We kick off our 31 Days, 31 Lists at the lowest age level imaginable. Finding quality board books for babies and toddlers is a challenge. It’s not enough to simply have thick pages. You need to be able to engage the interest and attention of someone who is still developing their visual and auditory processing skills.
That said, there is a belief amongst some people that board books are for babies alone. Not so. As the mother of a very active 2-year-old I can attest that one is prone to sighs of relief when he is in a room alone with a board book as opposed to a picture book with oh-so-tearable pages.
On this list today I am including a range of board book ages, as well as books that fall under the board book banner because they are big and thick and have pop-up elements or tabs, but are not a standard board book size.
Think I missed something brilliant that came out this year? If it’s an adaptation from a longer picture book you’ll find that list here tomorrow. Otherwise, leave me a comment. I loved these, but I am not a committee.
2016 Board Books: For Babies
Blue and Other Colors with Henri Matisse
When I was a kid I had this pack of playing cards with famous pieces of art on each one. That was pretty cool. These days even the babies are getting colorful books from the masters. Some of these books don’t make a lick of sense, but this one does. Matisse’s bold blocks of color are just right for developing brains. A book that goes beyond its concept.
Everyone Is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch
It’s sort of the world’s most perfect combination of lift-the-flap and sneaky bedtime appeals to the subconscious. I don’t know if it’ll actually put anyone to sleep but I do know that you’ll have to fend off requests for it constantly if you happen to put it into your home.
Hat On, Hat Off by Theo Heras, ill. Renne Benoit
Babies like babies. And after encountering this adorable one, you’ll like them too.
Lions Roar (and others in the series) by Rebecca Glaser
I have no idea if this Amicus series has a name. All I know is that the books (which in 2016 included Monkeys Swing, Elephants Spray, Giraffes Stretch, and more) are a HUGE hit in my home. Animal sounds + full color photographs of those animals is a winning combination.
Noisy Baby Animals by Patricia Hegarty
What is the sound of a thousand librarians cursing my name en masse? Ah yes. There it is. I know it well. This book probably won’t be beloved to those with an MLIS degree when it’s IN the library (bit on the noisy side, it is) but I am all for books that cheat. Hey, man. If it takes crazy sounds to get a baby to love books, I say go for it. And you have to admit that Tiger Tales does it well.
Peek-a-boo by Ruth Musgrave
When in doubt, go with the photographs.
Stanley’s Colors by William Bee
There were a couple Stanley board books released this year, but of those titles this was my favorite. Possibly because it also involved vehicles. A twofer!
The Wheels on the Bus by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Not many board books out this year allowed you to sing. This is one of the few, and while it is far too short for a truly satisfying read, it’s interactive, bouncy, and colorful. Sort of like a Bizzy Bear book with a song.
One, Two, Three Mother Goose by Iona Opie, ill. Rosemary Wells
If it is important to you to introduce your children to nursery rhymes as soon as humanly possible, Wells is the way to go. Some folks may opt to wait on this until their children are toddlers, but either way this is an essential part of any kid’s library.
2016 Board Books: For Toddlers
Baby Loves: Aerospace Engineering!/Quarks! by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan
Okay now. Before you start with the eye rolling, hear me out. Have you ever actually read these books? I know they look like a science-y version of Cozy Classics or other adult concepts siphoned down to board book formats. Go into them, though, and they’re clever. Just big concepts made palatable. The titles may have a shock effect, but the contents are worth considering. Plus we don’t have much in the way of science-related board books AT ALL these days.
Box by Min Flyte, ill. Rosalind Beardshaw
I gave a copy of this to my child’s daycare and they were quick to tell me that it was the hit of the room. It’s the size of a regular picture book but the contents and tabs make it quite certainly toddler fare.
Clive and His Babies by Jessica Spanyol
Awwww, yeah! Clive is my new favorite stereotype-busting preschooler. You play with those babies, Clive! Go, man, go!
Crocopotamus by Mary Murphy
Did they ever come up with a name for these books? Which is to say, the kind where you can flip the front and the back to come up with different combinations? Whatever the case, this one took a little getting used to, but once the kids grasped the concept they really ran with it!
Give and Take by Lucie Felix
The most ambitious board book on this list. I have little doubt that its pieces will disappear almost instantly upon a first read, but if you want to present someone with a board book that wows and impresses them, this is the one you pick.
I Dare You! by Nicole Maubert
This turned out to be an EXCELLENT preschooler readaloud around Halloween. I think it truly won me over when I had to put my hand in a crazy creature’s mouth. Still get shudders just thinking about it.
Little Chickies / Los Pollitos by Susie Jaramillo
A bilingual, interactive, accordion board book?!? That’s like striking gold! This Spanish/English combo pack is extraordinarily rare, and then to find that it’s hugely engaging to kids one-on-one or in groups just tips it over the top.
Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi
Plays with perceptions, assumptions, and predictions. Awfully pertinent stuff in 2016, wouldn’t you say? You can never teach it too early.
Love Is a Truck by Amy Novesky, ill. Sara Gillingham
Love IS a truck! At least it is to my son, and this book is right on the money. There’s a companion title called Love Is a Tutu, but I’m Team Truck. It’s great to see Sara Gillingham bringing out a new book or two too.
Maisy’s Moon Landing by Lucy Cousins
One of those picture/board book combos. Did I say science was lacking in the board book category? Maisy has always been on hand to battle that problem. This is one of the simplest moon landing stories I’ve ever seen, but I kind of adore it. Nothing wrong with a little Maisy when the book’s as well-constructed as this.
Music Is by Brandon Stosuy, ill. Amy Martin
One of the trendier board books out there (check out those headphones if you don’t believe me) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great.
My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, ill. Julie Flett
I don’t normally go in for the feel good board books out there, but this one’s special. Smith and Flett have gotten it right.
Once Upon a World: Cinderella by Chloe Perkins, ill. Sandra Equihua
There are a couple titles in this series so far. Of them, this is probably the most successful. I would have loved a bilingual or Spanish version as well. Perhaps something for the publisher to think about in the future, eh?
Peekaboo Pals: Opposites by Gareth Lucas
Again, there were a couple books released in the “Peekaboo Pals” series this year. Of them, this was the strongest. It came up with a couple opposite examples that I haven’t seen done to death before. No mean feat.
Shapes by John J. Reiss
I believe that this is a reprint, but I think it belongs here. Check out those vibrant hues! Now good luck getting to sleep tonight.
Tinyville Town: I’m a Firefighter / I’m a Veterinarian by Brian Biggs
These are fabulous! They go through each occupation’s day from sunrise to sunset. Though, if I’m going to be honest here, I’m pretty much just biding my time until the next in the series comes out: Librarian.
To the Rescue by Kate Riggs, ill. Nate Williams
Really visually striking. Not just for those kids already into firetrucks ,that’s for sure.
We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, ill. Julie Flett
Flett’s having a good year! And like My Heart Fills With Happiness, this book features a cast of First Nations children.
Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Adaptations
December 3 – Nursery Rhymes
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – Calde-Nots
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – International Imports
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Older Picture Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Graphic Novels
December 21 – Poetry
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Novel Reprints
December 30 – Novels
December 31 – Picture Books