Archives for posts with tag: board book

I’m delighted with all the great winter-themed books available. I also really like blue and white, which might explain why I find so many of the covers from winter books appealing. Today, I want to discuss two board books that are set during winter. Let’s Play in the Snow, by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram (Candlewick, $6.99), and Old Bear and His Cub, by Olivier Dunrea (Philomel Books, $6.99), provide two more excuses to cuddle up with your own little hare or cub.


In Let’s Play in the Snow, you’ll recognize Big Nutbrown hare and Little Nutbrown hare, from McBratney and Jeram’s well-known book, Guess How Much I Love You. One of the most notable features of this book is the cover , which is dusted with silver glitter, giving it a tactile component for little hands. In this story, the duo is back, playing “I spy” in the winter forest. The game starts with pairings: “I spy something that belongs to” a tree, a spider, bird, and a river. Little Nutbrown hare ups the ante when he spies “something that belongs to me”. A bit too abstract, he offers this hint: “but only when the sun comes out”. Big Nutbrown hare, mildly competitive if you remember from the first book, also spies something “that belongs to me” and, “It’s little . . . It’s nutbrown . . . It’s my favorite thing . . . And it can hop”. Little Nutbrown hare knows, “It’s me!”


Old Bear and His Cub also contains an intrepid duo and is relatively new in board book format. Old Bear and Little Cub venture out to explore the snow. Little Cub is daring, as little cubs often are, but all it takes is a long, silent look from Old Bear to keep Little Cub out of harm’s way. The book takes a cute turn, when Old Bear starts exhibiting signs of a winter cold and Little Cub doles out some of his own long, silent looks. Little Cub and Old Bear will do what it takes to keep the other one safe, happy, and healthy. When I first read this story a few years ago, I assumed that Old Bear was Little Cub’s grandfather. In a new prequel, entitled Little Cub (Philomel, $16.99), we learn that they are not related and discover how Old Bear and Little Cub first find each other. This new information puts another spin on these stories; they are excellent adoption books.



Board books are such a good idea. I’m suddenly interested in knowing when they first started being produced. If I ever get around to doing research on the history of board books I’ll be sure to include it in a future post. Perfect for birth – 2 1/2, they are durable, portable, and nice to chew on (an assumption based purely on observation). I like it when authors, illustrators, and publishers produced board books that have specifically be designed for that format, but it is also common for popular hardcovers to be later released as a board book. Sometimes, in the case of Hug by Jez Alborough (Candlewick, $6.99), the board book format makes so much more sense than the hardcover. The book contains 3 words: hug, mommy, and Bobo. Given that “mommy” and “Bobo” appear only once, the entire story is basically comprised of one word and the story that Alborough has created with that single word is impressive. A small primate (not my area of expertise) walks through the jungle and sees other animals in endearing familial embraces. The chimp (?) responds to the snakes, elephants, giraffes with the astute observation “hug”. Bobo, as we later learn is his name, experiences a range of emotions, from delighted to despondent, as he feels increasingly alone. His petulant wail “HUG” and pitiful whimper “hug” draw the concern of all the other animals. Fortunately mommy runs with arms wide open. My grandmother always used to hug us and say, “I’m going to squeeeeze you, till you burst” and this sentiment is perfectly demonstrated in the warm embrace Bobo finally finds. A satisfied interspecies collective “Hug” concludes the story. The board book is perfect, though, because you can hold the book in one hand and hug with the other. It’s a great book to get a busy 1 1/2 year old to sit still for a few minutes as you practice your dramatic voice while trying to read all the different emotions that hugs can evoke.

I suspect I’ll be piggy-backing quite a bit on our store’s picks of the year over the next few weeks, but it is the season for gift giving and we’ve selected a great group of recommendations. (I can say that because I wasn’t responsible for this process!) So when a customer came in today and asked about books for a 3 year old, I was able to take her right to to our picks window display. My first book of choice is Pantone Colors (Pantone, $9.95). This board book has a more sophisticated approach to colors than most color books. This book does not simply include blue or green, instead in compares shades of blue and green. The left page of blue, for example, showcases various swatches, such as ocean blue or midnight blue. The image on the right — a train — is comprised these different hues. Rather than a narrative, Pantone Colors is a conversation generator and offer excellent opportunities for adults to discuss the color spectrum with kids. 3 year olds, who generally know their colors by this age, will be able to talk about the different types of greens they see throughout the day and will probably enjoy making up names for the new colors they discover.


Pantone has also produced a gift “box of color” ($12.95). It contains 6 mini board books: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. These little books use many of the same devices but are chewable and stackable, exactly what we expect from our board books. They are a perfect new baby gift for artsy parents.

Like many families, every year at the Thanksgiving meal we are supposed to list the things we are thankful for. I hate this tradition. If you don’t say “family” and “health” you sound like a tool. But hearing everyone at the table list off “family” and “health” is super boring and seems kind of fake to me. Also, we list the things we are thankful for, but often forget to actually give thanks for them. Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning
 by Chief Jake Swamp and illustrated by Erwin Printup (Lee&Low Books, $8.95) is an excellent alternative and I would like to suggest that reading it around the table become our family’s new tradition. The text is based on the Thanksgiving Message, which is a message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. According to the introduction, the words are traditionally spoken at ceremonial gatherings of the Iroquois or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onodaga, Senecca, and Tuscarora. The invocation begins, “To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life” and unifies both recognition and appreciation. The illustrations beautifully capture the majesty of the text and convey the joy of the physical and spiritual world.

For younger children, Tomie dePaola’s My First Thanksgiving (Grosset & Dunlap, $5.99) introduces the Thanksgiving story and ends with a
contemporary image of the family gathering. The book is simple; it presents the core concepts without imparting the oppressive instructional quality that is (far too often) a staple in any holiday book. dePaolo’s illustrations, as always, are a perfect complement.

Finally, for slightly older children, there are two excellent non-fiction books about pilgrim children that balance information and entertainment. Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl and Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy, both by Kate Waters (Scholastic, $6.99), contain photographs by Russ Kendall of children in the Plimouth Plantation village. Volunteers recreate 1620, and sometimes children volunteer with their parents (but not always and once I did kind of piss off a pilgrim by asking where the children were). The village is carefully researched and the inhabitants meticulously maintain their character. Besides visiting the Plantation itself, these two books are the next best thing for learning about daily Pilgrim life.

Books for babies is probably our most frequent request. My new personal baby book of choice is Haiku Baby by Betsy E. Snyder (Random House, $6.99). First, it’s just so pretty, but keep looking and it gets better and better. There are 7 tabs about different natural elements and rather incongruous animals with a haiku for each:


high on mountaintop,

hippo watches snowflakes dance—

winter has begun

The accompanying hippo, complete with pink scarf and bird, standing on a mountaintop and watching the snow flakes fall is priceless.

The book covers the various seasons and each page is equally delightful.


in tickly-toe grass,

a buttercup offers up

yellow nose kisses

“tickly-toe grass”?!?!? Can’t you feel it? The hard t, k, and g sounds evoke walking through the grass barefoot in the summer. I love that the words then smooth out into “yellow nose kisses”, perfect for laying outside perhaps snoozing in the afternoon sun.

These haikus dance off the tongue and are perfect for reading aloud while snuggling with a baby. But don’t neglect this book for toddlers up to 2. The illustrations are simple, but there is plenty to look at and offer interactive games. I suspect no one will be able to resist the invitation to tickle those little toes.

I know this one of those generic things that people say, but really, how did it become the end of October already? We’ve had our Halloween table up in the store for a while, but I’m still sort of in shock that it’s next week. As for Halloween books, I find many of them to be rather disappointing. Reading them makes me feel like *someone* is trying just a bit too hard to be — I don’t know — scary? funny? clever? relevant? So when a good one comes along it seems that much better because it clarifies what a good book should look like.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, written by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd (Harper, $6.99), is one such book. It’s got character, action, suspense, great illustrations, and a plot twist at the end. As she is walking home through the dark forest, the little old lady — the heroine of our story — meets various pieces of animated clothing: shoes that “clomp clomp”, a shirt that “shake shake[s]”, a pair of pants that go “wiggle wiggle”, and so on. Of course she is not afraid even as the clothing clomps, shakes, and wiggles home after her. I’ve read this book with kids just under two and they usually figure out the narrative pattern before the end of the first reading. It’s a cumulative tale, with each new addition building on the previous pieces (think “The House that Jack Built”) and young kids (2-3) will quickly pick up on the repetitive sounds and begin participating in the story. (I can still hear my god-daughter’s two-year-old voice saying “wiggle wiggle”, which sounded more like “wee-go wee-go”. too cute.) Even slightly older children (4-6) will appreciate the gradual suspense, as our intrepid little old lady starts to walk faster and faster through the forest, as well as her eventual triumph. Most kids I’ve read it to ask to hear it again immediately.

A close second in the Halloween book category goes to Julia Donaldson’s Room on the Broom (Puffin, $6.99 board and paperback). Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, of Gruffalo fame, have partnered again for this delightful, rhythmic story about a benevolent witch, who can always make a little extra room on the broom for the animals that help locate some of her lost items. These new friends turn out to be extremely useful when a hungry dragon appears, and the resolution to this story is charming. Finally, I’m the Scariest Thing in the Castle, by Kevin Sherry, is a relative newcomer to Halloween books. Available in board book (Dial, $6.99), this story follows a similar pattern as I’m the Biggest Thing in the Oceanbut is about a bat, who declares himself to be waaaay scarier than any of the other staple Halloween characters living in the creepy castle: a declaration the spider, mummy, and witch find adorable. uh oh.

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean!

Our bookstore is near the beach and summer is our busiest season. We feature a range of books about the beach, marine animals, lighthouses, mermaids, sailing, tide pools, seals, hermit crabs. My favorite board book is I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry (Dial Books, $6.99). A giant squid proudly proclaims that he is bigger than all the other marine animals and the boasts continue, until he encounters a whale. This is a silver-lining type of squid though and the resolution will amuse adults and children alike. The illustrations are bright and bold, minimal enough for very young readers, but with details and expressions that will delight older toddlers. (Ages 6 mo. – 3 yrs.)


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