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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

31 Days, 31 Lists: 2019 Great Board Books

Ahhhhhh. I actually feel a deep seated sense of relief when I begin publishing these lists. All throughout 2019 I was a good girl and wrote down the descriptions for each book appearing on these lists long ahead of time so that I wouldn’t kill myself this month. And what better way to kick off 31 days of my favorite children’s books of the year than with the most successful (I’d argue) format?

As with last year I will note that though it looks like I’ve included every single last board book in Christendom on this list, this is but a small sampling of the books that are available. They are, however, the ones that I feel went above and beyond the call of duty.

Oh. And if you’d like to see previous round-ups, here are the board book lists from 2018 and 2017, respectively.

It begins!!

2019 Board Books: For Babies

All Colors by Amalia Hoffman

The backmatter will tell you that this board book has big dreams. It wants to convey a “message about friendship, tolerance, and inclusion”. That’s pretty impressive for a story where colors slowly build upon one another. But with its stark black backgrounds that allow colors to just pop when they appear on the page, this is without a doubt one of the lovelier board books you’ll be likely to find this year. Part of the fun comes in trying to figure out what is being built as each color is incorporated into the ones that already appeared. I can see a parent being more than happy to read this one to a kid multiple times. Plus, this might be high-contrast enough for the youngest of readers. Bonus!

Baby Loves: A First Book of Favorites by Molly Magnuson, designed by Hana Anouk Nakamura

I will never, ever, ever understand why more books containing the photographed faces of babies aren’t published more often. Babies LOVE them. Parents like looking at cute babies. Altogether, it’s sort of a winning combination. Mind you, you need to have a slightly different hook than the other baby face books out there. In this one you see what baby loves (a ball, a puppy, etc.) and then you find what they love in a circle of similar objects. All photos, naturally, and lots of opportunities for the parent to name objects with the child. Hands down, this is a winner.

Baby Sees First Colors: Black, White, and Red by Akio Kashiwara

If you saw last year’s list then you know that I’ve a real appreciation for Kashwara’s high-contrast board books. While board books consistently sell well, so few are aimed at the youngest of readers. Babies need high contrast titles. The fact that we don’t see a slew of books like this one every year is positively puzzling. All the more reason to grab this book tightly and never let go. This one sets the general standard.

Small Caveat: Due to the nature of this job, I will on occasion find myself quoted on books unexpectedly. In this case, just now I flipped over this one to find the quote “This one’s stellar!” from a “Betsy Bird, School Library Journal” on the back. First off, points for realizing that I go by “Betsy” when this blog would lead you to believe that I’m “Elizabeth” (which I am, but only in certain situations). Second, I acknowledge that it gets a little loosey goosey when the book you’re recommending carries your blurb on the back. Take this promotion with a grain of salt then.

Baby’s Best Friend by Suzanne Curley

Look. I’m a hard-hearted witch with a soul of stone, but even I melted with this book. And honestly, it’s not that complicated. I still don’t know why the market isn’t just flooded with books like this. Not only do they sell like hotcakes, but babies actually like them. What’s not to love? I’m no dog person, but this is pretty irresistible. 

Cats & Dogs [9781486715824], photo editor Katherine Anne Hayes

Dogs [9781486715817], photo editor Katherine Anne Hayes

I’m including the ISBNs with the titles here because finding these books can be a devil of a chore if you don’t have a little help. They’re not terribly consistent when it comes to the text (Dogs, for example, is about what dogs look like, then switches gears to become an emotions book too) but image-wise? No one can beat these books. I was particularly keen on Cats & Dogs, because (A) These animals actually look like they like one another and (B) I love pairing dogs with similarly looking cats. If I ever get rich and eccentric, that’s what I’m going to do. All matching dogs and cats in my home, as far as the eye can see.

Coats by Katrine Crow

Horns by Katrine Crow

Scales by Katrine Crow

Wings by Katrine Crow

As ever, Flowerpot Press is good at that eye-popping photography. But just as important is what a board book chooses to include on its pages. These choices don’t appear to be random, as each one systematically looks at the wide variety of its subject matter. “Wings”, for example, are fleshy like a bat’s, or transparent like a dragonfly’s, or feathered like a bird’s, etc. Parents, who will read this multiple times, will be grateful for the array.

May We Have Enough to Share by Richard Van Camp, photographs by Tea & Bannock (a collective blog by Indigenous women photographers)

I could pretty much look at cute baby pictures all the live long day. You know who else likes to look at cute baby pictures? BABIES! Now if the name Richard Van Camp sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because last year he was behind that other magnificent Indigenous board book Kiss by Kiss / Ocêtôwina: A Counting Book for Families / Peyak oskan ohcih-Akitah-Masinahikan which was published in Plains Cree and English. Looks like May We Have Enough to Share isn’t bilingual in the same way, which is too bad. The book is incredibly cute, though. For example, there is a baby in a slouch hat! Look at this little guy!

Even as I write this I’m looking at Van Camp’s very adult Moccasin Square Gardens, which we have on display in our New Book section, so the man has an incredible grasp on audience age ranges, that’s for sure. Looking forward to whatever he puts out next.

Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson

Board books that intend to convey a message of any kind have a tough road to hoe. That’s why people should make it easy on themselves. Why not make a book a baby would actually enjoy reading? There’s a notion. Stevenson didn’t take the photographs you’ll find in this book. A quick glance at the publication page reveals that a lot of these are your standard Getty Images/Shutterstock/iStock fare. That said, clearly a lot of thought went into their curation, with the end result that you get a lot of faces, cute babies, and a HUGE amount of color! Remember: Growing eyes need bright and contrasting colors in their books. This one delivers, and conveys its message of love and acceptance in the cuddliest way possible. Isn’t it nice that we live in an era where gay parents can get a wide variety of GLBTQIA+ board books when they’re expecting?

Scratchie: A Touch-and-Feel Cat-Venture by Maria Putri

While they’re some of the most highly sought after board books on the market, finding a quality touch-and-feel book that uses a bit of brains and ingenuity can prove to be a rare thing. The highlight of the year? Scratchie, 100% Kids are encouraged to scratch different objects alongside Scratchie, and I kind of dig the fact that the cat never changes its expression at any time. Except maybe at the end when you scratch it. That’s sweet.

Welcome, Baby! by Karen Katz

Yeah yeah. I know it’s not cool to include yet another Karen Katz board book on a list. I mean, she’s done babies and lift-the-flap elements for decades, right? But dang it, man, her books WORK! They work! Babies just love them and parents pretty much love what their babies love (with some notable exceptions). The fact of the matter is that Katz is a master of this form, and when she buckles down and goes back to what she does best, no one can top her. So I’m just calling this book out for what it is: awesome. 

2019 Board Books: For Toddlers

All Aboard! The Airport Train by Nichole Mara, ill. Andrew Kolb

Okay, I am SO on board with this book (pun mildly intended). First off, it’s one of those titles that can fold out to become a stand-up train of its own. That’s cool but what’s even cooler is the fact that the text makes it interactive (telling you what to spot and find). And then there’s the art. Bored grown-ups, your salvation is at hand. Behold the dodo engineer (we’re gonna just chew on the logistics of that one a while). The T.rex in the ball-gown with her Oscar. The long lashed opossum. I’ll say it. I think I’m in love.

The Amicus Book of ABC by Isobel Lundie

Ah! Initially there was some fear that this would turn out to be yet another coffee table board book where the parents ooo and coo over the art and the babies would rather be chewing on the coffee table itself than read it. What Lundie does that stands out is engage in this delightful, chewy repetition that goes on with a lot of the people, places and things being featured. The artist, “goes splat, splat, splat with my paint.” Jelly is, “Yum, yum, so good in my tum.” And, yes, the art is magnificent. Not so high contrast that you’d use it with a very young child, but perfect for those squirmy one-year-olds at bedtime. Love it!

Animals by Rilla Alexander

Part of the “touch words” series, I think Chronicle and Alexander are on to something with these newest inclusions. On the left-hand page you’ll see both the word being shown (like “cat”) and then a collection of other words that could be used in conjunction with “cat” like “ears”, “whiskers”, “claws”, “tail.” So while the child is feeling the cat, the parent can point to different parts and identify them for the kiddo. Smart work. 

Baby Loves: The Five Senses – Hearing by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan

Baby Loves: The Five Senses – Sight by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan

Okay. So to get the best use out of these books you first need to put aside your inherent dislike of board books that explain complex scientific concepts. A lot of the time these are poorly done. I’ve always preferred Spiro’s books anyway. Now would you actually hand this book to a baby? I’m not sure. There’s no harm in it, but you know who ends up reading a lot of board books when there’s a toddler in the house? Older siblings. Let’s say you had your 8-year-old read these books to your toddler. The toddler’s getting something out of it (bright pictures, fun colors) and the older sibling might actually get some of the science. Siblings heck, the PARENTS would get something out of this. Because the next time your kids asks how hearing or sight works, you’ll actually have the means with which to explain it all. 

Bedtime (National Geographic Kids Look & Learn) by Ruth A. Musgrave

Okay, National Geographic. Don’t think that just because you’re all cute that you can get away with suckering me in. I know your photography is above par and that Musgrave is really good with the simple text. But I’m not falling for it. I’m not . . I’m . . is that a baby orangutan cuddled up to its mommy in a tree? Is that mommy lion yawning while its cub headbutts it affectionately?

This is the good stuff.

Cat & Mouse by Britta Teckentrup

We don’t think of board books generally as evocative, but what Teckentrup has done with the art on these pages creates all kinds of feelings. This is amongst the most beautiful board books I’ve seen this year. The landscapes and use of light and shadow are remarkable. I swear, if it wasn’t for the inconvenient fact that Teckentrup isn’t American, I’d be promoting this as a Caldecott contender, you can be sure.

Caterpillar to Butterfly by Frances Barry

Oo! I can already see the potential with this one. It’s a unique format. As you read the book you open up pages like petals, one by one. Along the way you’re also watching the life cycle of a butterfly from egg onward. And, naturally, when you’ve opened the last page you not only have a butterfly but the beautiful greenery it’s been pictured against. Getting those darn pages back together in the right order may take some witchery on your part (I suggest waiting until after storytime to do it) but during your read (and this would work well with toddlers) you’ll get some definite oohs and aahs!

Dinosnores by Sandra Boynton

Look at me. All puffed up and superior about the latest Sandra Boynton board book. “How good can it be?” I say. So I start to flip through and it’s some pretty basic getting ready for bed stuff. Nothing particularly groundbreaking. With that in mind I’m just about ready to cast it aside when suddenly, on the lower right-hand corner of a page, there is a little sign next to the sleeping dinos that reads: “I’m afraid this is when all the snoring begins.” At which point the book erupts into this ginormous snorefest that reads “HONK SHOOOOOO!” over and over again. And what that indicates to me is that if you’re doing a Jammy Storytime then this would be a fantastic inclusion. You’d lull the little buggers into a state of complacency, and then hit ‘em up quick and fast with the raucous snores. Beautiful. Boynton does it again. 

Farm Block by Christopher Franceschelli, ill. Peskimo

Alternate Title: Farm Brick. I like it when a board book gets ambitious. This one, for example, wasn’t content to merely cover your usual mill of cows and ducks and geese. It starts off going through the usual farm stuff (I love the inclusion of compost) and then, fairly far in, it decides to become about seasons on the farm. Clocking in at a whopping 92 pages, this is a thick, yet surprisingly small board book. The farther you get into it, the more entranced you become. And I’ve yet to see any board book quite as nice when discussing farms. If you can choose only one, choose this one!

Food by Rilla Alexander

This, like Animals,  is part of Chronicle’s “touch words” series, and while some of them don’t seem all that intuitive to me, there were some clever selections in this book that I really appreciated. The choice of food and drink was perfect for a young reader. Everything felt good, and I very much liked that the milk page included both a jug of milk and a sippy cup. A strong addition to the collection.

Frankie’s Food Truck by Lucia Gaggiotti

Apparently this book is based on a board game (Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game!) and the snobby librarian in me wants to discount it on those grounds alone. And yet . . . I can’t. I love this kooky little lift-the-flap title! Not because it’s about food trucks (which are delicious) but because it’s such a fun concept. Every day Frankie serves a different food shape. You lift the flaps to see what the foods are. Simple. Effective. Yummy. 

Hello Honeybees by Hannah Rogge, ill. Emily Dove

A new gimmick! I’m very gimmick-lovin’ so if you hand me a new one you’ll find me more than eager to partake. This one’s a doozy too. See those two bees on the lower part of the cover? Open the book and they are punch-outs attached to the book via ribbons. You can take them to each page which, of course, is a stage in a bee’s everyday life. They can collect nectar and spread pollen. They can do the waggle dance (which also teaches kids the concept of “left” and “right”). It’s got it all. Call me a sucker, but I think this one’s keen. My science-loving librarian (everyone should have at least one) went gaga for this when she saw it too.

Hide-and-Sleep by Lizi Boyd

What looks at first to be a simple lift-the-flap storyline turns into so much more. Boyd has cleverly constructed a seek-and-find story for very young children. At first it looks like the kind of book where you lift flaps and create new situations, and it is that to a certain extent. However, as the book continues you notice that each two-page spread asks “Who is hiding?” On a first read you’ll assume it’s the rabbit. Look again! The rare board book that rewards multiple readings. 

I Love Me by Sally Morgan, ill. Ambelin Kwaymullina

We get all kinds of self-esteem books in the library, so the idea of a self-esteem board book seems silly on first glance. Yet this Australian import, illustrated by Palyku artist Ambelin Kwaymullina, is a joy to look at and fun to read. Let me put it another way. When you have a book that says, “If I was tall as a tree, with worms for hair, and clouds for arms, and grass for feet, I’d still love me,” and you get to SEE that wacky combination. That’s a board book worth holding onto, my friends. 

Is That Your Dad? by Carles Ballesteros

Is there a word for a book where a turn of the page allows the slotted image to change from one picture to another? I figured the publication information would give a name to this (above and beyond “changing faces”) but no go. Ah well. With its artist hailing from Santiago, Chile and its celebration of fathers inside, this sturdy little puppy is a bit different from the other board books out there. A frog searches for its parent amongst a variety of animals. It does reinforce the notion that you look like your parent, so forewarned is forearmed, but there are good animal sounds and bright colors ah-plenty. Enjoyable. 

Jump! by Tatsuhide Matsuoka, translated by Cathy Hirano

I always say that if you have to hold a book vertically then there better be a darn good reason for that. This book provides that reason and then some! As you hold it on its side, different animals leap upwards with different variations on the word “Boing!” Adults will enjoy the fact that there’s a nice quick gag involving a snail in there and kids will adore jumping right along with the animals, insects, and fish. Use this in a toddler storytime and get the whole room jumping along with you (they’ll love it when you get to the snail and trick them by showing that it can’t go anywhere). Utterly charming. 

Kahlo’s Koalas: 1, 2, 3, Count Art With Me Grace Helmer

So, initially I had to get over my disappointment that this book wasn’t animals found in classic painters’ works. But then I actually took a closer look at it and dang. This is fun. It’s animals illustrated in the different styles of artists like Lichtenstein, Pollock, Kandinsky, etc. So it’s actually good above beyond the whole introduce-your-children-to-art concept. Well done, Helmer. 

Lejos / Far by Juan Felipe Herrera, ill. Blanca Gómez

Well THAT was better than I was expecting! I tell you, the bar for quality bilingual board books should be a lot higher. This book, THIS book, is amazing. It’s a concept book at its heart, no doubt, but look at how it turns the old “near” and “far” idea into something much bigger, better, brighter, and more meaningful. It seemed funny to me that Herrera, our former U.S. Poet Laureate, would want to make board books but the press materials for his books included this quote from him: “Toddlers read sounds, collect shapes, and play images every millisecond. This is why they possess the power of invention and discovery. I believe in toddlers and their genius.” An author who respects his readers. Even the ones that don’t have all their teeth in yet. Be sure to check out Herrera’s Cerca/Close as well.

Look, There’s a Helicopter! by Esther Aarts

Look, There’s a Tractor! by Esther Aarts

Neat. These books have the roundest, thickest little die-cuts you ever did see. The helicopter book gets points for having a female pilot too. Both use simple language and the repetition of the word “look”. Small fingers will enjoy probing the circles as they come to them.

Mama Tiger, Tiger Cub by Steve Light

No. Seriously. Steve, you’re making my job so hard. Why must all these board books be so beautiful? Honestly, it’s like you keep raising the bar up to this impossible level. See, the thing about Steve Light is that you honestly never know what his brain will come up with next. One of these days, and I am NOT even kidding about this, the Eric Carle Museum needs to do a serious display of his board book art. I’m talking everything from the early days of Trucks Go! to the picture books to the stuff he’s been doing lately with Candlewick like last year’s Black Bird, Yellow Sun. This book I might even like more, since it combines the thick paints we saw in Black Bird with these beautiful little cut paper, pen-and-ink tigers. I love the collage element and how it makes the tigers pop out on the page. Seriously. One of the top books of the year, board book or no. 

Mary Had a Little Lamb by Hazel Quintanilla

Hazel Quintanilla’s board books of classic nursery rhymes intrigue me. For each one, she seems to have put her own specific take on the subject matter. Humpty Dumpty is a crab. Jack and Jill are goats (makes sense – they climb a hill after all). The baker man in Pat-a-Cake is a bear (not sure why, though). But out of all of these, I’d say the clear favorite should be Mary Had a Little Lamb. Why? Because Quintanilla has turned Mary into a lamb herself. The lamb she brings in is a stuffed lamb (no stuffies in school, apparently), and it lends a funny irony to the line “It made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school”. An inventive take on an old favorite. 

Mary Had a Little Lamb by Jarvis

Okay, I like this but I have some caveats to relate. First and foremost, please be aware that you cannot sing this book. At the start it looks like your standard Mary fare, but pretty soon the cadences are wildly off (as is the storyline). Basically the whole thing gets hijacked by a tiger on a skateboard pretty early on. I wasn’t sure, as I began to read it, whether or not to include in on my list. Then I saw the expression on the lamb’s face when it gets caught in a blue bear’s slide trombone. It made my day. Now while singing it might be out, reading it could be a blast. You get to do animal noises. And if you do want to sing it, then you get to upset expectations by starting to sing the beginning and then you, the reader, could get thrown out of whack by the tiger’s appearance. Kids might find that HILARIOUS! Go on. Give it a whirl.

My Art Book of Sleep by Shana Gozansky

Here Phaidon has taken a kind of board book that usually is the laziest you’ll find in the field. You’ve seen it before. The kind filled with famous pieces of art and almost zero work. But Phaidon don’t do lazy. Phaidon has other plans. So yes, it’s full of famous art but look a little closer. First off, it’s not the usual suspects. You’ll get an occasional familiar image (The Sleeping Gypsy by Rousseau or Starry Night by van Gogh) but you’ll also get some really new stuff (Murakami’s Flowers Blossoming in This World and the Land of Nirvana from 2013, for example) as well as a lot of diversity. Diego Rivera and Jordan Casteel and all kinds of cool stuff. The kicker? It has a sense of humor. Kind of makes you love art again, doesn’t it? 

My First Pop-Up Dinosaurs by Owen Davey

A “first” pop-up, eh? Let’s hope parents don’t take that entirely literally. After all, there are plenty of things to rip out of this cute little title. On the other hand, my daughter was handed pop-ups at a very young age and she did just fine. I suppose it simply depends on the kind of kid you have. Even if your child is dino agnostic, this is charming. After all, you can make them move. Each section contains the name of the dino with a pronunciation right below. No more. No less. Plus the velociraptor is seen as the small feathered critter it truly was. Nice to see cinematic myths bashed in a pop-up book, yes?  My co-worker pointed out that it has quite a sophisticated color palette too.

One Whole Bunch by Mary Meyer, ill. Sara Gillingham

I’d probably cross white-hot coals for the art of Sara Gillingham. But don’t think I’m adding this book just because of her. Finding quality counting books that do something even mildly original is an art in and of itself. This book counts down different types of flowers until you get “1 bunch” for (who else?) mama. Yeah, it’s cute, but the high quality of the board book itself, coupled with the design, gives it a leg up in a crowded field.

Opposites by Larissa Honsek

Apparently I’m just a great big pushover for a concept book if it just happens to include googly eyes. In this day and age I can’t figure out if this book is entirely digital, entirely clay, or a mix of digital and clay (I suspect the last of these). Small smiling blobs cover all the concepts you could possibly want. My favorite? “My Mouth Is Full” “My Mouth Is Empty”. You can guess why.

Paper Peek Colors by Chihiro Takeuchi

This is pretty neat. The concept book (counting and colors) meets the die-cut book meets the seek-and-find book. A good board book is capable of reaching a wide variety of readers on different levels. For sheer tactile pleasure, it’s hard to beat the die-cut aspect of this title. You see a green leaf cut-out in front of a green background. Turn the page and you’re urged to find one dinosaur, two turtles, three snakes, four frogs, and five crocodiles hidden in the green. Lots of stuff is going on here, but I appreciated how crisp and clear everything was. Adults with vision issues will have a hard time with the white on white objects, but generally it’s a fairly keen idea.

Peek-a-Baby Farm by Mike Orodan

Peek-a-Baby Ocean by Mike Orodan

Board books should probably not be this gorgeous. I don’t know what medium Orodan is working in, but these stunning little numbers are just infused with jewel-toned animals and sea creatures. Inside it’s a lift-the-flap book with babies and their parents. The coolest element aside from the art? The pages are striated, so that as you read, backgrounds appear and disappear. I’ve never really encountered a board book series like this. Highly highly recommended.

Peek-a-Who Too? by Elsa Mroziewicz

Dang. Space being at a premium and all, I don’t usually put sequels on my 31 Days, 31 Lists lists. Looks like Mroziewicz decided to kick things up a notch, though. Last year’s Peek-a-Who was gorgeous, no question (and it made it onto the 2018 Great Board Books & Pop Up Books list) but this year’s is better. Now Mroziewicz is alternating between whether or not you open the triangular flaps from the top or from the bottom. The book keeps you guessing every step of the way, and the illustrations are far more beautiful than they have any right to be. Plus I love the scary/not scary aspect of discovering the flaps are teeth or paws reaching out to get you. Eek! One of my favorites. Certainly, one of the most beautiful.

Rock-a-Bye, Dino by Hannah Eliot, ill. Chie Boyd

A perfect companion to Dinosaur, Dinosaur, Say Good Night and Other Bedtime Rhymes by Sanja Rešček (which you’ll find on a future list). Eliot doesn’t make it easy on herself. She pretty much had to figure out how to make each line scan to the original Rock-a-Bye Baby song, only fitting in names like Triceratops and Allosaurus. The only one that gave me pause for a moment was the Brachiosaurus line. It reads, “Rock-a-bye, Brachiosaurus, dear.” Took me a while to figure out that the stress should be placed on the beginning of “Brachiosaurus”, but once I got that down it worked perfectly well. So it may take some practice, and I sure as heck hope you like singing, but for the right dino lover, this one’s a thumbs up.

Silly Lullaby by Sandra Boynton

Yeah. Okay. I’m on board with this. A second Boynton? Why the heck not. It’s kind of strange to me, actually, that no one’s ever attempted a gently silly lullaby board book before. Can you think of any? I say “gently” because that’s the only way a book like this could even work. It pretty much has to do two things simultaneously: It has to honestly be funny (sneakers in the freezer and owls that softly say “moo” count) but not in a wacky, wide awake way. Because the second thing it has to do is serve as a straight lullaby for those kiddos too young to get the joke. Is anyone else weirded out by the fact that Boynton’s style never seems to age, by the way? Remarkable. 

Snowman’s Magic Hat by Jeffrey Burton, ill. Ross Burach

Turns out, the word “Snowbert” is instant comic gold. You know that I always give a lot of extra points to any board book that manages to stay simple and appealing, but has some kind of a new idea going on. This one? Pitch perfect for storytimes. The basic premise is that a rabbit is trying to pull a snowman out of its hat. Trouble is, it keeps pulling out other things like carrots and buttons and sticks and coal (you see where this is going). Two extra features make this a PERFECT inclusion in a snowy day toddler time: It rhymes and the reveal with the hat is a lift-the-flap. Lift-the-flaps + rhymes + funny + great art (did I mention that before?) = board book gold, my friends. GOLD, I SAY!!

Tough Chicks to the Rescue! by Cece Meng, ill. Melissa Suber

What looks like a gimmicky book at first turns out to be a really solid, high quality interactive board book. Interactive in a number of ways, actually. You have an actual honest-to-goodness story on the one hand (rescuing a cow from mud). You have lots of tactile elements (the mud was far stickier than I expected, so watch for that). And you even have a little mouse offering the readers the chance to “flap your wings like Polly”, cockadoodledoo like the rooster, or even run around. Plus there’s a fuzzy little yellow chick chest on the cover. I’m not made of stone!!

Who Is Sleeping? by Petr Horáček

Unlike Horáček’s other 2019 board book Who Is the Biggest? (which I’ll get to in a second here) the flaps in this particular board book appear to be made of sturdier stuff. There is a tendency on the part of parents to use books as sleeping aids. 9 out of 10 times, that doesn’t really work. Instead, bedtime books of sleepy critters are just a good way to calm down the jittery child. This book won’t render them unconscious, but it’ll definitely get them in the right bedtime mindset. Oh, and did I mention that it’s also gorgeous? It’s gorgeous.

Who Is the Biggest? by Petr Horáček

I won’t lie to you. The ostrich flap in this book is going to get ripped out the second time a baby reads this. If you can live without an ostrich, though, then this book is for you. Horáček already won my heart years ago with same thick paints done in mixed media as you’ll find here. It’s a concept book that treads closely to Horáček’s previous book Animal Opposites (a staple in my family). But where that was a pop-up book, this one’s squarely in board book territory. Best of all, Horáček doesn’t cut corners and repeat animals. Everything here is brand-spanking new.

Will Giraffe Laugh? by Hilary Leung

I mistakenly put this on last year’s Board Book round-up list, little knowing it was a 2019 title. Leung’s been in the game for years, and these board books are just consistently awesome. I’ve a weakness for peeved giraffes too. Something about the necks makes them so amusing when they’re disgruntled.

You Are Light by Aaron Becker

Because, essentially, Aaron wasn’t content with merely conquering the world of picture books. Now he’s set his sights on board books and all others will fall in his wake. This book, and this may sound odd to you, reminds me of the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL. Something about the structure of the book and the structure of that temple work together. Becker cleverly uses translucent colors embedded within circles to give the book its glow. It’ll be one of the rare board books you read to your kids while you’re all lying on your backs, holding it up up up to the light and sky. Beautiful message. Even more gorgeous follow through. The board book of the year.

Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!

December 1 – Great Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations

December 3 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Funny Picture Books

December 7 – CaldeNotts

December 8 – Picture Book Reprints

December 9 – Math Books for Kids

December 10 – Bilingual Books

December 11 – Books with a Message

December 12 – Fabulous Photography

December 13 – Translated Picture Books

December 14 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales

December 15 – Wordless Picture Books

December 16 – Poetry Books

December 17 – Easy Books

December 18 – Early Chapter Books

December 19 – Comics & Graphic Novels

December 20 – Older Funny Books

December 21 – Science Fiction Books

December 22 – Informational Fiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Unconventional Children’s Books

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Books for Older Readers

December 29 – Older Reprints

December 30 – Middle Grade Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

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. I love all of your lists, but this one is my favorite. There are so many great board books to buy for our library that escape my attention. Thank you for finding them and sharing.

  2. Nora Hale says:

    On Baby See First Colors: Black, White, and Red, the author’s last name is Kashiwara (was having trouble finding it at B&T!).
    Other than that, thanks again SO much for these lists of yours. They continue to be my best holiday presents EVER!

    • Oh, whoops!! Thank you for the correction! Ironically, that was the last book I added to that list. Clearly my fingers were asleep at the wheel (to mix my metaphors).

      Thanks for reading!

      • And one more (I believe). In Caterpillar to Butterfly, you have the pages opening like “pedals.” I’m thinking you meant petals? What can I say, once a copy editor, always a copy editor.
        Thanks again for your fabulous lists. The board book list in particular is most appreciated, as Baker & Taylor misses about 75% of your fabulous titles on the curated order lists they send us. I wait patiently every year to be able to stock up with the titles I should have seen, but didn’t.

      • Yup. Also completely correct. Would that I had a copy editor fairy in my home. Thanks for noticing and for the kind words.

  3. You have such a wonderful way of highlighting what is exceptional about each of these board books. I will be relying on these reviews to purchase just-right early intervention materials to share with my families. And having them in my possession not only brings delight to my clients. I use the genius of page after page of of baby brilliance and novelty format as mentor texts to learn from published writers and illustrators how to create stand out books that catch your eye. A thousand thanks!


  1. […] Bird.  For the last three years she put out a best of list for every single day in December. So 31 Days, 31 Lists – Monday kicked things off with Great Board Books and amazingly – she has the entire […]