Board Books to Set the Path of Reading—and Sharing—Books

Sharing a board book should be a pleasurable experience for adults as well as children, and several of the topics, from superheroes to fine arts, will certainly be welcome.

Board book covers collage


The latest batch of board books features smart offerings and sweet stories that meet young children right where they are developmentally. Many of these books are decked out with sounds, touch-and-feel elements, and die-cuts that will fully engage small hands and curious, growing minds. Also of note are the more sophisticated takes on the wider world that have continued to invade the board book category. For example, it’s now possible for toddlers to spend a few stiff pages in another country, immerse in another culture, or learn about climate change in their own. Book sharing should be a pleasurable experience for adults as well as children, and several of the topics, from superheroes to fine arts, will certainly be welcome.

Many of these titles also push caregivers to engage with young children to foster and develop pre-reading skills as well as vocabulary and concept acquisition. This kind of direct instruction for adults not only extends the reading experience of board books but can set up successful strategies to create a lifelong habit of reading. Too many adults believe that sharing a book with a child simply means a literal reading of the words on the page. The extension activities detailed in many of these titles will help parents and caregivers broaden their understanding of what reading aloud and sharing books can truly mean for young children.


The Avengers: My Mighty Marvel First Book. illus. by George Pérez. Abrams/Appleseed. ISBN 9781419754609.
PreS-K–This had to happen: classic illustrations bring the Avengers to life for the youngest fans. Simple text introduces the different superheroes and their abilities. Full of onomatopoeia and bad guys to be defeated, this will be a fun read-aloud for parents and caregivers who want to raise the next generation of Avengers fans. VERDICT Introducing superheroes for the youngest fans—KAPOW! What a hit!

CARLE, Eric. Baby Bear’s Busy Day with Brown Bear and Friends. Odd Dot.  ISBN 9781250875679.
Baby-Toddler–Touch, feel, and play! Brimming with activities, this book lets readers help a baby bear wake up by spinning a wheel to bring the rays to the sun. Then the baby bear eats, has a bath, and meets friends, all before going to bed snuggled close to an adult bear whose fur is ready for ­touching. Carle’s signature style is brought to life once again for children to enjoy. ­VERDICT Simple, active text with classic illustrations, this is Carle for a new ­generation.

ELYS, Dori. Bundle Up, Little Pup. illus. by Elena Comte. Little Simon. ISBN 9781665940788.
PreS-K–Getting little ones to bundle up for a winter adventure can be a challenge. This title shows dogs of all sizes, breeds, and abilities getting ready to go outside on a wintry day. A diverse cast of children eventually get themselves and their pooches out in the snow for a fun-filled day. ­VERDICT While not every dog needs all the winter gear involved, young children will appreciate the adorable pups bundling up for snowy activities.

FISCHER, Maggie. Squeeze & Squeak: T. Rex Tries to Roar. illus. by Carlo Beranek. Silver Dolphin. ISBN 9781667205335.
PreS-K–Baby T. rex stalks the pages of this book as a squeaky green dino. While all he wants to do is roar, only a squeak—created by pushing on the silicone belly—is ­produced. Finding another young dino who can only squeak helps T. rex know that he is not alone and that roaring will come in time. VERDICT Children will love squeaking Baby T. rex long after the story has been read.

Gigantosaurus: Meet the Dinos! Printers Row. ISBN 9780794450786.
Toddler-PreS–Based on characters from the television show Gigantosaurus, a group of young dinosaurus are introduced; together they go on a search for the elusive, and very appealing, Gigantosaurus. Young fans of the show, or of dinosaurs in general, will enjoy the cartoon illustrations, active language (the book features 10 sounds), and the adventure. VERDICT Fun illustrations combine with interesting characters in search of age-appropriate adventure.

NICHOLLS, Sally. The Nose, Toes, and Tummy Book. illus. by Gosia Herba. little bee. ISBN 9781499815412.
Baby-Toddler–Each spread features diverse families engaging in play with their young children as they gobble tummies, kiss cheeks, or smell “stinky” feet. The activities will surely spread beyond the boards of the book, and children will be asking for repeated readings. It will fill out new baby shelves as well as guide new parents in all the merry ways they can play with babies. VERDICT Humorous play throughout ends with the featured child being told “Good Night!” Good luck putting a child to bed after all that fun! Highly recommended.

ROSENSWEIG, Holly. Let’s Go, Puppy! illus. by Emily Rutherford.Ninewise. ISBN 9781735713878.
Toddler-PreS–A board book with serious purpose toward language development is charmingly executed. Illustrations full of puppy energy and action, along with mostly a single repeated word per spread, capture a day in the life of a young dog and her human caregivers. Written by a speech-language pathologist, the opening pages guide caregivers with a variety of techniques to encourage early words and sound development in young children. VERDICT An outwardly simple title has helpful tips for caregivers to deepen the reading experience.

SEEBORUTH, Sumana. By Myself! illus. by Maribel Castells. Barefoot. ISBN 9781646869954.
Toddler-PreS–The young girl featured on the cover clearly wants to do things herself! A very expressive young child wants to get ready on her own. Only when she acquiesces to her wise older sister do they work together to get ready to go and have fun. Smiles abound by the title’s end. VERDICT Pitch perfect for an audience of children who want to be self-reliant and have the stubbornness to prove it!.


ALLEN, Kari. Whose Prints? illus. by Kim Smith. Little Simon. ISBN 9781665929592.
Toddler-PreS–A classic idea—the walk through the woods and finding the mysterious tracks animals leave behind. With die-cuts that reveal the tracks, young children will be thoroughly entranced with this title. Active language is sure to get them slinking like a fox or zigging and zagging like a mouse. VERDICT Perfect for a winter day before going out on a walk in the woods or for learning more about animals. Excellent for early language lessons.

BISHOP, Gavin. Look: A Tummy Time Book. illus. by Gavin Bishop. Gecko Pr. ISBN 9781776575015.
PreS-K–Maori illustrator Bishop has a “tummy time” book with bright illustrations featuring faces and objects that will attract young children and prompt interaction between child and caregiver. Faces of various skin tones are presented on brightly colored backgrounds. Particularly interesting is an illustration of a woman with a moko kauae, a traditional female chin tattoo. VERDICT Young children will be captivated by the faces and objects illustrated in bold colors.

DAEMICKE, Songju Ma. Our World: China. illus. by Jam Dong. Barefoot. ISBN 9798888590065.
PreS-K–In the ever-splendid “Our World” series, a brief introduction to Chinese language and culture. Simple words, such as hello and good night are taught with the Chinese characters, phonetic guide, and translation. A young girl spends her day in China flying kites, going to the market, and interacting with her family. The final pages provide additional information about China’s culture and language. ­VERDICT Useful as a window or a mirror, this title is highly recommended.

DAVIES, Becky. Time to Go Potty! illus. by Rosalind Maroney. Tiger Tales. ISBN 9781664350885.
Toddler-PreS–With six sounds (“Flush,” “Yay,” “Tinkle,” and others) to appeal to young children transitioning from diapers to the toilet, a diverse cast of children will encourage others to give using the toilet a try. Tips for adults are included throughout the text with colorful and upbeat illustrations. VERDICT Supportive of both child and caregiver during the journey away from diapers, this is a very easy title to love.

GALLION, Sue Lowell. Our Underwater World: A First Dive into Oceans, Lakes, and Rivers. illus. by Lisk Feng. Phaidon. ISBN 9781838667009.
Toddler-PreS–A visually arresting, fact-filled journey diving underwater around the world. Cut in the shape of a globe, this title gives very young children a sense of the creatures and environments that exist below the surface of the water. From rivers to mangroves to the ice-filled oceans, detailed illustrations and fact-filled text provide onlookers with a broad understanding of our water-covered world. VERDICT ­Stunning illustrations will hold children captivated and motivated to help protect this vital resource.

HUANG, Yu-hsuan. Baby Mushroom: Finger Puppet Book. illus. by Yu-hsuan Huang. Chronicle. ISBN 9781797220215.
Toddler-PreS–Listeners and onlookers are encouraged to animate a young mushroom as it stretches up from the soil, greets its friends, and warns others not to eat it due to its red cap. VERDICT Charming illustrations along with a helpful warning to young readers about mushroom safety make a fun book with a friendly and useful message.

HUANG, Yu-hsuan. Baby Red Panda: Finger Puppet Book. illus. by Yu-hsuan Huang. Chronicle. ISBN 9781797220222.
PreS-K–A lovely little finger puppet book featuring a sweet-faced red panda. Simple sentences describe the day of the baby panda; children will adore the big dark eyes and charming smile of the panda they get to bring to life with a wiggle of the ­finger puppet. VERDICT Cuteness abounds as children get to know this adorable creature and make it dynamic.

LITTLEBOY, Molly. How It Works: Digger. illus. by David Semple. Tiger Tales. ISBN 9781664350779.
Toddler-PreS–With detailed information on diggers and other construction vehicles, this title has engaging illustrations and a die-cut digger that will have little hands digging into this title. “Did you know” fact boxes and labeled diagrams follow a digger and crew through the process of building a house. For young big machine enthusiasts, this title provides additional information that should answer many of those “why?” questions that young builders will have. VERDICT Thorough, engaging, and sturdy enough for the rereadings it’s sure to inspire.

Some Cats. illus. by Lydia Nichols. Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423665175.
Toddler-PreS–Layered die-cut pages reveal the wonderful world of cats. Rhyming text conveys the complexity of cats, from “elegant, graceful, and proud” to “clumsy, goofy and loud.” Illustrations of bright-eyed cats will have children laughing at their antics and appreciating felines in all their delightfulness. VERDICT Purr-fectly presented for children, whether or not they have cats in their lives.

YOELU, Maree McCarthy. Our World: Australia. illus. by Sophie Beer. Barefoot. ISBN 9798888590072.
PreS-K–Another entry in the “Our World” series takes young children to the other side of the planet, to visit Australia. Text and illustrations show the distinctive words, cultures, and creatures that make this country and land mass unique. “Buk buk,” is the sound of the chook, or chicken, and Bingo is the name of the dog that two small children play with. They are in the outback and have brown skin, but when they join others on a beach, the population is diverse and they remind others to “Chuck on ya hat! And some sunscreen!” against the strong sun. There are townscapes, nightscapes, a barbie or two, and a final spread adds detailed information for those wanting more. The illustrations are full of color, and readers will enjoy the array of ­characters and ­activities portrayed. VERDICT A fun introduction to Australia.

John Scott is the library media specialist at Powhatan Elementary School in Baltimore County, MD. He is celebrating his 30th year as a library educator.



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