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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

It’s Not a Board Book?

In the book A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton and Martha Parravano there is a marvelous chapter right at the beginning called “A Future of Page Turns”.  Found in the “Books for Babies” section the piece (written by Ms. Parravano) has this to say about picture books that are turned into board books:

“beware: a board-book version of a picture book most probably reflects some compromises made necessary by the format change.  While standard picture books have thirty-two pages, board books can have as few as twelve.  So board books that are adapted from picture books must either conflate pages (taking the text and art from, say, two spreads of the original picture book and cramming it onto one page) or drop material altogether.”

I think on this as I start reading board books to my own sprog.  At six weeks she’s old enough to concentrate on a full board books and see the images there.  She’s particularly fond of the face-related books by SAMi, one such favorite being Smiles! I’m thinking ahead to all the other board books we’ll be covering soon.  Running through the roster of books I’d like to introduce her to, I realized that some of my favorites are picture books that have never been converted into the board book format.  As Ms. Parravano points out, not every books makes the transition unscathed.  Many is the picture-book-to-board-book that simply did not work.

Some do, though.  The reprinting of The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade adapts nicely to the format.  Ditto the wonderful The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell.  So it got me to thinking.  What are the picture books that you’d like to see in a board book format?  A couple came to my mind immediately.

Hello, Day by Anita Lobel
In this book you meet a variety of animals all painted in Ms. Lobel’s inimitable style. Each one is accompanied by its animal sound. I’m an animal sounds sucker. I can use this book with toddlers or preschoolers and everyone is on board. A board book version would be ideal. You can cut out a couple of the animals that don’t quite work (the “rabbit sound” is fascinating if bizarre), end with the owl, and voila! Instant baby book.

Old MacDonald by Jessica Souhami
Out-of-print, much to my chagrin. To the chagrin of the universe, actually. Look on Amazon and you’ll see that a hardcover version goes for something around $79.59. This is probably because the book is brilliant. Board books that you can sing are always a treat, and this one’s simple enough for anyone to understand. Grown-ups will enjoy the final surprise animal as well, and that sort of make it worthwhile right there.  Plus anything that could get this book back in print is a-okay by me.

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
This was a bit of a shocker. You would think that for all that this book is considered a work of preschool genius it would appear in every possible format. Yet while there are hardcover, paperback, and even Weston Woods adaptations of the story, a board book it is not. This may have something to do with the storyline, which would be mighty difficult to cut down. In many ways the book is so trim that nothing can really be discarded. Not that they couldn’t at least try.

Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails by Nancy Tafuri
Not all animal books focus on sound. Tafuri has done a ton of children’s books in the past, but this may well be my favorite. The book encourages readers to answer questions like “What has a curly tail?” as they look at images that show a portion of one critter or another. The question and reveal aspect is ideal for the board book form.

Any others you’d add?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Interesting. I’m working on two board books as you speak (write). They’ve been written specifically for the format: short, simple, fun. My problem is keeping it simple, as I like to add details. Nothing like a good challenge!

  2. Genevieve says:

    The board book that first taught me that things get lost in that form was “Are You My Mother?” It seems so right for a board book, but when I read it to my son, I found it was missing my favorite page: “You are not my mother! You are a snort!”

    Since I hadn’t read it since I was little, I wondered if I had imagined that page, but eventually found the regular book and learned that it was not a hallucination.

  3. I’ve been doing some serious board book research as of late and been hoping that Denise Fleming and Todd Parr will jump onto the board book wagon. In particular, I’d love to see Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming and The Daddy Book by Todd Parr in board book format. In addition, my three kids have loved to pieces Dance! by Bill Jones and Susan Kuklin and Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi.

    I agree that many books make the transition to board book format very well. Occasionally, the editing required actually leads to a better book. E.g. The board book version of To Be a Kid by Maya Ajmera and John Ivanko is, in my opinion, much better than the original version.

  4. @Amy–Barnyard Banter is in board book–looks like they have it on Amazon. Denise Fleming’s The Everything Book and Lunch are also available in board book format. Hope that helps!