New Multicultural Board Books
Stosuy, Brandon. Music Is… Illus. by Amy Martin. Little Simon, 2016, 32p. $8.99. 978-1-4814-7702-4.
A very brief text and brightly colored graphic illustrations combine to celebrate music for a wide age range in this innovative board book. The narrative begins: “Music is quiet, music is LOUD…” and continues to show different emotions and sensory experiences that come from music. Although this is a board book and will appeal to young ones, there is nothing “babyish” about it. Older children will appreciate the depictions of orchestras, rock bands, dancers, and even listeners using headphones; there is also a brief glossary at the back. The artwork has the appearance of cut paper collage but may have been accomplished using digital means; in any case, the illustrations expand on the brief text. The artwork is also very inclusive of all types of diversity, with various ethnic, gender, and age groups represented including babies in diapers, female guitarists, hijab-wearing listeners, and dancers of various skin colors.
Van Camp, Richard. We Sang You Home. Illus. by Julie Flett. Orca, 2016, 26p. $9.95. 978-1-4598-1178-2.
In this companion to Van Camp and Flett’s Little You (2013), a baby is welcomed and celebrated by his mother and father in a text made up of declarative sentences: “As we give you roots you give us wings.” The illustrations are quite striking, constructed using “gouache and paper and digital collage” according to the verso; they resemble cut paper collage using deep colors from nature. The artwork also brings in a welcome diversity element, with the contemporary parents and child having black hair and brown skin, reflecting the illustrator’s First Nation background. Although a specific family is depicted, the emotions and experience have a universality that will give this wide appeal with its elegant text and artwork.
New Entries in Board Book Series
McGrath, Barbara Barbieri. “First Celebrations.” Illus. by Peggy Tagel. Charlesbridge, 2016, 12p. $6.95 each. Thanksgiving Counting. 978-1-58089-534-7. Halloween Colors. 978-1-58089-533-0.
Although the brightly colored graphic artwork is perfect for the toddler audience, small flaws keep these from being really good concept books. In the Thanksgiving entry, each spread shows something related to the holiday with something to count. But the numeral is not included, and in some cases it can be difficult to count the item. For example, “[Mom] is putting two more cranberries in the bowl,” but it will be difficult for a toddler to distinguish those two berries from the others in the bowl. Or in the Halloween entry, a clown holds three balloons, one of which is “a pretty blue balloon.” But how would a toddler know which of the three is blue? In both cases, the text doesn’t take into consideration the development level of the board book audience.
Various. “Very First” series. Illus. by various. Kar-Ben, 2016, 10p. $5.99 each.Newman, Tracy. Rosh Hashanah Is Coming! 978-1-4677-7988-3.Newman, Leslèa. Hanukkah Delight! 978-1-4677-9353-7.
Kar-Ben adds two brief books to this useful series on Jewish holidays and traditions. A nice rhyming text includes the repeated title phrase in Rosh Hashanah Is Coming!, making it an engaging read-aloud for a small group. Preschools may find this useful for introducing the concept of the Jewish New Year. For the book on Hanukkah, a rabbit family in clothing celebrates the holiday. The rhyming text describes latkes, dreidels, chocolate gelt, and candles but doesn’t use the word “menorah.” Still, this is a simple, easy to understand story of a holiday celebration.
Allen, Kathryn Madeline. No series name. Photos by Eric Futran. Albert Whitman, 2016, 14p. $7.99 each. A Kiss Means I Love You. 978-0-8075-4189-0. Show Me Happy. 978-0-8075-7353-2.
Originally published as picture books with the same titles, these adaptations are abridged, so the original editions are preferred. These are illustrated with color photos of children and parents representing many ethnicities, but no countries are mentioned (unlike the Global Fund board books). In Show Me Happy, children act out various opposites, including up and down, little and big, hiding and found, etc. A Kiss Means I Love You explains how smiles show happiness, “a pout means I’m mad,” and so forth, which is especially helpful for autistic children. The concepts have merit, but the original editions are the best choice.
Laden, Nina. Peek-a-Choo-Choo! “Peek-A” series. Chronicle, 2016, 22p. $6.99. 978-1-4521-5473-2.
A large die cut hole in every other page allows the child to guess what will be pictured, since all the answers rhyme with “Choo.” For example, the hole allows you to see a bird, and guess “flew,” but often the answers are somewhat difficult. The deep colors are good but the crosshatching may confuse some younger toddlers. Since these are smaller than many other board books, they could be easily lost so they may not be worth the money.
Anon. Roly Poly Looks for Santa Claus. “Tiny Tab” series. Illus. by Jannie Ho. Nosy Crow, 2016, 8p. $7.99. 978-0-7636-8938-4.
Four heavy cardboard tabs slide out to reveal a small detail in each illustration, always a hidden animal, so this will draw an audience for one-on-one sharing. The title character is a clothes-wearing polar bear who sees other animals building snowmen or baking cookies, while he looks for Santa. Kids will enjoy sliding the tabs and looking for Santa in the final spread.
Wang, Jack and Holman. “Cozy Classics.” Chronicle, 2016, 24p. $9.95 each. Jane Austen’s Emma. 978-1-4521-5255-4. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 978-1-4521-5249-3. Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. 978-1-4521-5251-6. E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker. 978-1-4521-5248-6.
Four new entries in this unusual series reduce classic adult novels to a series of illustrations captioned with one word. The color photos show felt dolls posed in a series of scenes from these novels; the little dolls are nicely constructed but overall this series will be lost on children, even if the adult sharing it can summarize the original book. See the review of the first four books in the series here.
Penny Peck, San Jose State University iSchool