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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Board Books 2011: What Worked Well (a biased opinion)

Okay.  Fine.  You got me.  This is one of those posts.  The ones I’ve actively been trying to avoid all year, and until now I’ve been pretty good about it.  As a reviewer I have a duty to remember that though I now have in my home a chatterbox of a six-month year-old, she is not an Everychild.  What she likes and does not like does not mean that some other child won’t enjoy what she ignores or despise what she adores.

That said.

Look, I was never much of a board book reviewer to begin with so my track record is pretty lacking in this area.  And I figure that even if the small Bird is not an Everychild, she is at least a good test subject.  So, with that caveat out there, here are some 2011 board books that I’ve seen this year that really went over like gangbusters with the infant.  Mind you, she received some 2011 books that are great but that she’s a bit too young to appreciate, and there are other books she adores but that don’t have 2011 pub dates.  These are just some of the ones that got released this year that she’s keen on:

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck: A Book of Moods by Sandra Boynton – Along with her Bedtime Book I’ve basically got this one memorized.  It’s a standard litany of animal moods albeit with a Boynton twist.  I get a lot of pleasure in saying “Cluck Cluck” like a very sad chicken.  My one gripe with the book is that it’s clear that by this point Boynton has discovered and embraced the world of computer coloring.  Ug.  The whole book might well have been done on an iPad, and while I’ve no objection to computer art per se, quickie computer coloring is the worst.  Your attention is really drawn away from the images to the weird shadows and overcompensated shading.  Not that the Baby Bird cares.  She just like to tool about with this one on her baby walker, occasionally tossing it to the ground and then looking mournfully at where it fell.

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett – I read an article somewhere this year about various picture book to board book adaptations and their levels of success.  This one came out around the same time as that baffling Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs board book edition.  Both were produced by the same imprint (Little Simon) but while the Barrett title is mind-boggling in its bad ideaness, this Gravett book feels as if it was always meant to be a board book.  There are five words in total and with those five words Gravett conjures up an entire world.  You’d think the lack of thick black lines or striking colors would bore a kid still unable to successfully aim her fist at her mouth, but to them it’s mesmerizing.

Where Is Baby’s Yummy Tummy? by Karen Katz – I’m fairly certain that if Karen Katz walked in my door right now my daughter would abandon me point blank and insist that Ms. Katz adopt her on the spot.  Such is the love that woman’s pictures engender.  I have performed the oversized board book edition of Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? for crowds of toddlers only to have to lift the book far above my head so that the zombie-like tots don’t rip it from my hands.  We’ve a lot of Katz in the home and anything that include a flap and lifting is instantaneous gold.  Yummy Tummy is significant because it has a baby butt shot in it, but you’d have to be fairly uptight to object to that.

Look Who’s There! by Martine Perrin – I already reviewed the other 2011 Perrin title What Do You See? earlier this year, so it just makes sense to highlight its companion novel.  Something about the pattern and color combinations in these books cast a spell over babies.  Recently, however, we found they have another selling point.  Due to how well they are constructed, when my daughter decides to chew on the die-cut pages they can take one heckuva beating with relatively little wear and/or tear.

Baby Flip-a-Face: Yellow Red Blue by SAMi – This one was one of the first she went for.  I dunno what it is about it exactly but the faces in this book just hold her in their thrall.  They’re not exactly complicated either.  Just a dot for eyes and a line for a mouth, but she thinks it’s fascinating.  Was fascinating, I should say.  It’s gone missing recently so I think I’ll have to get some replacements and pronto.

Where Is My Baby? by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Simms Taback – It was originally published in 1997 but saw new life as a board book in 2011.  Pairs well with . . .

Wiggle Like an Octopus by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Simms Taback – Really, anything Taback does is her favorite book, with the exception of Colors.  For some reason she always loses interest around turquoise.  Hm.  But this book, lenticular cover and all, is a hit.  You have to read it a couple times to get the bouncy rhythm right, but once you’ve got it down you’re good to go.  Swing Like a Monkey is its companion and she likes that too.

The Noisy Counting Book by Susan Schade, illustrated by Jon Buller – I’ll come clean and admit that this wasn’t published in 2011 (it was released in 2010) and, as such, has no place on this list. But I can’t help it.  I’m just so thrilled that it got released in board book form and it is just as big a hit with babies as it is with toddlers or preschoolers.  This is, as far as I’m concerned, the world’s greatest readaloud.

What I’d Like to See:

How about board book versions of the following titles?  They’d adapt beautifully, I just know it:

Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails by Nancy Tafuri – We actually appear to have all of Tafuri’s books in board book form and they go over pretty well (though I think she’ll truly appreciate them when she’s just a hair older).  This one hasn’t made the leap into board book form, however, and I think it’s high time it did so.  Talk about a readaloud!  I read this one to a group of kids the other day and they were practically falling over one another to identify the animals.

Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker – It made it to paperback and they even released a “Big Book” edition of it last year.  Now let’s see some board book action.  I mean, if you absolutely had to cut it down for the new format you could get rid of the ending with the additional ten hens and chicks, but hopefully it would all fit.  It’s my favorite Baker.

Hello, Day by Anita Lobel – It’s probably not a board book because even though it came out in 2008 they’re still selling the hardcover like hotcakes.  It never even went to paperback!  Still, hard not to think of this one as ideal for board bookification.  I mean, if you need to cut it down just remove a couple of the animals and their sounds (that rabbit comes right out).  Couldn’t hurt.

Old MacDonald by Jessica Souhami – Because I will do anything at all to get this book back in print.  Anything.  You want money?  I have money.  Just please PLEASE bring it back.  Old MacDonald readalouds are surprisingly difficult to find (perfect ones, anyway) and this book is the perfect length and has a surprise ending that can even get laughs out of the dads in the audience.  Seriously, what can I do to convince you?  You want I should beg?

“Hi, Pizza Man!” by Virginia Walter, illustrated by Ponder Goembel – When I ask folks what book they’d like to see back in print, this one inevitably comes up.  Great readaloud, and again I think there are elements you could remove with little difficulty to a board book format.  Think about it.

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. There already is a very lovely BIG FAT HEN board book: I have had a copy for many years.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oh, and I wondered if I’d include a book that already had a board book version. Off to put that Baker on my wishlist now!

  2. I love Hi, Pizza Man! Our library system is down to only three copies. I dread the day that they become too worn to circulate. I agree that it would make a great board book.

  3. My daughter is 16 and she and her younger brother always loved the Boynton books. I think I could still recite Barnyard Dance if I had too! I’m glad to see they are still creating fun books for babies- even if they have switched to not-as-nice computer illustration.

    I think I have to go out and find Where is Baby’s Yummy Tummy? for my two young neighbors. That book looks adorable!

  4. The sun has set not long ago,
    Now everybody goes below
    To take a bath in one big tub
    With soap all over, scrub scrub scrub…

    It has been TWENTY YEARS and I could recite the book to its finish right here if you asked me to. It will be the last thing I’m babbling in the nursing home when I can’t remember my children’s names.

  5. NO PICTURES????

  6. I agree with you on Hi Pizza Man. I badly want a copy of this for my kids, and a board book version would be perfect. My little gal’s preference in board books seems to be judged by how they sound when she smacks them repeatedly into her high chair/walker/the radiator. But she’s beginning to enjoy joining us for storytime with my son.

  7. My now-23-year-old son’s first word was “FFffff”! It came out when reading Sandra Boynton’s DOGGIES. (The text says “Woof!”) He was very young and completely surprised me when he started saying it when we read that book. Our favorite was BLUE HAT, RED HAT (that absolutely-perfect-for-a-two-year-old book).

  8. Mother Lydia says:

    Happy Hippo is new this year? No wonder I missed it before.

    And yeah, the coloring did look strange, though I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong.

  9. rams posts for me. DON’T TAUNT US, BIRD.

    The big Boynton hits here were all those previously mentioned, plus Snoozers and Dinos to Go. Oh, and my younger kid (now 7) recently used the musical version of Snuggle Puppy (from Philadelphia Chickens, which really is an awesome album and is still on our playlist for car trips — Patti LuPone, Meryl Streep and Laura Linney FTW!) as an audition song.

    I loved reading Where Is My Baby because I would unaccountably start channeling the voice of Ptery on Pee-wee’s Playhouse saying “I am not a baby.” I was sleep-deprived.

    Trying to think about what other board books were big when they were very small (under 18 months): Leslie Patricelli (Yummy, Yucky especially); Hola! Jalapeño; Hug; Little Gorilla; Whose Knees are These and Whose Toes are Those; Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb; and Mary Blair’s Up and Down Book (which I also found to be design crack — and holy crap, it’s OUT OF PRINT, what is WRONG with AMERICA). There were books I loathed that the girls loved (10 Little Ladybugs) and books I loved that they had little interest in (The Snowy Day). And you’d think Big Red Barn wouldn’t work (the pix are TINY in the board book version), but my older daughter adored it; younger one wouldn’t pee on it if it were on fire.

  10. Virginia Walter says:

    From your mouth to God’s ear — or just to somebody with influence at Scholastic! “Hi, Pizza Man!” kind of got lost when Scholastic acquired Orchard. I get emails regularly from parents looking for a copy and reluctant to pay $75 for a used copy on eBay.

  11. My niece(s) and nephew(s) all wore out several copies of Moo, Baa, La, La, La. The eldest is in her second year of university and I can still recite it. I owe Sandra Boynton a debt of gratitude.

  12. I was surprised how much my two older kids, ages 4 and 7, enjoyed Orange Bear Apple Pear. They were able to totally appreciate the humor in a pear-shaped bear, etc. Also, I’m glad to hear that they’ve made a board book of Where is My Baby? The flaps fell right off the first version of that book. I love Harriet Ziefert’s illustrations.

  13. And while they’re printing the board book, bring back HI, PIZZA MAN! in hardcover as well. I’ve taken our last worn copy out of circulation so that I can use it in storytime forever — but it would be nice to be able to let kids take a copy home!

  14. Do the titles with movable parts seem like they’d survive multiple library circulations?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Depends on the moving parts, Nora. Some books are enormously sturdy. Others die on a first read. Anyone ever seen that Mo Willems title Big Frog Can’t Fit In? That thing fell apart when an adult read it. Oog.

      Thanks for the FYI on the old Pizza Man, Virginia. Scholastic, eh? Fingers are double crossed then.

  15. Maria Simon says:

    I’m with you and Kathy J. We took our Hi Pizza Man! out of circ for our own use. Would love it in hard cover and even as a jumbo. It is so fun to share with a crowd. Thanks for this list. I know what you mean about Karen Katz. I look forward to sharing Counting Christmas at my storytime tomorrow morning.

  16. I’m so glad to know that Orange Pear Apple Bear is a board book now. We have it in hard cover and I think it’s just delightful, my oldest daughter loved it when she was just learning to read. I think I will get the board book version for my nieces when they turn one.

    I also love Karen Katz but books with flaps do not survive my second child.

  17. My favorite board books are Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Jamberry, and Goodnight, Gorilla. They are especially good for 2- and 3-year-olds!

  18. I’ll second, third and fourth the love for Orange Pear Apple Bear… a favorite in our house (and at my preschool story times). I hadn’t caught the connections between that one and the Cloudy… board book. Amazing that an imprint could make such a great decision and such a ridiculously bad one within such a short time period.

    Oh, and the Noisy Counting Book – my daughter is terrified of that book. I remember when you did a webcam readaloud of that, and at the part where the kid yells, “Quiet!” she burst into tears. Weird, huh?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Huh! The “Quiet” is often their favorite part. It may just be that I’m a frightening gal. Interesting, though! I once had a girl who every time I did “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” she would plug her ears and glare and me.

  19. Oh yeah, I’ve had moments at my own story times where kids have either started crying based on a completely random bit from a book or because of my facial expression, whatever. It’s strange. I don’t think it was you, though… the kid’s facial expression seemed to be the problem. Now I’m curious and thinking I need to give it another shot now that she is older!