Monday, March 26, 2018

A Board Book Roundup

Spring has arrived, and with it comes a whole crop of new board books for your youngest readers to enjoy.
When Your Llama Needs a Haircut by Susanna Leonard Hill,
illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
2018, Little Simon, 26 pages
Picture day is coming - and your llama is looking a little on the shaggy side. Time to give him a spiffy new haircut so he can look his best. But first you have to catch your llama, then you have to wash his hair and comb out all the tangles, and of course, he will complain. Once that is done, you have to decide on what style to give your llama, who sure is squirmy around those scissors...uh oh. Well, sometimes, you and your llama need a new picture day haircut. This delightful book will have your and your young readers chuckling at the antics of the llama who isn't really into getting his haircut - some young readers might even find a little of themselves in him. It is, of course, the perfect companion to the author's two earlier books, When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles and When Your Lion Needs a Bath.  

Guess Which Hand by Hans Wilhelm, 
illustrated by Ilaria Guarducci
2018, Chronicle Books, 10 pages 
Guess which hand is a game most young kids are familiar with simply because it is one of the earliest and simplest guessing games they learns. In this interactive book, young readers can guess what is in the hand, of a boy, in the paws of a puppy, under the ears of a pig, under two shells in the ocean, under the party hats of two monkeys, under the tails of two bunnies, under the wings of an owl, under the eggs of a hen, simply by turning the side wheel until an object appears on the page, then guessing where it is and lifting the flap to see if they are right. It's a fun book and a great way to teach the youngest readers the names of all the animals, insects, and objects included in the game.

All Kinds of Kisses by Heather Swain, 
illustrated by Steven Henry
2017, Feiwel & Friends, 32 pages
There's nothing like a cuddle and a kiss from mom and dad, but how do other animals, birds, and even fish kiss their young? Eleven creatures are depicted on two page spreads, each with a different way kissing and showing affection to their young. There is a brief description of the each creatures mouth and why is it the way it is: "Red crossbill birds has twisted beaks to tweeze tines seeds out of cones" and ends with the question "How would a crossbill kiss?" This is the same pattern throughout the book. This is a nice introduction to these eleven different creatures, but, although each kind of kiss is described in rhythmic stanzas, they are a little uneven. Still, it is a fun board book, though maybe a little wordy for the youngest kids. And the boldly colored illustrations are a real compliment to the text.

Quack! by Joe Fitzpatrick,
illustrated by Paul Nicholls,
2018, Flowerpot Press, 20 pages
A duck goes out for a walk and meets a variety of animals - one elephant, two giraffes, three horses, fours pigs, five monkeys (that's right, those old jumping on the bed monkeys), six flamingos, seven grasshoppers, eight spiders, nine bluebirds, ten ducks. Each of the animals is engaged in an activity, and when the duck quacks, they ignore him. After all, they don't speak duck so they don't understand him. And yes, this is a counting book. Kids can spend time counting the different the different animals duck meets, and talking about why they are engaged in the activity they are doing. They will also enjoy the repeated refrain as the duck continues his walk -  "so the duck just kept waddling." It has a charming happy ending for the duck and takes they the book beyond the number 10. I found myself pleasantly surprised reading Quack! for the first time with some young readers, who asked to read it over and over. The illustrations are simply but sweet and really more the duck along nicely.  

I Sleep in a Big Bed written and illustrated by
Maria van Lieshout
2018, Chronicle Books, 24 pages
OK, I lied, this isn't really a board book, but it is perfect for the old board book set who are about to transition from crib to bed, and the anxiety the surrounds that milestone in their young lives. A young boy recalls how much he slept as a baby, and able to sleep a lot and anywhere - crib, car seat, floor, stroller. But now that he isn't a baby anymore, he sleeps in a big kid bed. At first, it took some getting  used. There were bedtime stories, kisses and hugs from mom and dad, then snuggling in with his lovey. But what happens when he wakes up in the middle of the night? Our narrator has some sage advice about handling that for his readers. This is a simple, but needed book. It can be read to young kids over and over to introduce and and help them acclimate to the change from crib to bed. The illustrations are simple but to the point, and done in blue, white, and brown, and outlined in thick black lines. You might want to check our Maria van Lieshout's other books about achieving milestones, such as Bye, Bye Binky, I Use the Potty, and No More Tantrums.

Little Truck written and illustrated by Taro Gomi
2018, Chronicle Books, 22 pages
A pink flatbed truck may be little but he sure likes to go fast as he starts off his day in the company of a bigger orange flatbed truck. It doesn't take long for little truck to past big truck, but when he reaches a steep hill, and begins to slow down, it's a good thing that big truck can help him and give him a push. But now sooner does he reach to top than little truck speeds up again, and heads right into a dark tunnel. Once again, big truck helps little truck out and then puts him onto his flatbed to take a very tired little truck home. This is a sweet, easy metaphoric story for kids (little truck) who are walking and trying out their first independent wanderings not too far from a parent (big truck), with a nice message that someone will always be there for them. The illustrations are Gomi simple - geometric shapes, dots and dashes with few colors. A nice reassuring book for young readers.

Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker, 
illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
2018, Chronicle Books, 32 pages
As a train arrives at a station in the middle of the night, each crew worker knows exactly what to do to quickly load of the train's freight. Box cars, hoppers, tankers, reefer cars, gondolas, autoracks, well cars, flatbed cars, and the red caboose each have their own cargo to be loaded by a perfectly matched crew, for example, hoppers are loaded by kangaroos, tankers filled by elephants, turtles drive race cars onto the autorack. After everything is loaded, the crew all go to sleep in bed on the flatbed cars, while a giraffe serves as lookout in the caboose. Told in the same whimsical rhyme that was used in the successful Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, this is a fun, if long-for-a-board-book bedtime story that turns out to be a young kid's dream based on the train set by his bed. My brother was a model train lover from age 4, so a lot of what I read was familiar to me, but it nicely teaches kids the part of a train while entertaining them.

I end this board book roundup with two nice concept books.
Up, Down & Other Opposites with Ellsworth Kelly
written and illustrated by Ellsworth Kelly
2018, Phaidon Press, 30 pages
This board book is part of the publisher's series First Concepts with Fine Artists, described as an "innovative series of early-learning board books pairing the work of fine artists with basic concepts for toddlers." Using the paintings of contemporary artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015), this is a simple introduction to opposites. Kids will need some adult help at first for some of the opposites, like back and front of a paintings, or rough and smooth, but on the whole, opposites make sense and will help kids learn to identify different kinds of opposites. This is a very appealing book, most the examples of opposites are large and vibrantly colored. At times, the spare text addresses the readers directly to to encourage the reader to think more about the opposites shown.  This, like all the First Concepts with Fine Artists books, is a fun, easy, very playful way to learn basic concepts.

TouchThinkLearn: Wiggles written by Claire Zucchelli-Romer
2018, Chronicle Books, 26 pages
In this interactive book, young readers will explore and learn all about different tactile experiences. The book invites kids to let their fingers explore a variety of shapes and designs by tracing them, or they can count and play with dots, zigzags, and twirls. Kids are told what to do on each page, and there is a lot of repetition and use of onomatopeia throughout. The pages are a pastel blue with text in a white font (which I found too light), and the shapes are done in brightly fluorescent colored cutouts. These cutouts are an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and explore different perceptions, but when asked to use left and right hand simultaneously, it might be a challenge for younger kids. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about parts of this book, though I think it is a fun way to learn.

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