The best board books to cut your teeth on

Who am I?

In the course of everyday life, when I’m writing books for middle grade and young adult readers, board books spring to my mind. Sometimes they come from catching a glimpse of a child hugging a parent, or they may spring from a phrase I overhear or say myself. That sounds like a board book, I think, and I write it down quickly. Sometimes, I’ll wake in the night, and a board book text will come to me in rhyme. Along with writing board books, I’ve been recommending quality works at the readertotz blog since 2009 in order to raise the profile of the format. Authors, illustrators, and publishers must create the very best quality, and then we must support, enjoy, and celebrate the works. A simple eight words may introduce a first reader to a love of books for life.

I wrote...

I Love All of Me (Wonderful Me)

By Lorie Ann Grover, Carolina Búzio (illustrator),

Book cover of I Love All of Me (Wonderful Me)

What is my book about?

What do you love about you? Find out in this book full of wonder and love! I love my wiggle toes. I love my smelly nose!

From head to toe, there's so much to love about you! With charming illustrations and a bouncy text that begs to be read aloud, this padded board book is a joyous reminder to little ones to love their whole selves -- just as they are. A glorious celebration that's full of humor, love, and heart. Wonderful Me: Books that celebrate the milestone emotional and social moments of little ones!

The books I picked & why

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Garden Animals

By Lucy Cousins,

Book cover of Garden Animals

Why this book?

Garden Animals by Lucy Cousins was our number one favorite when my daughters were babies. The graphic images of small friends they might meet in their own garden were loved. Hand-lettered with rough edges, characters pop from the pages with their own free renderings. Counting the bee on the cover, there are only 12 words to the work, and with many, many readings, we created a spoken rhythm for Lucy’s creatures. Today, we can all still recite Garden Animals with delight.

Dream Big

By Joyce Wan,

Book cover of Dream Big

Why this book?

Dream Big illustrates fifteen great women acting out their contributions. Author/illustrator Joyce Wan simplifies shapes and settings to portray these important figures. With a call to dream on each page, at one point she writes: “Dream fast, dream deep, dream vibrant dreams.” She illustrates Florence Griffith Joyner, Eugenie Clark, and Frida Kahlo. A concluding spread summarizes the achievements of each woman after making a call to the reader to dream, as “there’s nothing you can’t do.” 

Big Little

By Leslie Patricelli,

Book cover of Big Little

Why this book?

There are many Leslie Patricelli books featuring Baby but Big Little is an early work in the series. Leslie is a master in teaching concepts with an unexpected twist of humor. “Ladies are big. Ladybugs are little.” Baby is charming with his lemon-shaped head and ever-present diaper. Below his square nose, his smile is contagious. The work is hand-lettered and imagery is emphasized with a heavy black outline. Your baby will love this baby!

This Little Artist: An Art History Primer

By Joan Holub, Daniel Roode (illustrator),

Book cover of This Little Artist: An Art History Primer

Why this book?

Part of the This Little series, Joan Holub’s This Little Artist is an introduction to art history for our wee ones. Daniel Roode’s stylized figures with big round eyes illustrate greats such as Michelangelo, Mary Cassatt, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. A rhyme and portrait give an introduction on the left-hand page, and several facts follow to accompany the artist in their own setting on the right page. The book concludes with eighteen other artists and their techniques, as well as questioning what your reader might create. This is a little treasure of creativity and inspiration.  

Antiracist Baby

By Ibram X. Kendi, Ashley Lukashevsky (illustrator),

Book cover of Antiracist Baby

Why this book?

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi is a board book to help us talk with children about racism. Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevski, the imagery flows as nine lessons are numbered and then expanded in rhyme. “1. Open your eyes to all skin colors. Antiracist Baby learns all the colors, not because race is true. If you claim to be color blind, you deny what’s right in front of you.” I’m so thankful we have this book as we work to build more equitable societies. Welcome, Antiracist Baby!

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