Board Book Roundup: Spring 2013 Edition

This column is part of a series of twice-yearly roundups; see the first installment here. Don't miss Viki Ash’s primer “What Makes a Good Board Book?” online and in the March/April 2010 Horn Book Magazine.

Considering that a favorite board book is likely to be read again and again, and may well be tragically lost and then joyfully rediscovered under the bed, in the toy box or at the bottom of the diaper bag, it makes sense to spend a little time selecting just the right book for the child (or children) we love. Here are a few titles from the fall 2012 (and very early 2013) publishing season I find worthy of a careful look and quite possibly a place of honor on — rather than lost behind — the bookshelf.

Say & Play: Baby AnimalsSay & Play: Baby Animals
Sterling    28 pp.
8/12    978-1-4027-9890-0    $4.95



Say & Play: ColorsSay & Play: Colors
Sterling    28 pp.
8/12    978-1-4027-9892-4    $4.95



Say & Play: First WordsSay & Play: First Words
Sterling    28 pp.
10/12    978-1-4027-9893-1    $4.95



Say & Play: NumbersSay & Play: Numbers
Sterling    28 pp.
10/12    978-1-4027-9891-7    $4.95



Say & Play: Oink, Moo, MeowSay & Play: Oink, Moo, Meow
Sterling    28 pp.
10/12    978-1-4027-9889-4    $4.95



Say & Play: Things That GoSay & Play: Things That Go
Sterling    28 pp.
8/12    978-1-4027-9894-8    $4.95

Perfectly suited for “point and say” sharing, these six companion volumes feature clearly identified and cleanly photographed images laid out on generous white backgrounds. Compared to many titles on the board book shelves that are packed with pictures and cluttered by complicated layouts, this series stands out as a model of calm, simplicity. Several of the images are used across the series — the distinctive green car in First Words is also found in Numbers, as are the plaid shoes and the rubber ducks. This use of repeated images is likely to be noted and enjoyed by attentive toddlers.

1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite!1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite!: A Prehistoric Counting Book
by the American Museum of Natural History; illus. by Steve Jenkins
Sterling    18 pp.
10/12    978-1-4027-7722-6    $6.95

Jagged bites taken out of the pages provide young dinosaur lovers with a tactile shiver as they count through this dangerous (but delightful) collection of prehistoric beasts. Adult readers will appreciate the pronunciation guide for each of the five featured dinosaurs. More noteworthy however, is the book’s back matter — which includes age-appropriate information on what the dinosaurs really ate and a one-to-ten review of items within the illustrations that can be counted. This title is an impressive introduction to nonfiction for the board book set.

Spot the AnimalsSpot the Animals: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Colors
by the American Museum of Natural History; illus. by Steve Jenkins
Sterling    16 pp.
10/12    978-1-4027-7723-3    $6.95

Like 1-2-3 Dinosaurs Bite!, this collaboration between Steve Jenkins and the American Museum of Natural History is notable for both its art and its science. For all six animals depicted, answering an introductory question (example: “Can you spot the green animal?”) and then lifting an often-leaf-shaped flap to see the answer underneath (a snake) will be wonderfully engaging. But that engagement is enhanced with additional information, shown in smaller type, about the hidden animal. The art — colorful and multi-layered collage illustrations — adds context and content. This pattern of general information followed by more detailed facts continues throughout as readers also meet a crab, a bug, a fish, a penguin, and a butterfly.

CinderellaCinderella: Les Petits Fairytales
by Trixie Belle and Melissa Caruso-Scott; illus. by Oliver Lake
Holt    26 pp.
10/12    978-0-8050-9624-8    $7.99

With surprising brevity, the authors and illustrator provide a complete, and completely satisfying, retelling of “Cinderella.” Using a total of only eighteen words and never more than four words per spread, the text conveys the essence of the story while leaving plenty of room for embellishment and reader/listener conversation. The artistic style, particularly the over-sized heads of the characters, gives the title a contemporary flavor, and the restrained sprinkle of glitter on the cover is sure to appeal to young aspiring royals.

Everything Goes 1-2-3 Beep Beep Beep: A Counting BookEverything Goes: 123 Beep Beep Beep!: A Counting Book
by Brian Biggs; illus. by the author
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    24 pp.
1/13    978-0-06-195812-0    $7.99

Stylized cartoon illustrations and an unexpected assortment of vehicles bring a unique charm to this counting book. While the one bus and three fire trucks might be expected, the five taxis, six food trucks and eight compact cars add an urban flavor to the mix, as does the one “big traffic jam” that concludes the volume. The illustrations are clear enough that the vehicles are easily identified but return visits and careful examination reveal numerous clever details. (For youngsters interested in anything with wheels, the companion title Everything Goes: Stop! Go!: A Book of Opposites is also recommended.)

Meeow and the Big BoxMeeow and the Big Box
by Sebastien Braun; illus. by the author
Boxer    26 pp.
9/12    978-1-907152-88-7    $6.95

Meeow, a little black cat with a penchant for imaginative play, is a wonderful stand-in for many an active young child. An observant narrator describes the transformation of a big brown box into a bright red fire engine by the creative and “clever Meeow.” Simple drawings, saturated color, and generously sized type give the book a bold and inviting look. Meeow and friends are featured in three equally appealing companion titles that are likely to inspire playful reenactments: Meeow and the Little Chairs, Meeow and the Blue Table, and Meeow and the Pots and Pans.

Colores Everywhere!Colores Everywhere!: Colors in English y Español
edited and designed by Madeleine Budnick; photos by Peggy Tenison
Trinity University Press    20 pp.
12/12    978-1-59534-139-6    $7.95



Hello, Circulos!Hello, Círculos!: Shapes in English y Español
edited and designed by Madeleine Budnick; photos by Peggy Tenison
Trinity University Press    20 pp.
12/12    978-1-59534-140-2    $7.95

As did the earlier publication 1, 2, 3, Sí! (2011), these two bilingual concept books bring works of art from the San Antonio Museum of Art’s collection to a young audience. In addition to identifying the colors and shapes found in the illustrations, each spread includes, in smaller type and in both languages, a question intended to spark conversation. For example, the yellow/amarillo dish from China asks the child to find the dragons hiding among the decorations; the square/cuadrado painting by Frank Stella asks the child to identify the smallest square. Back matter provides detailed information about each piece of art.

Baby ABCBaby ABC
by Deborah Donenfeld
Dial    24 pp.
1/13    978-0803739734    $6.99

This stylish alphabet book is populated with babies photographed in muted black and white. Pops of color are added to highlight the items the babies are holding, wearing, or using to represent each of the letters — the B baby wears bright yellow boots, the L baby is holding (and tasting) an olive green leaf, the X baby is playing a multicolored xylophone. Although all the babies don’t appear to be blond and blue-eyed, some additional diversity would have been a nice touch. Still, it is hard to quibble with a book so successful at depicting the alphabet and so sophisticated in its design. (A companion counting book, Baby 123, was not seen.)

Duck and Goose: Goose Needs a HugDuck and Goose: Goose Needs a Hug
by Tad Hills; illus. by the author
Schwartz & Wade/Random    22 pp.
12/12    978-0-307-98293-3    $6.99

Hills brings his familiar cast of avian characters to another satisfying story. A forlorn-looking Goose is trying very hard to tell his friends what he needs, but they are sure they know just how to cheer him up. After trying hide-and-seek, a game of tag, standing on their heads, a splash in the puddle, and a happy song, they finally allow Goose to request his much-needed hug. The story concludes with a warm group embrace that has all four friends sighing with contentment.

Chicka Chicka Boom BoomChicka Chicka Boom Boom
by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault; illus. by Lois Ehlert
Little Simon    36 pp.
8/12    978-1-4424-5070-7    $7.99

A favorite of young children, parents, and preschool teachers since its original publication in 1989, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is now available in full in board book format. (A previous edition included only half the story.) Described as a “Classic Board Book,” this version contains the entire tale, from the trek up the tree through the pileup and rescue, to the letter A’s “dare double dare” in the moonlight. The final spread echoes the end pages of the trade edition with its colorful display of the entire alphabet in upper and lowercase.

by Uri Shulevitz; illus. by the author
Farrar    32 pp.
10/12    978-0-374-37093-0    $7.99

Neither the mood of Shulevitz’s story nor the magic of his illustrations is lost as this 1999 Caldecott Honor book is reissued in board book form. The optimistic anticipation and joyful exhilaration of “boy with dog” are undiminished by the smaller trim size. The young listener can still find that one tiny, all-important snowflake that begins the tale and will certainly delight in the transformative power of “snow, snow and snow” that brings the story to a close.

Polar Bear NightPolar Bear Night
by Lauren Thompson; illus. by Stephen Savage
Cartwheel/Scholastic    36 pp.
1/13    978-0-545-48558-6    $8.99

A young polar bear cub sets off alone on a quiet yet wonder-filled walk among sleeping animals and falling stars, only to return through the “keen, clear night” to snuggle into her “mother bear’s soft, warm fur.” This story of adventure and reunion is tailor-made for toddlers who are working hard to establish their independence without giving up their sense of security. The board book version maintains the emotional warmth of the original picture book text (2004) as well as the artistic integrity of its evocative illustrations.
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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