Board Book Roundup: Summer 2016 Edition

This column is part of a series of recommended board book roundups, formerly published twice a year, now published every season. You can find the previous installments here. Don’t miss Viki Ash’s primer “What Makes a Good Board Book?” from the March/April 2010 Horn Book Magazine.

Here are board books to enjoy with your toddler in these last lazy days of summer...and a few to get your little one ready for a new (pre)school year.

elmquist_beach babyBeach Baby
by Laurie Elmquist; illus. by Elly MacKay
Orca     26 pp.
4/16     978-1-4598-0954-3     $9.95

A mother and sleepy toddler head home from the beach as dusk approaches. Lyrical direct-address text gives reassurance that all the enjoyable sights and sounds of the beach (various wildlife, a sand castle, a sandpiper's call) "will be here when you wake." More lullaby than story, the soothing words are complemented by dreamy mixed-media illustrations in a palette of peachy browns, sky blue, and seaglass green.

gaiman_chu's day at the beachChu's Day at the Beach
by Neil Gaiman; illus. by Adam Rex
HarperFestival/HarperCollins     36 pp.
5/16     978-0-06-238124-8     $7.99

In this board-book edition of the 2015 picture book, young panda Chu and his family head to the beach, but it's not the relaxing outing his parents seem to expect. As fans will know from other Chu books (Chu's Day, etc.), "When Chu sneezed, big things happened." In this case his sneeze parts the ocean in two, Moses-and-the-Red-Sea style. Happily, all ends well (-ish) and Chu even makes some new friends. Oil and mixed-media illustrations portray the animal beach-goers fairly realistically — well, except for their elaborate swimming costumes and accoutrements — in a fitting accompaniment to the understated text of this humorously absurd story.

jones_ready for weatherReady for Weather
by Sarah Jones
Blue Manatee     16 pp.
4/16     978-1-936669-43-1     $7.99

What will children need to be "ready for weather"? On each spread of this minimalist board book, textured illustrations depict a type of weather (e.g., "HOT," showing a red-and-pink beach scene with color-coordinated hermit crab) facing the appropriate clothing and accessories in the same palette (bathing suits, towel, sandals, sunscreen). At book's end, three children play happily in puddles left by a storm, rainbow stretching overhead: "Now that you're ready for the weather, / let's go outside and play together!"

numeroff_time for school mouseTime for School, Mouse!
by Laura Numeroff; illus. by Felicia Bond
Harper/HarperCollins     26 pp.
6/16     978-0-06-242741-0     $12.99

Mouse rushes to get ready for school, rounding up a human-sized lunchbox (into which he places his tiny backpack), pencils, and notebooks. But where's the most important thing: his homework? Mouse's frantic search for his humorously complicated math homework is mainly an excuse to repurpose illustrations from previous Mouse books (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, etc.), but they're still pretty darn cute the second time around. First published as a picture book in 2008, this lap-size board-book edition makes Mouse and his surroundings close to life-size.

wan_whale in my swimming poolThe Whale in My Swimming Pool
by Joyce Wan
Farrar     34 pp.
5/16     978-0-374-30188-0     $7.99

A little boy is excited for a day in his backyard kiddie pool, but when he races outside..."Mooooooom, there's a whale in my swimming pool." (Mom: "Great, honey. Don't forget about sunscreen.") The whale, comically big perched atop the tiny pool, amiably tolerates the boy's many attempts to dislodge it — including trying to lift it out with a crane — but eventually the two come to a compromise. "Well, maybe this is not so bad after all." Bright color-separated illustrations give boy and whale a Playmobil-esque look with rounded shapes, bold dark-brown outlines, and simple yet expressive features.

yolen_how do dinosaurs write their abcsHow Do Dinosaurs Write Their ABC's with Chalk?
by Jane Yolen; illus. by Mark Teague
Blue Sky/Scholastic     18 pp.
7/16     978-0-545-89052-6     $10.99

In this board-book-plus-chalk set (with "wipe-clean reusable pages"), a rhyming main text ("How does a dinosaur write abc's? / Does he grab all the chalk and forget to say please?") stretches across the tops of the pages, with couplets for individual letters below ("Does a dinosaur roar as the airplane flies high? / No, a dinosaur counts the clouds in the sky"). A small, funny illustration reprinted from one of the previous How Do Dinosaurs... books accompanies each couplet. Most of the real estate is devoted to either the die-cut for the chalk-holder or space to practice writing the featured words, making this more of a back-to-school workbook for existing Dinosaurs fans than an entry point into the series.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher is agency assistant at the new Sara Crowe Literary. She spent nine years as an editor and staff reviewer for The Horn Book’s publications and has over seven years of experience as an indie bookseller specializing in children’s and YA literature. She holds an MA in children’s literature from Simmons University.

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