Time for our semi-annual Board Book round-up! There was a flood of new board books this season, unlike the sparse selection from spring, so we will talk about the series books this month. Next month with Part 2, we will discuss individual titles and board book adaptations of picture books.
Pig Pig picture books have always been favorites for storytime, now the younger version of the character debuts in these two board books. These are not adapted from the picture books, but original, simple stories that are perfect for babies.
In Talks, baby Pig Pig repeats sounds of animals, taxis, and other things while his mother tries to get him to say “mama.” The text amounts to two sentences, with dialogue balloons naming the things he encounters, including a cat, bird, snake, and taxi, along with a sound word relating to that thing. In Walks, the text is short sentences describing Pig Pig’s successful attempt to get out of his playpen and walk to his mother.
The watercolor and ink cartoon illustrations feature common domestic scenes that are very relatable; babies and toddlers can relate to Pig Pig’s successes. These are an excellent example of how a board book respects its young audience with authentic stories and finely done illustrations.
Harrison, Kenny. “Hide and Seek Harry” series. Candlewick, 2014. $6.99 each.
Hide and Seek Harry Around the House. ISBN 978-0-7636-6602-6.
Hide and Seek Harry At the Beach. ISBN 978-0-7636-6603-3.
A simple rhyming text and full color digitally created illustrations charmingly describe a hippo who plays hide and seek with a human boy and girl. The rhyme is serviceable; it is the illustrations that will appeal to toddlers. Because Harry is a hippo, he can’t really hide very well, so the young audience will be able to point him out in each picture with ease, giving them a sense of achievement. For example, he “hides” with a lampshade covering his face but the rest of him is sitting on the floor. Fun from a debut author; two more in the series are scheduled for spring 2015, on the farm and on the playground.
Deneux, Xavier. “Touch Think Learn” series. Chronicle Books, 2014. $14.99 each.
Numbers. ISBN 978-1-4521-1724-9.
Shapes. ISBN 978-1-4521-1727-0.
Following up his books on colors and opposites from a year ago, Deneux offers two more concept board books. Originally published in France in 2012, each book has an unusual tactile feature of die-cuts . On the left side of each opening is a raised cardboard piece (glued to the page) that fits into a cutout on the opposite page. These features will appeal to kinetic learners, but probably contribute to the relatively high price.
In Numbers, each spread features a large numeral, as well as text with the word for that number and the thing pictured. For example, a picture of a car with the text “Two wheels” faces a large numeral 2. All of the tactile pieces are circles, representing chicks, grapes, bolts, bubbles, etc. In Shapes, the text only labels the name for the shape, such as oval, triangle, but not the thing pictured (blimp, giraffe).
The brightly colored illustrations are set on white backgrounds, using a graphic style that should make it easy for babies and toddlers to discern what is pictured. An unusual depiction of common concepts, this will appeal to parents as well as toddlers who will like the blocky tactile feel of these books.
Patricelli’s popular diaper-wearing bald baby with one springy hair coming out of his head has appeared in at least a dozen popular board books. The newest two entries will appeal to babies and toddlers who enjoyed the previous books and could win new fans to the series. Like Potty and Tubby and the other early books, these new stories are very relatable.
In Toot, baby passes gas and finds it hilarious. The final spread shows other sounds he makes like a yawn or sneeze. In Tickle, baby enjoys being tickled by his mom and dad. In one spread, he names the parts of him that are ticklish, which will give a fun opportunity for parents to help baby name his or her arms, ribs, neck, etc. Both will inspire interaction between parent and child.
As before, the cartoon-style illustrations bring out the humor of the text, and were done in deeply saturated acrylics with thick black outlines. These books find just the right blend of original, funny stories with illustrations that bring out the charm of the character. Sure to be as popular as the previous books, and deservedly so.
National Wildlife Federation. “My First Book” series. Charlesbridge, 2014. $6.95 each.
My First Book of Wild Animals. ISBN 978-1-62354-029-6.
My First Book of Baby Animals. ISBN 978-1-62354-028-9.
Clear color photos are the stand-out feature of these two new board books; one hopes the National Wildlife Federation will add to this delightful series. The photos often are relatively close-up, focusing on the animals’ facial expressions. Both wild and domestic animals are included, and ocean animals are included although land animals dominate.
The text in Wild Animals is just the word for that animal, and in Baby Animals the caption consists of the word for the animal and the word for the baby animal. For example, “Swan cygnet” captions the photo of the mother swan and two babies. Simple, but very age appropriate.
Barrett, Mary Brigid. All Fall Down. Illus. by LeUyen Pham. Candlewick, 2014. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4430-7.
Barrett, Mary Brigid. Pat-a-Cake. Illus. by LeUyen Pham. Candlewick, 2014. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4358-4.
There isn’t a series title for these two books, but one might think the text was the common Mother Goose rhymes. But that is not the case; the author was inspired by those nursery rhymes but has created original rhymes that are just right for babies and toddlers. In All Fall Down, the baby stacks blocks and other things, then knocks them down. In Pat-a-
Cake, various foods are patted: “Pat a kiwi. Pat a peach. Pat a plump tomato.”
The most memorable part of this pair of books is Pham’s delightful gouache and watercolor ink illustrations. The full color, deeply saturated paintings feature families of various ethnic groups playing together. A wonderful addition to board books featuring rhymes, these could easily be enjoyed at a small group storytime.
Belle, Trixie and Melissa Caruso-Scott. “Les Petits Fairytales.” Illus. by Oliver Lake. Holt, 2014. $7.99 each.
Little Red Riding Hood.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears. ISBN 978-0-8050-9912-6.
Number seven and eight in this series, these continue the pattern of the previous books. Common folk and fairy tales are converted into board books with just one or two words per page to convey the essential elements of the story. The illustrations do the rest, with deeply saturated paintings that depict the action. For example, “wolf” is the only word on the page with Red Riding Hood meeting the wolf on her way to grandma’s house; later “Big mouth” captions the illustration of Red talking to the wolf who is in grandma’s bed.
This format can inspire the parent to tell the story to the child, elaborating on the text, pointing out details in the illustrations. Then, the child can re-tell the story in his or her own words, relying on the pictures to remember details. Librarians can use these to explain the five parent practices that promote literacy, because they promote talking, reading, and even writing for those children old enough to retell the story in written form.
Both retellings include the key phrases the stories are known for, from Goldilocks “Too hot, too cold, just right,” to Red’s “Big ears.” Of course, parents are likely to know the full phrases and elaborate with “What big ears you have.” Also, both are relatively nonviolent, with Goldilocks running away, and the woodcutter pulling grandma out of the wolf’s mouth and sending the wolf on his way. Storytime presenters should demonstrate the interactive nature of these books with dialogic reading techniques, which parents can later emulate at home.
Anon. “Tiny Tab” series. Illus. by Jannie Ho. Nosy Crow, 2014. $7.99 each.
Bunny Boo Has Lost Her Teddy. ISBN 978-0-7636-7274-4.
Little Bubba Looks for His Elephant. ISBN 978-0-7636-7401-4.
Teeny Weeny Looks for His Mommy. ISBN 978-0-7636-7273-7.
Wickle Woo Has a Halloween Party. ISBN 978-0-7636-7400-7.
Often tabs are too fragile or too small for a toddler to use, but that is not the case with this charming series with a “hide and seek” theme. Each book has four very sturdy pull tabs (two on the side, two on the top), that the child can pull to reveal characters or items hidden in a cut-out. For example, pull the tab and see where a lost toy is hiding, or to find mommy along with several friends.
The full color cartoon style illustrations are charming and suit the stories; the mechanics of the book naturally fit into the pictures. Some die-cuts are portholes in a ship, or windows in a house. The cut-outs in trees or flower beds are painted the same colors as the backgrounds so they also are incorporated into the pictures in a natural way that doesn’t break up the illustrations. Jannie Ho is an accomplished illustrator.
The text, which is not attributed to an author, is straight-forward and helps the child know what to find. For example, it asks “Is Mommy in the flowers?” Once the tab is pulled, the text names elephant and panda as the hidden animals, building vocabulary for the listener. This series is very successful and will be popular.
Braun, Sebastien. “Can You Say It, Too?” series. Nosy Crow, 2014. $8.99 each.
Growl! Growl! ISBN 978-0-7636-7396-3.
Moo! Moo! ISBN 978-0-7636-7066-5.
Roar! Roar! ISBN 978-0-7636-7397-0.
Woof! Woof! ISBN 978-0-7636-6605-7.
With large flaps that show a hidden animal, this series lives up to the subtitle on the front cover: “With BIG Flaps to Lift!” The sturdy flaps are done in the style of Eric Hill’s “Spot” books, so these should stand up to library use with no trouble.
Each spread begins with a question on the left side, such as “Who’s behind the bucket?” On the right is a large flap that lifts to reveal the hidden animal, along with text naming the animal and describing the sound it makes. Listeners will want to repeat the animal sounds. Plus, part of the animal peeks out from under the flap, so many toddlers will be able to guess what animal is under the flap.
The full color deeply saturated illustrations were created digitally but resemble gouache paintings. The animals are relatively realistic looking but with expressive faces. Each book has five spreads, with the same question & answer format, along with the words for the animal sound. In each book, the final spread has an extra flap to reveal the animal’s babies.
With distinctive illustrations and a text that invites interaction due to its repetition, these would serve for a small baby or toddler storytime read-aloud. An excellent new board book series that has a very successful book design.
Siminovich, Lorena. “You Are My Baby” series. Chronicle Books, 2014. $8.99.
You Are My Baby Garden.
You Are My Baby Woodland.
You Are My Baby Ocean.
You Are My Baby Pets.
Following Safari and Farm from 2013, this series adds four new titles to its inventive line-up. These books have an unusual format: each are approx. 7 inches square, with a 3 ½ inch smaller book imbedded into the larger. The larger book focuses on the parent animal, and the smaller book on the baby.
Each spread shows the parent and baby along with a simple text describing the parent’s activity. The text next to the baby repeats “You are my baby, little…” then gives the name for that baby animal (like kit for a fox), then the sound it may make (splish splash, or zzzzz). The child listener may be inspired to repeat the sounds.
The book focusing on pets has a small counting feature: “You have two feathery wings,” but there is no numeral included in the text. The “Woodland” and “Ocean” books are especially useful because they include animals not commonly seen in books for a toddler.
The full color illustrations have wonderful textured-looking backgrounds and fabric-like pieces that make up the figures; this appears to be cut fabric collage. Because of the small imbedded portion, this may not last too long in a library but it is worth a try. Siminovich is a Bay Area artist so there may be some demand for her books.
Horacek, Petr. “Flip-Flap Fun” series. Candlewick, 2014. $7.99 each.
Time for Bed. ISBN 978-0-7636-6779-5.
Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! ISBN 978-0-7636-6780-1.
The series title (which is on the cover near the top of each book), is somewhat misleading. These books don’t have flaps like those in Eric Hill’s wonderful “Spot” the dog stories; Horacek’s books have graduated scalloped pages that get smaller at each page turn. The deeply colored collage illustrations depict animals or household objects in a realistic way.
In Time for Bed, the action begins with play, then supper, followed by the customary bath, tooth-brushing, and bedtime story. In Honk, Honk! seven domestic animals are featured along with the sound they make. Because flaps were promised on the cover, these are likely to disappoint since the stories are uneventful.
Zuckerman, Andrew. “Creature” series. Chronicle Books, 2014. $7.99 each.
Numbers. ISBN 978-1-4521-1667-9.
Sounds. ISBN 978-1-4521-1722-5.
Colors. ISBN 978-1-4521-1668-6.
Baby Animals. ISBN 978-1-4521-1721-8.
In 2009, Zuckerman released a volume of animal photos with ABC and guessing game elements. This new series of board books is derived from that picture book, using color photos of animals against stark white backgrounds.
The best of the series is Numbers, with a text containing the numeral for the number of animals pictured, along with a phrase describing the photos. For example, next to a photo of a spider the text reads “8 legs creeping.” The only thing missing is the word for the animal; is it a tarantula?
In Colors, the only text is the word for the color, using the color in the typeface, too. This works fine except for yellow which is too faint against the white background. Color photos of animals such as the parrot for blue, owl for white, are clear except for the yellowish seahorse for brown. Also, the name of the animal does not appear anywhere (not even in small print on the back), so I couldn’t tell you what bird represents orange. Kids would want to know that, too.
For Sounds, a lion is pictured next to the text “Roooooar!” and a hyena next to “Hee! Hee! Hee!” I wonder if hyenas really sound like “hee hee,” and bats make the sound “Eeeeek!” Again, the photos are very clear but there is no mention of the animal name; I think the primate is a mandrill but there is no text to verify that.
Baby Animals is the most successful with clear color photos of the creature along with a text giving the name of the animal and what the baby is called. For example, the caption for the baby hippo is “hippopotamus, calf” and for the sleeping squirrel it says “squirrel, kit.” A good effort that needs some improvement to be really useful.
Penny Peck, San Jose State Univ., School of Information Science