expression of gratitude, with a different language on every spread. “The wind is a whisper/ That teases the leaves, Dances the sea/ And sets the kite free./ Shukran, we call to the big blue sky/ And wish on the wind as it passes by.” There’s a glossary to identify the language origin of each “thank you.” A great introduction to explaining common experiences to children regardless of where they live.

Chess by Anne Elder. illus. by BlueBean. 18p. (Gamer Baby). Little Hero. Apr. 2021. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781946000248.
Toddler-PreS–Toddlers will learn when to say “Checkmate!” and more in this introduction to chess. Bright digital illustrations accompany each one-sentence page. When describing specific pieces, e.g., the pawn or the queen, the illustration demonstrates all of the directions the piece may move on the chessboard. A recent resurgence of interest in chess will likely make this volume fly off shelves, and even adults will appreciate such simple lessons. A great purchase for large collections or where there is a gaming community.

City Baby by Laurie Elmquist. illus. by Ashley Barron. 20p. Orca. May 2021. Board $10.95. ISBN 9781459825925.
Toddler-PreS–A mother and baby, with pale skin, black hair, and eyes “that kiss at the corners,” explore the city in this gorgeously illustrated board book. Simple text describes the duo’s day in their city: “Back in the stroller, beanie on/ To the festival square where bright costumes twirl.” The text portrays a beautiful relationship filled with love between mother and child. While the spare text is developmentally perfect for children, the illustrations elevate this offering with entrancing collages in a vivid palette. A first purchase for all libraries.

A Spring Stroll in the City by Cathy Goldberg Fishman. illus. by Melanie Hall. 20p. Familius. Apr. 2021. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781641704397.
Toddler-PreS–City sights and holidays abound in this gorgeous counting board book. A young child explores the city on each spread, encountering St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Nowruz, and Cinco de Mayo. The holidays are only alluded to though and this title works perfectly as a simple counting book: “A spring stroll in the city. What do I see? 1 giant shamrock.” The papercraft illustrations feature the child walking in a group of people wearing green while holding a giant shamrock. Children will delve into the illustrations and search for animals on each spread. A first purchase for most libraries.

Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby by Tracy C. Gold. illus. by Adèle Dafflon. 16p. Familius. Apr. 2021. Board $8.99. ISBN 9781641704403.
PreS-K–Sleep-deprived parents and caregivers will laugh and relate to this hilarious lullaby book. A young baby is surrounded by sleepy objects, people, and animals, but that baby is not sleepy. The concise text’s rhythm and repetition craft a fun read-aloud for both story time and one-on-one reading. “Sleepy nursery, sleepy bottle, sleepy gentle touch./ Everyone’s sleepy but the baby, hush, hush, hush.” Bright, clear illustrations complement the text beautifully, and careful observers will notice everyone’s eyes getting droopier on each spread. Repeated readings might be requested most nights in this solid purchase for all libraries.

How Big Is Baby? by Kirsten Hall. illus. by Aki. 20p. Chronicle. Apr. 2021. Board $14.99. ISBN 9781452173825.
PreS-K–A lift-the-flap board book helpful for young children expecting a new addition in their family, this title attempts to describe the growing process of a baby in utero in a developmentally appropriate way for young readers. Sturdy flaps show how large a baby is during each month of development. “3 months! My new teacher and classmates are excited to hear my news! My friends are excited to hear my news! After school I have a snack with Mommy. Our baby is now the size of my favorite fruit, a grape.” Under the flap is a grape in the mother’s stomach. While the text is longer than found in most board books, the simple language and flaps will engage young readers and will likely lead to more questions. A general purchase.

Green Tractor by Kersten Hamilton. illus. by Valeria Petrone. 28p. Viking. Aug. 2021. Board $7.99. ISBN 9780593202371.
PreS-K–In this delightful board book, it’s time to celebrate Harvest Day on the farm, and Green Tractor is needed for some final chores before friends arrive. “Build a mountain—with a slide! A house of hay with goats inside.” Rhyming text and a plethora of animals will make this a favorite of many preschoolers. A repeated refrain of “Go, Green Tractor, Go” makes this engaging read a natural for group sharing. Crisp digital illustrations showcase a variety of green shades in a perfect complement to the text.

All Kinds of Kindness by Judy Carey Nevin. illus. by Susie Hammer. 26p. S. & S./Little Simon. Aug. 2020. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781534432062.
PreS-K–Rhyming couplets celebrate kindness in all its shapes and forms in this sweet title. The concept of kindness is parsed into developmentally appropriate language on each spread: “Calm your friend, free a bug./ Offer him a great big hug./ Pick up litter, cleaning spree./ Kindness starts with you and me.” Vivid digital illustrations accompany the text and provide further context for the spare text. The illustrations could also be used to encourage further conversation about acts of kindness. A great choice for story times, and a general purchase for most libraries.

F Is for Fairy Tale by Greg Paprocki. illus. by the author. 32p. Babylit. Mar. 2021. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781423657149.
PreS-K–Budding fairy-tale enthusiasts will rejoice in this whimsical alphabet primer. Letters are paired with iconic scenes that children will love decoding. For example, “C is for Castle” depicts a glass shoe on a winding path leading up to a castle. The vivid illustrations in this unique roadmap to familiar stories will bring readers of all ages back to explore again and again.

Daddy by Leslie Patricelli. illus. by Leslie Patricelli. 26p. Candlewick. Mar. 2021. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781536203820.
Toddler-PreS–Patricelli’s round-faced baby is back in this delightful board book celebrating fathers. The baby, who is pinkish, introduces its dad in rhyming text describing his physical features and activities they do together. “Daddy likes to sing to me./ I play horsey on his knee.” Gender stereotypes are pushed against in a compilation of tasks Dad accomplishes such as cleaning, giving a bath, and cooking. The closing pages feature a variety of dads of all skin colors, including a family that has two dads. A first purchase for libraries everywhere.

Families Grow by Dan Saks. illus. by Brooke Smart. 24p. Penguin Workshop/Rise. Aug. 2021. Board $7.99. ISBN 9780593223673.
Toddler-PreS–Lyrical, rhyming text depicts various ways families grow in this inclusive board book. Pregnancy, adoption, and surrogacy are all gently alluded to in the text. “The belly might belong to Mom, but also it may not./ Sometimes another special belly is the perfect spot.” The end papers include a glossary of terms associated with families such as pregnancy and womb, but it also includes lesser-known terms such as “Forever Parent(s), the person (or people) who decide to love and care for a child and be that child’s forever family.” A wonderful addition to library shelves everywhere.

Yoga Tots: Calm Bunny by Tessa Strickland. illus. by Estelí Meza. 16p. (Yoga Tots). Barefoot. Jan. 2021. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781646861583.
Toddler-PreS–A step-by-step instruction manual for beginning yoga poses that will appeal to a variety of readers. Each spread shows an animal on the left demonstrating a yoga pose with a short sentence. On the right are more detailed instructions on how to accomplish the pose. “Shhh! You’re a little bunny. Look around!/ Kneel down, sitting back on your heels. Raise your arms high. Now twist your shoulders: first right, then left.” Clear and bright illustrations will be helpful to readers as they begin to attempt their own routine.

Mi’kmaw Daily Drum: Mi’kmaw Culture for Every Day of the Week by Alan Syliboy. illus. by author. 10p. Nimbus. Oct. 2020. Board $12.95. ISBN 9781771088893.
Toddler-PreS–A board book pairs art with the days of the week. Each spread features the gorgeous drum art on the left and the day of the week on the right. The day of the week also features a Mi’kmaw translation and cultural teaching: “Thursday/ ne’wowei/ (nee*wo*wey)/ The eight-point star represents the eight districts of the Mi’kmaq Nation.” The true highlight of this board book is the amazing art. Further back matter describes each drum in more detail. A first purchase for all libraries.

My Feelings by Jeffrey Turner. illus. by the author. 24p. Sunbird. May 2021. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781503758469.
PreS-K–A prickly porcupine demonstrates and describes emotions in this relatable board book. Each spread contains a headline emotion with a one-entence description of the emotion in context. “Disappointed. I feel disappointed when I get socks for my birthday.” The emotions with more negative connotations begin the book, but it ends on positive ones such as “Excited” and “Love.” A bright color palette enhances the illustrated porcupine in various settings. This will be a great conversation starter about emotions. Spare text and simple illustrations make this a great choice for one-on-one reading.

Busy Little Bee by Salina Yoon. illus. by author. 12p. (An On-the-Go Book). S. & S./Little Simon. Jun. 2020. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781534459946.
Toddler-PreS–Bold and bright illustrations will draw little ones’ eyes to the animals on each spread as they count their way through this simple board book. A small handle for carrying only makes this title more appealing to the library’s youngest patrons. With its companion title, Busy Little Fishy, this counting book will be at home on most library shelves.

Brooke Newberry is an early literacy librarian in La Crosse, WI.

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