Saturday, April 27, 2013

Growing a Board Book Library

Twice in the past week I stumbled upon lists of "Must Have Baby Books."  I don't know who's writing these lists, but I'm either Too Cool for School or totally out of the loop, because except for a few obvious classics, we 'aint readin' the stuff on those lists. I prefer to think it's the former.  So, since I've just dubbed myself Little Miss Turns Up Her Nose at Plebian Book Lists, it is altogether fitting and proper (my nod to A. Lincoln... Gettysburg Address Board Book Edition coming  soon to a bookseller near you...) to offer you my thoughts on board books and give you a peek at our board book library... 

I'm not really big on scientific studies on the benefits of reading to babies 'cause I already know it's the thing to do.   I'm really into books, and I'm definitely into cuddling with my babies!  I recently determined that for me personally, one of the most important factors when choosing books for my kids is Can I read this book over and over and not want to tear my hair out?? When I had my first child, this criterion wasn't even on my radar.  But now I see that I wasn't really doing myself any favors by buying random 10 cent board books at the thrift store just because they were ten cents.  Oh my goodness, I bought some trash...  Seven years later, my husband has a job and we are blessed with a "book budget" - we don't really have one, I just made that up! - that's bigger than it was in the 10 cent book days of early motherhood.  I've decided that if I'm going to read to my babies and toddlers it will be books that I think are great.  

I'm not on the lookout for lift-the-flap anything - the plots are often limp, and my babies have plenty of opportunities to lift stuff around the house ("Lift those cinder blocks, move it, move it, move it!)  And I don't intentionally seek out touch-and-feel tomes.  Again, we have a plethora of textured items around our home that are available to children of all ages ("Come get this new textured toy, sweetie... your very own cheese grater!  But wait!  There's more.  If you come over right away, I'll throw in this plush robe for free!")  Ok, back to being serious...I tend to stay away from licensed cartoon character type stuff and anything obviously computer written and illustrated.  But beyond that, "great" is totally subjective - my favorites may not be yours.  I go for clever, quirky stories, delightful artwork, thoughtful (not cheesy) rhymes, and of course, always Classics and Culture, dah-ling.  

I can't defend my list to you.  I can't tell you these are the types of books that will improve your baby's brain power, eye focus, hand-eye-lift-the-flap coordination, gross (or fine) motor skills, sensory awareness, emotional I.Q., or foreign language ability.  Pretty much the only thing I can guarantee is that reading to little ones is joy beyond measure - and I intend to keep it that way around here with our ever-growing Baby Board Book Library.  (note to self: if you don't have any more babies, it's time to stop buying board books.  ok?  ok.)

My Recommendations For a Delightful Baby Board Book Library...

Good Night Gorilla,  Peggy Rathmann
Guess How Much I Love You,   Sam McBratney
Big Red Barn  
Goodnight Moon, both by Margaret Wise Brown
Planting a Rainbow
Eating the Alphabet, both by Lois Ehlert 
(I really enjoy her artwork, check out her other books too!)
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin and Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
 Hooray for Fish, Lucy Cousins
(fun Cousins-style illustrations - bright, splashy colors - like your grade school poster paint days)
Gossie, Olivier Dunrea
Blue Hat, Green Hat, Sandra Boynton
(Everyone has their favorite Boynton.  This is ours!)
I Love You Through and Through, Bernadette Rossetti Shustak
The Birthday Box, Leslie Patricelli
I Like Vegetables
I Like Fruit, both by Lorena Siminovich
(I like the scrapbook collage style of the pages here.  No plot though, just your basic colors and opposites.)
Bear on a Bike, Stella Blackstone
(such a huge family favorite that we don't even have it anymore... it was worn away to a fine powder by frequent use... sort of.)
 I LOVE LOVE LOVE Clare Beaton felt artwork.  (the kids do too) 
(I *think* that Secret Seahorse and Elusive Moose might be my all-time favorite board books...)
Secret Seahorse, Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton
Elusive Moose, Joan Gannij and Clare Beaton
How Big is a Pig? Clare Beaton
Who Are you Baby Kangaroo? Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton
 Cozy Classics (Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice), Holman and Jack Wang
(read my recent book review here!)
Baby Lit Series, Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver - concepts for babies (counting, opposites, etc...) using the characters and setting from classic novels.  Cute.  The Baby Lit Wuthering Heights: a Weather Primer was my motivation to pick up the real W.H. for the first time since loving it in high school.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewis
Zoo Animals, Brian Wildsmith
Little Pea; Little Hoot; Little Oink, all by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace
Tip Tip, Dig Dig, Emma Garcia
(Not in board book format yet, but this was another favorite that took so much love from the boys when they were little, it's gone to the great book binder in the sky.  The board book edition comes out in Sept.)
and to satisfy moms who want "educational" without sacrificing lovely...  
My First ABC, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charlie Harpers 123's (love his illustrations)
and more Brian Wildsmith because I love him too...
Brian Wildsmith's ABC
Brian Wildsmith's Opposites (funny/witty illustrations to balance out the inevitable boredom of a Baby Book about Opposites, like the pelican's mouth is "open" because there's a hippo in it!)
 and finally...
These are not board books, but they are worth mentioning.
They are Indestructibles  - a magical miracle type of fabri-paper that can literally be chewed, washed, smashed, trashed... they will stand up to whatever your baby can dish out.
Typically, we try to discourage "mouthing" books, and have always reminded the kids "books are not for chewing on" even when they were just learning how to hold a book at five months old (or whatever).  
But sometimes, you just need to give a kid a book and not have to pay attention to whether it's disintegrating in your newbie reader's mouth.  These are those books.  I usually use them in the car, or in church - times when I'm not really available to read to baby or to train her in proper book handling etiquette. 
I'm pretty sure that all the Indestructible books are text-free.  Those illustrated by Karen Pixton are lovely (pictured here) and those by Jonas Sickler are kind of funky and fun - mostly illustrated versions of popular nursery rhymes.)

-end of list-

And don't forget, board books aren't just for babies...  at least not in in our house:

So, I love books, and I love blog comments!  Let's combine them, shall we?  I'd love to read your thoughts on other great baby board books you've come accross!

Happy Reading!  Love,


  1. I've never seen the classics in board book form-- love it! We've got pretty similar tastes (and criteria) for board books. My SIL introduced me to the Nutbrown Hare series (soft fuzzy stories), and I love "Harry the Dirty Dog," as well. There's so much great stuff out there!

  2. I used to LOVE those Little Miss books when I was little! We have several of the ones listed. We really enjoy Daddy Kisses and a book my MIL got us called Little Blue Truck. It's Luke's favorite :) I also got a set of four board books with the beautiful vintage illustrations (Golden Book style) that are all religiously themed when John Paul was little. I love the illustrations but sadly, they haven't been one of the kids' favorites. Our board books are a sorry sight right now after many of them going through four babies! And...I know it's anathema...but I just can't do Goodnight, Moon. I really think it's just the garish colors!

  3. Great choices. I am not a parent yet (trying), but I've already amassed a small collection of board books from thrift stores. I have a lot of the ones you have, albeit with a bit of a different criteria. I have to say that I am a fan of ones with textures and flaps. I like board books with good illustrations or real photography (no stick figures), rhymes, small paragraphs, a storyline that won't keep a young one waiting, and the ability to sing or make noises to the text. I don't particularly like the classic novels in board book form because they seemed to have broken the text down too much.


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