Board Book Round-up (October 2019).
A Marvelous Museum and A Forest’s Seasons by Ingela P Arrhenius.
Learn the seasons of the forest, and take a walk through different museum exhibits with these fantastic Bookscape Books.
Why should all the pages of a book be the same size and shape? It is something we all take for granted, yet the world is full of such interesting shapes. When we look across the different distances of a landscape, we see things of all shapes and sizes. This idea works especially well in the board book format. The pages are sturdy enough to hold it, while all the different colours and images peeking out at the start are irresistible to little readers.
The books themselves are simple introductions to two places – museums and forests. The forest book focuses on seasons, as if one forest is changing over time, while the museum book looks at a wide variety of exhibits. These would be lovely to give to a small child who is going to a new place for the first time, to talk them through what they might see and hear.
Animal Homes by Clover Robin
We often pass by animal homes without even knowing it. From underground warrens to beehives, lodges, and the nests in the trees, other animals are all around us, and their homes are more incredible than we could possibly imagine.
Clover Robin is a designer whose children’s books always win my heart. She specialises in nature and botanical designs, and her work always seems to come from careful observation. She captures more than the shape, getting right to the very spirit of her subjects.
Animal Homes is a lift-the-flap book that takes its audience seriously. It is too easy to underestimate tiny readers and to offer them watered-down explanations, but doing so forgets that tiny people are always learning and looking and drinking the world in. Anybody who has ever spoken to a small child knows that they are always observing or questioning something. Animal Homes takes them right inside nests and hives, lodges and warrens, and allows them to explore the worlds of their fellow creatures.
Little bites of information surround the pictures. This is a book that will grow with the reader, taking them right into early information books already prepared to learn. Top marks for design, level of knowledge and sheer wonder factor.
5 Wild Shapes by Camilla Falsini.
Circles and triangles. Hexagons and squares. Our world is full of shapes and lines. Learning their names and appearances is the first step in understanding their properties.
This book is instantly attractive, with primary-coloured backgrounds populated with funny creatures. At a second glance, these animals are made up of different shapes, with plenty of strong examples to point out (the fox, for example, has a triangular nose).
At the centre of each spread is a shape, cut away from the rest of the board so that it can be traced around by little fingers. There is also a disk to chase around each shape so that readers can guide a little insect around the outlines of the shapes. Tactile learning is a brilliant way into early geometry – the more familiar readers are with tracing the shapes, the more confident they will feel when they come to drawing and identifying them.
This book is beautifully designed, balancing fun with early learning. The large format makes the game more fun, and there are plenty of things for a young reader to look at and enjoy.
A to Z Menagerie by Suzy Ultman
Enter the wonderful world of the alphabet with this delightful book of letters and words. Look at the pictures. Touch the cut-out letters, and pull the tabs to see them come to life. Trace their shape with your fingers. Learning to read has never been more exciting.
Essentially this book is two things – it runs through the alphabet, and it introduces first words alphabetically, with illustrations. Its design makes it one of the most delightful A-Z books I have encountered, with doodle-style drawings in pastel colours. It is so beautiful that people will pretend to pick it for their children just so they can enjoy it themselves.
The pull-the-tab feature changes the cut-out letters from white to decorated. The tabs also feature an extra word, related to the design.
The spellings and words are American – as the title suggests if you make it rhyme – so what Brits would call ‘aubergine’ is down as ‘eggplant’, for example. Personally, I think this is fantastic because children today live in a global world where they will encounter different formats of English online on a daily basis. Introducing them to these words early prepares them for this reality.
A fantastic introduction to letters and words.
Can You Find? series by Nancy Bevington.
The world is full of adventures for little people. The forest, the farm, the beach, and the ocean all represent new and exciting possibilities.
The Can You Find? series introduces vocabulary specific to different places. Throughout the book, there are labeled illustrations, which show is there to be discovered. At the end of each book is a wonderful reminder of everything which has been introduced. A smaller version of every illustration is included on this double-page spread. This gives the reader (especially older board book readers) an opportunity to test their memory and see if they can name all the pictures.
It is always great to have books that introduce new words and a new understanding of our world. A fantastic and fun series.
Goodnight, Rainbow Cats by Bàrbara Castro Urio.
Who is asleep in the big white house?
One one side of every spread is a house. The cut-through windows show colours – the colours of the cats already indoors and asleep. On the other side of the spread, the next cat comes creeping up to the door.
There are cats of all different colours. Essentially, this book teaches readers words for colours. At the same time, it is great fun, with a narrator who talks directly to the cats, and a clever cut-through design.
A simple concept done to perfection. This is a beautiful book and would be top of my list for anyone looking to introduce colours to small people.
Everybody’s Welcome by Patricia Hegarty. Illustrated by Greg Abbott.
Everybody’s welcome, no matter who they are. A group of animals meets in the forest. Every one of them has been forced to leave their old home, whether by predators or for environmental reasons. They all band together, united by one principle: everybody is welcome. The little animals search for a space to build a safe home.
Given the state of the world, and the attitudes which children might pick up about people who are searching for a safe place to live, it is important to teach them other values early on. It is also a lovely message for children to learn before they go to nursery. Learning to share and collaborate is always a good thing.
A gentle and beautiful story.
Little Explorers – Goodnight Forest and Goodnight Ocean by Becky Davis. Illustrated by Carmen Saldaña.
Whisper goodnight to the forest and the ocean, and learn what they look like during the nighttime.
Beautiful peep-through pages build up a landscape that is almost 3D. It reminded me of a paper puppet theatre, but an exceptionally beautiful one, with details from later pages visible as you read. Fun facts surround the illustrations, explaining how different creatures behave when the sun goes down.
A rhyming couplet heads each page so that the book can be read as a bedtime rhyme.
The combination of design, lullaby, and fact-file is a winner. I love it when books do more than one thing at once, especially with board books because it allows the book to grow with the reader. If you are looking for something attractive and clever, give this series a try.
Thanks to Abrams and Chronicle Books, Catch A Star Books, Little Tiger Press, Nosy Crow and Quarto Kids for my gifted copies of the titles featured in this round-up. Opinions my own.