Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Board book trends

Parents often ask me to recommend board books, and being the parent of a one-year-old, I'm quite interested in board books myself, but there is not a lot of scholarly work about board books. It's known that babies are attracted to pictures with bright colors and high contrast, and the simpler, the better. Complicated backgrounds make it hard for them to focus, which is why you'll see a lot of board books with plain white backgrounds. They also love to look at other babies so you'll find a lot of board books that are basically just photos of babies on white backgrounds. Now, there's nothing wrong with those books, in fact, you should be sure to have some around because they will probably be the first books that appeal to your baby. Luckily, my son moved on to books that are a little more artful and interesting. Here's the rundown of some of our favorites in different categories.

The Classics

Yes, I know Board books only began to appear in the 80's but there are some classic out there, and just as you'd expect, they are some of my son's favorite books.

First off, I consider just about any board book by Sandra Boynton a classic. She is a master of board books. There are very few authors out there known for creating board books so she's tried and true. Our favorite has been Oh my, Oh My, Oh Dinosaur with Moo, Baa, La La La as a close second.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many time I've read Where's Spot? by Eric Hill. It just celebrated its 25th anniversary and it is well loved by many, as you will see if you check it out from the library because the flaps are much lighter material then the pages and many of them will be ripped off. Because of the less than sturdy nature, I'd recommend waiting on this one until your baby is used to the idea of being gentle with books.

Dear Zoo also just celebrated its 25th anniversary. It's another lift the flap book, much like Where's Spot, so again, be careful with the flaps or they will quickly be torn off.

Activity (lift-the-flap & touch-and-feel)

As previously mentioned, Dear Zoo and Where's Spot? are our favorite lift-the-flap books, but my son will be happy to read just about any lift-the-flap or touch-and-feel book. We especially love Matthew Van Fleet's touch-and-feel books Tails, and Alphabet. They are kind of in between regular books and board books because the pages are made of cardstock that is bendable, but difficult to destroy.

The reasoning behind wordless picture books seem sound, a child who can't read can pick up the book and enjoy it on their own, right? Well, my child still expects us to tell him a story as we turn the pages and he is unhappy if there is no commentary. That said, Trucks by Donald Crews is definitely a favorite around here.

Picture books converted to board books
In the last few years it seems there are a lot more picture books being printed in board book format. It's important to remember that board books are much shorter than picture books so the stories are adapted to the shorter length. I know a few children who have been surprised when they picked up the picture book version of their favorite board book and it had a lot more text and illustrations. When my son was really little, he tended not to be interested in these board books even though they were the board books I was most excited about. I think that's fairly normal since these books have a little more meat to them than books like "Baby's Feelings" with photos of babies and one word of text per page. Now, at 17 months, he prefers to listen to stories. Some of our favorite picture books turned board books are Olivia by Ian Falconer

The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Board books that are part of popular picture book series

These are not to be confused with picture books converted to board books. These books have the same characters are some popular picture books, but they are written and formatted with the original intent to be published as a board book. Both of the last two categories are especially great to help toddlers transition from board books to picture books because they graduate to longer books about characters they are already attached to. My son is currently transitioning. In most cases he will not sit through reading a picture book, even if the text is brief, unless it's about one of the characters from his favorite board books. He loves The Pigeon Loves Things That Go by Mo Willems and will happily sit through any of the pigeon picture books now. Clever way for publishers to snag readers when they are young, eh?

Now I will admit that not all of these books have been successes. We have how Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors and How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten and my son has never showed interest in either of them. In fact, they have been flung across the room during storytime more times than I care to admit. And I wonder if publishers are pushing their favorite authors/illustrators to churn out board books too. It seems like they are a becoming a bit formulaic. I know my son needs to learn colors and counting and opposites, but but come on, why can't we get a simple story now and then? Those formats just seems like an easy way to churn something out. Concept board books about counting and colors could be a whole category of their own, but I don't have much to say about them except that they abound. Admittedly, a few of them are irresistibly cute.
I guess I should just be grateful to be raising a baby when there are so many options for board books and they are some truly cute, original stories out there. I mean, who can resist Gossie by Olivier Dunrea?


I am Laura said...

I have to say that I love anything by Sandra Boynton as well. We have almost all of her books and Blue Hat Green Hat is probably our favorite of hers. Our most worn books (they both have no spine cover anymore) are Goodnight Moon and Mr. Brown can moo can you? Haven't seen Gossie. Gotta check it out now.

Anonymous said...

I love Sandra Boynton's books and Eric Carle's books. The picture of Moo, Baa, La, La, La sure caught my eye! That was my daughter favorite book for a very long time. She used to carry it around with her everywhere. We also love The Belly Button Book by Boynton. It is always good for bringing out giggles and laughs!

Melinda said...

I just recently discovered the pigeon books in board form. This is great, because my one year old is destroying the paper versions of her favorite "No No" books.