Board Books 2018: What We’ve Got Here Is an Oddly Strong Year
As you may recall I put out the announcement in March that during April I’d be asking people to send in Top 10 Board Book lists, ranked in order of preference (#1 being your favorite and #10 being your least favorite). I was gratified to see a nice long list of submissions. The poll officially closed on April 30th, but what’s a few days between friends, eh? Tell you what, I’ll reopen it just for today. Send me your Top Ten Board Books by the end of today (Wednesday, May 2nd) to the email address Top100BoardBooks@gmail.com and I’ll tally the results for the rest of the month, releasing the official Top 100 Board Books Poll.
In the meantime, has anyone else noticed that 2018 has been a shockingly strong board book year? Here’s a small smattering of some of the true beauties I’ve run across this year. I hate to say it, but this may be the best board book year ever (and the numbers coming out of Publishers Weekly regarding sales back me up).
Birds of a Color by élo
As with most years, the bulk of the best board books come to us from overseas. And while the name élo has yet to take America by storm ala Herve Tullet, give them time. Books like this one (and another mentioned below) are on the right track.
Black Bird, Yellow Sun by Steve Light
While no Caldecott, to the best of my knowledge, has ever been awarded to a board book, Steve Light’s apparently doing everything in his power to see if he can’t push that envelope a little. Geez, this is a pretty book.
Calling Dr. Zaza by Mylo Freeman
There are two Zaza books out this year (the other is called Celebrate with Zaza), and they’re both great. Of the two, however, I think I prefer this doctor title. Interestingly, these are Dutch imports.
Ciao, Baby! Ready for a Ride by Carole Lexa Schaefer, ill. Lauren Tobia
There are also two Ciao, Baby! books out in 2018 (the other is Ciao, Baby! In the Park), both illustrated by Lauren Tobia (whom you may recall from her work on the Anna Hibiscus books). I just can’t get enough of how much fun these books are. That baby on the cover here is not going to let you read this in a down mood.
Contrary Dogs by élo
I just love how they’re looking at one another.
Find Colors by Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford
Okay. So. What is the deal with power couple Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford? These guys come out of nowhere and then produce two of the most original and interesting board books of 2018 out of nothing? I need some context. I assume that they’re British (a conclusion I came to after seeing that the original title of this book was “Find Colours” – detective, I am not). Whatever the case, they’re brilliant. In this book you have gaps in the pages and you walk around to fill those gaps with whatever color it’s asking for. How has no one thought of this before?
Guess Which Hand by Hans Wilhelm, ill. Ilaria Guarducci
This is pretty darn cute. You turn the wheel and it changes what each animal in the book is “holding” and which hand they’re holding it in. Then you lift the flap to find it. Again, a smart idea that I’m surprised I hadn’t seen before.
Little Sunny Sunshine by Susie Jaramillo
Every book that comes out of cantìcos is a delight and this latest bilingual title is no exception. Flip it one way, it’s in Spanish. Flip it another, it’s in English. Scan the code and get the music that goes with it for free. This is a bilingual Spanish/English baby storytime dream come true.
Llamaphones by Janik Coat
I will confess that I always was a bit disappointed in Janik Coat’s Hippopsites. A lovely book to look at, but not everything in the book was actually featured with its opposite. Llamaphones is different. Smarter. Funnier. And if I had to choose only one image in today’s post to get as a tattoo, you can bet it would be that staring Llama on the cover here.
Mirror Play – What Am I? by Monte Shin
Imagine two grown women sitting at the adult reader’s advisory desk of the library, trying desperately to figure out the trick to this book. You see, you’re given a mirror to look at the critters or creatures on the page. It took us forever to realize that the things being mirrored could be turned as well. Slick packaging and a clever idea (particularly if you want to teach symmetry at all).
Mon Petit Busy Day by Annette Tamarkin
A word of warning to the wise: This book is oodles of fun and a great title, but it is also BIG. Picture book sized, really. I didn’t expect that, so if you’re looking for something to fit on your board book shelves, it might be better to relegate this to the picture book section.
Peek-a-Who? by Elsa Mroziewicz
Because life is too short not to indulge in triangular board books.
Rhyme Flies by Antonia Pesenti
The publisher calls this a “beautifully packaged book of toddler comedy,” which is such a great phrase that I may have to steal it. I don’t know if little little kids will get every joke, but their older siblings certainly will. And it’s honestly funny.
These Colors Are Bananas by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin
Remember when I said that Fulford & Shopsin are the clever ones to watch? This book just reinforces that. It basically shows all the different colors of various objects. Bannaa on the one hand. Human skin tones on the other. It’s smart as a whip and lovely to look at. Not preachy in the least.
Watch Me Grow! by Flowerpot Press
Wee Beasties: Huggy the Python Hugs Too Hard by Ame Dyckman, ill. Alex G. Griffiths
I love children’s books where there’s a possibility, however slim, of everything going horribly, violently, wrong. Remember Fortunately by Remy Charlip when the boy is this near to impaling himself on a pitchfork? Well, that’s the kind of feeling I got from this spectacular board book. I love how Dyckman manages to convince you that something terrible could possibly happen, even while there’s no chance at all that any publisher would allow it. Keeps you on your toes, this book.
Wiggles by Claire Zucchelli-Romer
The most tactile book on this list, and one that should prove to have a great deal of use above and beyond sticky-fingered toddlers.
And please note that this list doesn’t even count most of the great books out there, to say nothing of board book adaptations from picture books or reprints. Phew! A banner year.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy 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.
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