Not all board books are created equal. I favor board books that were specifically designed to be board books, and not 32 page picture books crammed into a board book edition. With few exceptions (which I'll point out later), adapting a picture book into a board book is often not successful, with the illustrations taking the brunt of the compromise.
But a carefully crafted board book? Those are gems. Pictures are bright (or black-and-white if they are designed for newborns!) and uncluttered. If there is a story, sentences are brief. Here are some sure-fire hits that will get baby on the road to a love of books:
Right off the bat, I start with a book that was originally produced as a picture book. While the illustrations are more pronounced in the picture book form, Backseat A-B-See makes such an attractive board book for babies and toddlers that it was one of the first board books I purchased for my niece. There's no story to it: it's basically the alphabet presented through a succession of road signs (including "L" for library!). Pictures are crisp and in contrasting colors. Its companion, Flight 1 2 3 (look for dad getting checked out by TSA) is just as awesome and will soon be available in a board book format as well.
Sandra Boynton is the undisputed queen of board books. Her humor is best appreciated by toddlers, so her books are perfect for the 1-3 year old crowd. We just received The Bunny Rabbit Show, and it's quite hysterical. Ten rabbits form a chorus line and put on a show. Consider this for an Easter basket surprise.
John Schindel's Busy- board books are constantly checked out at our libraries. Books with photographs are beloved by many babies and toddlers, and nearly all children are fascinated with animals, so you can't go wrong with any of the books in this series. Busy Pandas is one of the cutest. Very short sentences describe the actions in the photographs.
Babies and toddlers are also fascinated with photographs of people, especially children, so Global Baby Boys (and its companions, Global Baby Girls and American Babies) is a sure hit. Adorable pictures of babies from many countries, accompanied by brief sentences about babies (the children are identified by their home country) makes this irresistible for both children and adults.
Although I will probably always prefer Byron Barton's books in their original picture book format, I definitely appreciate the fact that sturdy board books make his fabulous picture books even more accessible for toddlers wanting multiple readings of his books. While transportation is not the focus of every Barton picture book (his The Three Bears is a staple in my bears-themed story time), his "things that go" books (with big, bold, and uncluttered illustrations and brief sentences) are undoubtedly his calling card. Planes, like his other transportation stories, points out the function and variety of planes.
Did you know that we have a special story time for children one year and younger? Our Warrenton library offers Baby Steps every Monday at 10:30. We do a lot of action rhymes (bouncing, clapping, rocking, etc), parachute activities, fun with shakers, guest appearances from adorable puppets and one story. Free play and socialization time follows after the thirty minute program. Story Time is currently on break, but it returns after the new year, so join us starting January 5 for our 2015 sessions!
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library
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