Subscribe to SLJ
Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Spring Board Books

While I appreciate so many of my friends and colleagues getting pregnant just so I can prepare board book baskets for them, I’m always struggling to find new titles that are just right. Betsy Bird pointed out that board books must be good “Cause when you read something 500 times, you’re either going to go insane or you’ll internalize it to the point where it’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever read.”

Here are a trio of titles for spring board books:

In the Garden by Elizabeth Spurr illustrated by Manelle Oliphant – a board book. Peachtree Publishers, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-56145-581-2 $6.95

The Fuzzy Duckling (a Golden baby book) – a board book. Jane Werner Watson; illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. Random House Golden Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0-307-92966-2. $ 6.99.

Duck & Goose Here Comes the Easter Bunny! by Tad Hills – a board book. Schwartz & Wade, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-7280-8. $6.99.

In the Garden takes the concept of a young boy planting a garden and waiting for his plants to grow. It takes great cleverness to be able to write only two words on a page, yet create a rhyming book that can be read over and over. To read In the Garden, a parent might race through each page quickly to hear the rhyme, then return to read and savor each pastel-colored illustration. Words like shade and earth may take more parent vocabulary to describe, but as I read, I found myself adding many words the second and third time through to point out parts. I would pause to count the sprouts, compare whether something was in the shade or the sun, ask questions like “Why did the boy shout?” and basically take the time to strengthen observation when reading.

Parents who are nature-conscious will love this title, as will budding scientist families. I’d place it in the basket of any of my STEM teacher colleagues. Hmmm. I hope Cara Wade isn’t reading this so she’ll be surprised to open her baby basket with In the Garden, seeds to plant, and fake safe plants.

Here is the publisher’s description of In the Garden:

Simple and evocative language and charming illustrations describe a boy’s experience in the garden. In this gently rhyming board book, a young boy creates a garden, one small action at a time. First he digs in the dirt and plants seeds, then he adds soil, water, and some patience. With time, the seeds grow and the boy excitedly discovers what he has helped to make. Along the way, readers learn the words for simple objects related to the garden and nature. Elizabeth Spurr and Manelle Oliphant together create a perfect sit-in-your-lap reading experience for toddlers.

The Fuzzy Duckling remains a favorite Little Golden book so I was happy to see this become a Golden Baby board book this year. I tried it out with my preschool grandson and he loved it. We began reading together, and I was thrilled when he began anticipating and chiming in “but they would NOT”. The unusual part of reading this book is how every child I read it to stops me before the end and wants to count the animals. I have never made it through completely to the end without having to count at least one page. It seems that as soon as the number pattern becomes clear, young preschoolers want to embrace the number concept.

My favorite part of this book remains the sweet, soft illustrations by Caldecott winning illustrators Alice and Martin Provensen. Academically, I was able to introduce the concept of adjectives without using that word while reading. It helped foster an appreciation of the way we describe animals in The Fuzzy Duckling. For example, we have eight hungry pigs, seven playful puppies, six lively lambs, etc. Here’s an opportunity for parents to build essential vocabulary while having fun.

Duck & Goose Here Comes the Easter Bunny! is part of the Duck & Goose series by Tad Hills. While I love Duck & Goose, I sometimes have an OCD moment. For example, the title is Duck & Goose, but the illustration on the front cover shows Goose on the left and Duck on the right. I want their word placement to match their picture placement. Still, when I look in Tad Hills eyes, I start to swoon and forget what my complaint was. Most of the other books in the series have them in the “correct” order.

Duck & Goose Here Comes the Easter Bunny has the glittery feel of raised letters on the front cover. I wish there could be more pages with tactile. This title takes more thinking time for babies to discover that things happen around them like the Easter Bunny’s arriving and leaving behind large eggs. There are opportunities to discuss possible hiding places and the features that make them bad places. I’m going to save this title to put in a basket for baby bird lovers and those families that watch the birds at the park. There are so many cute, cuddly, cloth dolls of birds to include in the basket.

Somehow when putting Duck & Goose titles in a basket, How Rocket Learned to Read pops up and asks to go along each time. Tad Hills titles make wonderful picture book and board book gifts.