This is my post about 10 great board books. Special thanks to the fabulous photographer Camilla Quiddington for the beautiful images and to our patient and gorgeous model, August.
‘One Funky Monkey’ by Stacey McCleary, illustrated by Sue deGennaro (Walker Books) The rhymes of this sturdy little book really work; you can feel yourself get into the rhythm of the text from page one and it continues effortlessly to the end. This is a counting book from 1 to 10 which incorporates different animals doing a range of contemporary dance steps. There are hip-hopping elephants, jiving giraffes, ‘lion-dancing’ lions and reggaeing rhinos. Other dance steps ensure adults smile in recognition; eagle-rocking eagles, moonwalking meercats and jive-talking dinosaurs. The animals all come together in a timely conga line. The text and content throughout are engaging and fun. DeGennaro’s illustrations are appropriately lyrical and energetic with whimsical renderings of the animals in their dancing poses in a linear, clean style. This is one of those great books that are fun to read aloud to kids and they enjoy the rhymes and reference to dance steps.
Read my interview with Stacey McLeary here.
‘Green as a Bean’ by Alison Lester (Allen & Unwin) We already know that I am a big fan of past Children’s Laureate, Lester, so it is no surprise to see one of her board books here. What I like about this book about colour is its clear layout, straightforward communication and beautiful illustrations throughout. The gentle rhymes come naturally; ‘Orange as an orange or juice in my jug. Green as a bean or a grasshopper or bug’. The majority of words will be well known to young kids, but the inclusion of a few extra ones extends their vocabulary and appeals to their imagination. Lester’s illustrations are, as usual, pure joy.
Read my interview with Alison Lester here.
Visit Alison Lester’s website here.
‘Good Night, Sleep Tight’ by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (Scholastic) This is a fun story book about a babysitter repeating some well-known rhymes at bedtime and the kids begging to hear more; ‘We love it, we love it!’ the kids say. ‘How does it go? Will you say it again?’ It reminds me of years and years of wonderful babysitting as a teenager and then in my early 20s developing great, fun relationships with the children I minded. I am still is contact with three of these fabulous people. The chilled babysitter in this book replies to the kids’ pleas to repeat the rhyme; ‘Some other time….But I’ll tell you another I heard from my mother;’ and the next familiar classic rhythm is related. Fox’s text runs faultlessly and the enthusiasm of the kids runs right to the end where they do finally get to sleep and the babysitter retires. Renowned cartoonist and illustrator Horacek is a genius with line and colour and her illustrations depict the fun and energy of the story.
Read my interview with Mem Fox here.
‘Countablock’ by Christopher Franceschelli, artwork by Peskimo (Abrams) This is a really chunky book that kids love to hold in their hands. A counting book from 1 to 10 and then using the layout of double pages to 100; it’s a great romp through numbers. Pages are cutout around the edge of the numbers creating peeks of the next page. This also works to get kids familiar with the numerals’ actual physical look – angles, holes and curves of numbers. Colourful, clear artwork by husband and wife team, Peskimo, enhances the text with ‘One acorn becomes…(turn the cutout page)…one oak tree’, ‘Two snowmen become…(turn the cutout page)…two puddles!’ A clever combination of repetition of the number and prediction of what the objects change in to keep the pages turning. Especially delightful are the cacti turning into jars of pickles and corn kernels turning into popcorn. Very clever, very entertaining and lots of fun!
‘Alice in Wonderland; A Colors Primer’ by Jennifer Adams, artwork by Alison Oliver (BabyLit) This beautifully produced book based on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is a fun introduction to the world of classic literature. Stunning bright and playful illustrations by Oliver start from the cover and continue throughout the book. We meet the colours with the white rabbit, orange cat, purple bottle and red hearts (of course!) Each double page spread introduces and illustrates the colour with whimsical details such as the white rabbit wearing a Tshirt saying ‘don’t be late’, a hedgehog rolling in the game of croquet and a darling dormouse curled up asleep in a teaspoon. A wonderful book!
‘Baby’s Very First Black and White Book; Animals’ illustrated by Stella Baggott (Usborne) Research indicates that infants see black and white first and then the colour red, so this is a perfect book for little babies enjoying focus and colour recognition. High colour contrasts of black and white with some red details make it easy for babies to focus on. My children really enjoyed black and white books when they were really little. Baggott illustrates an animal on each of the pages in a strong, simple outline and whimsical details; cat, duck, penguin, zebra, rabbit, hen, fish and cow are all there. The small scale of this book reflects the size of tiny hands that it’s pitched to. A sweet little book for little hands.
‘Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice’ by Jack & Holman Wang (Simply Read Books) This is a fabulous book! Introducing one word and concept from the world of Jane Austen’s books on each double page is a beautiful way to introduce children to classic literature. The authors and illustrators are twins who first began writing and illustrating books together when they were in third grade! The Wang brothers say that they wanted ‘to revitalize the genre of the baby word books by injecting a sense of narrative and fun for the parent. In doing so, we hope to foster in children a lifelong love of reading and literature’. I think they’ve done that! The Wangs’ choice of words; friends, sisters and dance combined with their beautiful needle-felted, scale modeling and photography images produce an absolutely sublime result!
Read my interview with Holman Wang here.
Read my interview with Jack Holman here.
‘Alphabet City; Melbourne’ by Maree Coote (MelbourneStyle Australia) This is a really clever alphabet book illustrated with photos of images found throughout one city. Melbourne Style is a fascinating company that creates products that are designed in Melbourne, are inspired by Melbourne and are made in Melbourne, Australia. Each page in this book is devoted to a letter in the alphabet as found in and around the city of Melbourne. So we see ‘B’ from the stunning mosaic floor in the Block Arcade, ‘I’ in the Port Melbourne Lighthouse, ‘O’ on the Flinders Street Station clock, ‘P’ from legendary Pellegrini’s in Bourke Street and ‘T’ from a tram stop sign. As a child my family visited Melbourne to see relatives most Christmases. My grandfather and his brothers used to have a florist shop on the corner of the Block Arcade, my mother used to meet her friends after work at the under the Flinders Street Stations clocks and I have yet to work out the trams! I have travelled many more times to this beautiful, creative and much-loved city. This book is a beautiful, subtle and clever way of celebrating a city and reinforces the idea of looking at details to find beautiful elements.
Read my interview with Maree Coote here.
‘The Finger Circus Game’ by Hervé Tullet (Phaidon) This board book relies on the interaction of a finger animating the images. This, of course, creates an immediate and compelling focus for young children. My children had a book which they loved (sadly, now it’s out of print) which had bunnies and a glove and this book is based on the same interactive idea, but with circus performers who are animated with fingers. So we have the worms performing all sorts of circus tricks including being lion tamers putting themselves in the jaws of the lions and disappearing tricks. French author and illustrator, Tullet, says that ‘babies need “creative food” … something to “advance things, change things, surprise things, wake things up”’ which he definitely does with this engaging book and artwork.
‘Sense & Sensibility; An Opposites Primer’ by Jennifer Adams, artwork by Alison Oliver (BabyLit) Beautifully illustrated double pages of opposites from Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ grace every page of this book. On one level we see big/little, hard/soft and happy/sad. On the next level we notice the little details of big/hard (Norland Park/Barton Cottage), hard/soft (handkerchief with EF initials/letter to Marianne from ‘W’) on the chairs and happy/sad (Willoughby/Colonel Brandon) which can be enjoyed and explained as the child grows. A gorgeous colour palette of mulberries, olive greens, French blues, ochres and taupes add to the delights of enjoying this book!
Special thanks to the fabulous photographer Camilla Quiddington for the beautiful images and to our patient and gorgeous model, August.