Monday, July 14, 2014

Board book review: My personal favorites.

[Originally posted here on April 12, 2014.]

I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book.

We have pictures of me reading on every family vacation we ever took. At home, my parents had to institute a no-more-than-three-books-at-a-time rule, because they were tired of finding my half-finished books scattered all over the house (and I really was reading all of them--I could tell you off the top of my head what page I was on in each one). I walked into so many walls and doorways and pieces of furniture and occasionally people because I was too busy reading to watch where I was going. And I blame my reading-in-the-car habit for my complete and utter lack of any sense of direction, because I never once paid any attention to where we were driving.

I loved reading. (And still do.) It shaped who I am. It shaped how I view the world. It granted me the opportunity to visit places I'll never see and worlds that never existed, introduced me to ideas I'd never had, enabled me to communicate with words I'd never heard aloud, and gave me the ability to put myself in someone else's shoes. Reading is important.

I really want my kids to love books. So we read with them. (Less so with Wil than we did/do with Kaylie.....he's harder to keep still, and it's busier having two than it was when we just had her!)

As every parent knows, when kids find something they like, they want it over and over and over. Whether it's a book, movie, or game, if it's their favorite of the day/week/month, they'll want it a thousand times in a row. So, while I'm glad Kaylie goes through phases of loving specific books and stories, there are times that certain ones make me want to rip my hair out, because they're dull or poorly written or factually incorrect or just aggravatingly stupid. But there are some that I've come to absolutely love. So here are my four all-time favorite board books.

My four favorite board books.

These are in no particular order. I love them all for different reasons.

To start with, a classic:

Harry the Dirty Dog.

Harry the Dirty Dog, written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham.

Harry the Dirty Dog.

Harry the Dirty Dog follows a white dog with black spots who does not like taking a bath. So he runs away from home one day, gets very dirty playing (so much so that he becomes a black dog with white spots), and then realizes he misses home.

(The above is probably my favorite page, because, at one and a half, Kaylie mistook that blue truck for the TARDIS. So. Cute.)

Harry the Dirty Dog.

He returns home, but he's so dirty that his family doesn't recognize him--until he begs for a bath, at which point they're super excited to see him again.

I like that this book tells a coherent story, and that it's sweet and makes sense. (I could write another list of books with stories that make no sense whatsoever.) The ratio of words per page/illustration is a little high for younger kids, who like to turn pages quickly, but once your toddler can follow a story, it reads at a good pace that doesn't require much patience from your little one. And, bonus: I think it's British, since the kids call their mom "Mummy". :-)

Harry the Dirty Dog can be purchased as a board book here. (Apparently, there's a whole Harry series, which I did not realize.....we may be buying more of these!)

Next up:

Flip, Flap, Fly.

Flip, Flap, Fly, written by Phyllis Root and illustrated by David Walker.

Flip, Flap, Fly.

This one was gifted to Kaylie by some dear friends. It's a simple story that showcases six baby animals as their mothers help them along.

Flip, Flap, Fly.

This is my favorite page. My daughter is very independent, and is not by nature very affectionate. For a long time, literally the only time she would give me a kiss was when we'd reach this page: she'd turn her head up toward me so we could "kiss like this". Seriously, there were days we read this just so I could get a kiss from her!

This is a rhyming book. There are a lot of rhyming books that I HATE, because they are "off"--too many syllables in a line, or emphasis in the wrong place, or words that DON'T ACTUALLY RHYME. But this book is not one of those. I love it. The phrases are euphonous, the cadence is good, and the silly words are not too silly. It is a very easy read, the pace is good for little ones, and the illustrations of baby animals are quite cute. I also like that each page sets up a rhyme for the next animal (blah blah blah muck, blah blah blah...[turn page] duck!), and you can see the tail of the next animal in the illustration, so it encourages engagement from your child.

Flip, Flap, Fly can be purchased as a board book here.


Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer.

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer, written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver.

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer.

Numbers 2 through 5 are the most creative, using characters and places unique to Austen's Pride and Prejudice; the rest are a little less interesting, though still relevant (soldiers, musicians, etc.). Very cute idea!

I love finding ways to introduce things I love to my daughter, even though she's still too young for the real thing. I bought this book more for me than for her, though; while the numbers are easily recognizable for a kid, not all of the illustrations are arranged in such a way as to be easily countable by a youngster without help. Still, the artwork is adorable, and it's Pride and Prejudice--every little girl needs to learn who Mr. Darcy is!

Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer can be purchased as a board book here and here. There are also Jane Eyre and Romeo & Juliet counting primers by the author/artist (but I hate the originals those stories--those are not characters I want as role models for my daughter), and they've released quite a few other "BabyLit" books that were not available back when I bought ours (though the Alice in Wonderland: A Colors Primer was, and I'd recommend looking at that one in person first, as the illustrations, while cute, do not use traditional colors (e.g., teal for blue)....which seems odd for a "colors primer"), so if Pride and Prejudice isn't your thing but other classic literature is, I'd encourage you to check them out!

And last:

Star Wars ABC.

You saw this coming, right? Of course something geeky had to make my list....and we love this Star Wars ABC book!

Star Wars ABC.

Each page features a character/ship/race/droid/etc. from the Star Wars movies (original and prequel trilogies) and a brief alliterative sentence that uses the letter again in at least one other word. The pages are a combination of matte and glossy, so young kids may be fascinated by the difference in texture.

Star Wars ABC.

Kaylie's favorite page for a long time was the Wookiee page.

I love that this book is a great way to introduce elements of the Star Wars universe to kids before they are old enough to handle the movies (Kaylie loves Wookiees now, though she's never seen Chewie in action!), while also teaching the alphabet--something that every kid needs to learn and you should at least have one book for anyway. You don't have to be super into Star Wars to recognize most of the things--the only two I was unfamiliar with were IG-88 and Ugnaughts, and I haven't seen the movies in years (unfortunately). This book does a good job of sticking with the iconic heroes, villains, and spaceships that we all know and love, as much as it can, so there's room for you to explain more about each page's example as your kid becomes more inquisitive.

Star Wars ABC.

I also love that each letter looks like what it stands for--a hairy W for Wookiee, lightsaber A and J for Anakin and Jedi, a shiny gold C for C-3PO, a belt and holster on H for Han Solo....And all the letters are reprinted on the back of the book, so you and your little one can go back through the alphabet quickly in review. (When Kaylie was learning the ABC song, this is what we used to point at each letter as we sang it.)

Star Wars ABC can be purchased here and here.

So, there you have it! My four favorite board books to read with my kids--I hope I've introduced you to something new to try.

My four favorite board books.

Now, go read a book! :-)

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