Board Book Roundup

Editors’ note: this inaugural column will be followed by twice-yearly roundups to be published on the Horn Book website, — and don’t miss Viki Ash’s primer, “What Makes a Good Board Book?” online and in the March/April 2010 Horn Book Magazine.

My fascination with board books began in 1987 with a quartet of them by Helen Oxenbury: Clap Hands; All Fall Down; Tickle, Tickle; and Say Goodnight. At that time my niece Abby was a baby, and I read them repeatedly, and with great pleasure, to her. She is all grown up now and a middle-school language arts teacher, and I like to think those early board book experiences started her on the road to reading. It is that same hope that I bring to this inaugural board book roundup.

Whether you are selecting board books for a public library collection, a toddler daycare setting, or your own child (or grandchild), it is often difficult to know exactly what is available. In addition to the big publishing companies, there are any number of smaller houses that may have a few gems hidden in their catalogs. This roundup is an attempt to ease the search for recently published board books that are worthy of consideration. The reviews are brief — but then, so are the books!

Alice in WonderlandAlice in Wonderland
by Jennifer Adams; illus. by Alison Oliver
Gibbs Smith     22 pp.
3/12     978-1-4236-2477-6     $9.99



Jane EyreJane Eyre
by Jennifer Adams; illus. by Alison Oliver
Gibbs Smith     22 pp.
3/12     978-1-4236-2474-5     $9.99

Publishers and authors are aware of the need to create books that appeal not only to the very youngest child but to the adults who will be reading to him or her as well; these two board books are undoubtedly aimed at parents who majored in English literature. The Alice colors primer volume includes the expected white rabbit, pink flamingos, and red hearts. Counting book Jane works a little harder (and more cleverly) to depict one governess, four towers of Thornfield Hall, and eight drawings — including sketches of Adele, Mr. Rochester, and Pilot. Other entries in the Baby Lit series offer a wink and a nod to Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, and A Christmas Carol.

Duck to the RescueDuck to the Rescue
by Jez Alborough; illus. by the author
Kane Miller     14 pp.
1/12     978-1-61067-080-7     $7.99



Duck's Day OutDuck’s Day Out
by Jez Alborough; illus. by the author
Kane Miller     14 pp.
1/12     978-1-61067-079-1     $7.99

Alborough’s familiar picture-book characters, Duck and Sheep, are introduced to an even younger audience in these two slight but engaging rhyming stories. In Duck to the Rescue, Sheep gets lost while driving to the fair. Duck’s attempts to redirect his friend go awry when Sheep’s jeep gets stuck in a mud puddle and he falls into a pond. Not to worry. Duck stands ready to drive a slightly dripping Sheep to the fair in his trusty truck. Duck’s Day Out finds the duo taking a boat trip that is great fun for Duck but a trial for Sheep. Again, though, Duck is ready to help, this time with a little snack and a ride home.

I Say, You Say Animal Sounds!I Say, You Say Animal Sounds!
by Tad Carpenter; illus. by the author
LB Kids/Little, Brown     18 pp.
9/12     978-0-316-20073-8     $6.99

The fun here lies in a participatory text and oversize gatefolds. The art is colorful and not always realistic — the lion’s grassland is purple, and the duck’s green pond is situated on a field of blue grass. This whimsical break from realism won’t detract from the pleasure of the shared reading experience, however, and the whole joyful romp ends with a flap revealing all the featured animals and their sounds. A companion volume, I Say, You Say Opposites!, is equally enjoyable.

by Orla Kiely; illus. by the author
Holt     20 pp.
4/12     978-0-8050-9491-6     $9.99



by Orla Kiely; illus. by the author
Holt     20 pp.
4/12      978-0-8050-9492-3     $9.99

The muted colors and patterned papers of these two stylish concept books have a sophisticated appeal that many will find a welcome change from the bold colors and cartoon illustrations often associated with board books. Several images are shared between the volumes — the red elephant of Colors becomes four elephants in Numbers. The same is true of the pears, the cups, and the flowers — a repetition that could become a playful exercise in visual discrimination.

I Can Do It Myself!I Can Do It Myself!
by Stephen Krensky; illus. by Sara Gillingham
Abrams Appleseed/Abrams     12 pp.
8/12     978-1-4197-0400-0     $6.95




Now I Am Big!Now I Am Big!
by Stephen Krensky; illus. by Sara Gillingham
Abrams Appleseed/Abrams     12 pp.
8/12     978-1-4197-0416-1     $6.95

Krensky celebrates the increasing independence of toddlers and their pride of accomplishment. The rhyming texts are accompanied by Gillingham’s retro illustrations that feature dots, spots, and crosshatching patterns. The less-than-saturated colors add a used-and-loved feel to the books that is sweetly nostalgic without being overly sentimental.

Trains GoTrains Go
by Steve Light; illus. by the author
Chronicle     16 pp.
1/12     978-0-8118-7942-2     $8.99

Within a long and low trim size, Light illustrates seven noisy trains and one red caboose in a bold, impressionistic style. The design also features type in various sizes and angles that add to the energy of the volume. From the squeak, clang, ting, and bing of the freight train to the chugga, chugga, choooo of the big steam train, the text calls for a spirited reading — probably not at bedtime, though.

PantonePantone: Colors
by Pantone; illus. by Helen Dardik
Abrams Appleseed/Abrams     20 pp.
3/12     978-1-4197-0180-1     $9.95

Only the color-matching Pantone company could provide this much variety in a color concept book. Simple illustrations on the right side of the spreads identify nine colors and are accompanied by a grid of twenty shades of the same color on the left. The shades are identified by their Pantone numbers and fanciful names such as basketball orange, dollar bill green, and barbecue sauce brown. The final spread provides an extravaganza of colorful animals, objects, fruits, and vegetables whose shades can provide a wealth of conversational opportunities.

First Concepts ColorsFirst Concepts Colors
by Roger Priddy; illus. by the author
Priddy/Macmillan     12 pp.
4/12     978-0-312-51377-1     $8.99



First Concepts NumbersFirst Concepts Numbers
by Roger Priddy; illus. by the author
Priddy/Macmillan     12 pp.
4/12     978-0-312-51378-8     $8.99

For the young realist, the photographic illustrations in this pair of concept books should be a welcome diversion. Lift-the-flap and pull-the-tab interactivity adds an element of playful engagement. Colors ends with an array of colored pencils that serves as a review of the book’s contents. Numbers concludes with a similar review, this time in the form of a small ten-page book-within-a-book that reprints the larger volume’s numbers and photos.

ABC, Now You See MeABC, Now You See Me
by Kim Siebold; illus. by the author
RP Kids/Running     14 pp.
4/12     978-0-7624-4067-2     $13.95

Each of twenty-six animal illustrations is accompanied by a hinged door that reveals the animal’s name. The stylized illustrations, rendered in a soft palette with plenty of geometric shapes, may be difficult to identify on first viewing but have a simple and engaging charm. Unexpected animals, such as the iguana, newt, and upland gorilla, make this a vocabulary-rich experience. The inclusion of both upper and lowercase letters adds educational value.

Cradle MeCradle Me
by Debby Slier; photos by Marilyn Angel Wynn and others
Star Bright     14 pp.
1/12     978-1-59572-274-4     $6.95

In a book tailor-made for babies (who love looking at other babies), Slier introduces eleven infants from different Native American tribes, safely and (for the most part) happily secured in their cradleboards. Each picture is accompanied by a single word describing the baby’s actions or emotions. The culturally specific and the humanly universal are both depicted here.

by David Ezra Stein; illus. by the author
Paulsen/Penguin     32 pp.
3/12     978-0-399-25738-4     $6.99

Pouch! is a fine example of a picture book that translates to the board book format with great success. Neither the charm of the story nor the energy of the illustrations is diminished by this edition’s smaller trim size. The plot, which moves a young kangaroo in and out of his mother’s pouch as he explores the world and seeks independence, speaks directly to the developmental milestones of young childhood and is thus ideally suited for a board book audience.

Animal 123Animal 123
by Britta Teckentrup; illus. by the author
Chronicle     20 pp.
2/12     978-1-4521-0993-0     $12.99

Beginning with one wiggly snake, a sturdy flap in the shape of the numeral one unfolds to reveal a second wiggly snake. Two marching elephants follow, and with the lift of the numeral two, three marching elephants come into view. The pattern continues through the number nine, where the flap unfolds once to reveal ten dragonflies and unfolds again to a pictorial and numerical review. The big, bold numeral flaps, uncluttered layouts, and appealing illustrations make this a model of conceptual clarity. A companion volume, Animal Spots and Stripes, is also available.

Daddies and Their BabiesDaddies and Their Babies
by Guido van Genechten; illus. by the author
Clavis     20 pp.
3/12     978-1-60537-110-8     $9.99

Ten animal dads are introduced in simple, patterned text and illustrated in black, white, and shades of gray. Beginning with a “frog daddy with his baby frog” and including the de rigueur “dog daddy with his baby pup,” the book features some unexpected and vocabulary-stretching duos as well — the hedgehog daddy with his baby piglet, the crocodile daddy with his baby hatchling. For the scientific purist, the book is diminished by the inclusion of the caterpillar daddy with his baby caterpillar — a biological impossibility. Those of a more artistic inclination may find that the charm of the illustrations overcomes this problem, however. (Companion volume Mommies and Their Babies was not seen.)

A Nest in SpringtimeA Nest in Springtime: A Bilingual Book of Numbers
by Belle Yang; illus. by the author
Candlewick     24 pp.
4/12     978-0-7636-5279-1     $6.99



Summertime RainbowSummertime Rainbow: A Bilingual Book of Colors
by Belle Yang; illus. by the author
Candlewick     24 pp.
4/12     978-0-7636-5280-7     $6.99

Regardless of the subtitles, these are not the number and color books one might expect. Nest in Springtime does not include boldly identified, sequential numbers; Summertime Rainbow does not include an individual spread for each color. Instead, these are simple stories, with texts in English and Mandarin Chinese, that include colors and numbers and thus nod quietly to their conceptual underpinnings. The final spread in both volumes provides English-language readers with an explanation of the tonal subtleties of Mandarin Chinese and assistance with pinyin pronunciations.

From the November/December 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Viki Ash
Viki Ash is coordinator of children’s services at the San Antonio Public Library. She has taught children’s literature and library programming at the School of Library and Information Studies, Texas Woman’s University, and has served on ALSC’s Newbery, Caldecott, Wilder, and Sibert committees.
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