105 Ways to Give a Book

Sturdy Books

After my call for help for Reading is Fundamental’s funding came a tidy email in my box, perfect for forwarding to five of my friends. Or fifty, but who’s counting? I still hope you — yes, YOU — will take a few minutes to let Congress know that reading is... well, fundamental.

As part of my email extravaganza, I got a reply from a good friend who had responded to my original call to action on my blog. She bounced the favor right back to me. She has a young baby and requested some board book suggestions. As it so happens, I had just seen some interesting almost-board books that came into my library. They don’t have the true density of board books, but are certainly sturdy enough for the occasional baby grab.

Fish, Swish! Splash, Dash!Fish, Swish! Splash, Dash! Counting Round and Round, by Suse MacDonald
Now that I type this title, I think I’ve heard this book mentioned before. Not surprising given that it is a step above your usual beginning thick-paged books. Fish, Swish! uses those thick pages to full advantage by filling them with cutouts that show through to the next page. So the lines we see on the two fish page — where the fish shape is cut out — become three eels at the turn of the page. At the turn of the next, the dots on the eels become the bubbles surrounding four fish. At the end of the book, you can turn it over and count back down again. The colors are bright and lively, and the book is lots of fun.

Gallop!Gallop! by Rufus Butler Seder
It’s a scanimation picture book. Don’t know what that is? I’m not sure that I can explain it well enough, except to say that as you turn the pages the tabs connecting the pages make the picture in the page move. The horse gallops, the bird flies, the cat runs. It’s pretty freakin’ cool. I can see where these books — and I can only assume that there will be more — will be a big hit with babies. I didn’t actively try to tear it, but it looks fairly sturdy — certainly more so than pop-up books — because everything is well contained. You’d really have to work at it to pull these puppies apart. I’m sold and will be buying one for my 20-month-old niece, but I think they’d be even better for the under-18-month set, when it’s harder to get them to focus on a book at all. They won’t take their eyes of this one. Neither will you.

Global BabiesGlobal Babies, by the Global Fund for Children
I can only attribute my prior failure to review this board book to my own laziness, and I’m so sorry. It should be a required baby gift tucked among the tiny onesies and too-cute outfits. Global Babies shows pictures of babies around the world, each naming the country featured. The text is slight, but sweet, basically saying that babies everywhere are special, beautiful, and loved. The photographs are wonderful and the sentiment is important. And at the most basic level, babies love looking at pictures of other babies, so this book is bound to be a hit with the under-two set. If that weren’t enough, part of the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to The Global Fund for Children.

There are lots of board books that are simply sturdier versions of the original book. These work best when the original story is a simple one. I particularly like the Eric Carle, Martin Waddell, and Jan Brett ones. All of the Sandra Boynton board books are funny and fantastic. I’m also a big fan of the Animal Babies series by Kingfisher (I’ve linked to the book with animals of towns and cities as a nod to NYC). Of course, Mo Willems has a set of Pigeon books that are unique to the board book format. How can I not recommend those?

Avoid any book that asks you to count with a consumer product like Cheerios, any book with the current hot cartoon character (and don’t blame yourself too much if some slip in, since it happens to the best of us), and any book large enough to be used as a bludgeon. (I hold out hope that publishers will stop making these huge board books that defeat the purpose of being easy to read to a lap baby.) Know that you’ll end up with a few loser books by accident, read them, and move on to find a favorite to add to your collection. Even if some of them are embarrassing to admit are favorites.


The Library Lady said...

I'd also avoid classic tales such as The Snowy Day and The Carrot Seed which really have no interest for babies. And I'd highly recommend any of the photo board books by Margaret Miller--the clear color phots really attract babies. Both my girls loved them and I've often given them as baby gifts.

Sara O'Leary said...

Look for writer/illustrator Barbara Reid's books too. She does illustration with plasticine - her latest is a really pretty Mother Goose but she also has a series of Zoe books for toddlers. Really nice.
And, of course, Eric Carle's books suit the format perfectly. The Lonely Firefly was a big favourite around our house back in the day.

Jenny said...

I just thought you should know that we immediately checked out Fish, Swish! Splash, Dash! and Gallop from our branch of your wonderful public library system. We loved them both. Sadly, the library is now out their copy of Fish, Swish! Splash, Dash! because my 14 month old ripped a page. We now own it and will continue enjoying it.