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Best Board Books

By guest writer Beth Nativ: Lucie’s List subscriber, teacher, and children’s book aficionado.

Board books are sturdy; their pages are like, well, boards… they can’t be ripped, bent, or swallowed. Many picture books have been republished as board books so that younger readers can begin to enjoy classic texts at an earlier age.

Before kids learn to “be gentle” with paper books, and after they’ve graduated from touchy-feely cloth books, it’s time to bust out some boards books. **Just about all of these books also come as paperbacks and hardcover picture books, but if you’re looking for something that can be gnawed on, it’s best to stick with the board book editions.

10 Best Board Books

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

Eric Carle created a world of gentle, visually-pleasing characters, each with its own book. Most, if not all, are now in board book editions. In this story, the caterpillar eats his way from egg to butterfly.

I’ve never met a little kid who doesn’t like Eric Carle books (and I hope I never do). The Mixed Up Chameleon is another of my favorites, and if you’re looking for a lovely gift set, try a trio of Eric Carle board books, such as his Very Little Library, which includes The Very Lonely Firefly and The Very Busy Spider.

2. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Eric Carle’s distinctive artwork combines with a call and response text that is perfectly geared toward the youngest readers. The colors are bold and integral to the story. The rhymes are simple and sweet.

In an effort to begin my daughter, Zelda, on her path to becoming bilingual, we also stock her bookshelf with Spanish editions of our favorites; in this case it’s Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo.

3. Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle, illus. Jill McElmurry

A good friend told me about this little truck’s adventures. I was skeptical at first, thinking it was a lame imitation of The Little Engine That Could, but by the end of my first read-through, I couldn’t stop smiling. There’s something about happy-go-lucky animals helping a friend out of a sticky situation that makes me happy. And the truck “beeps”!

4. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, illus. Clement Hurd

Everyone needs this book. EVERYONE. I can’t imagine how children ever enjoyed bedtime before this book was published. (Of course, ever since I saw the Simpsons episode in which Christopher Walken reads a portion of this book, I’ve read it – in my mind – in his voice, which is both hilarious and terrifying.)

5. The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

More likely than not, someone read you this book when you were very small. After more than fifty years, this quiet story of a little boy out and about on a winter’s day is still a staple in early childhood classrooms and on bedside tables everywhere. I’ve read it a hundred times, and after each reading I just feel all warm inside.

6. Pete’s A Pizza, William Steig

What does a creative and attentive dad do when his son is having a bad day? Why, he turns him into a pizza! This book gives everyone permission to stretch their imaginations when stuck inside on a rainy day. Read the book and then turn your kid into a burrito — or maybe some sushi.

7. Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell

Also a lift-the-flap book, this classic by Rod Campbell is a must-have for every child’s library. The narrator asks the zoo for a pet, but isn’t quite satisfied with each animal sent. The elephant is too big (of course); the giraffe is too tall (what did he expect?)… you get the idea.

The illustrations and accompanying flaps give little readers the chance to guess which animal has just arrived. In teaching, we call this making inferences.

8. On the Night You Were Born, Nancy Tillman

I dare you to read this to your child without getting teary-eyed and choked up. This heartwarming book has gorgeous illustrations of starry nights; you can almost hear the lullabies lift off the page.

9. I Love You, Stinky Face, Lisa McCourt, illus. Cyd Moore

When we parents say we love our children unconditionally, we mean it. As this adorable book points out, even if our children were smelly, scaly, carnivorous beasts, we would still love them with all our hearts.

10. Barnyard Dance!, Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton is a tremendously prolific writer of hysterical board books full of lovable animals that love to sing, dance, and make kids smile. Barnyard Dance! is one of my favorites. You and your child will have a grand ol’ time acting out the action on the pages.


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