- Caroline Parr
Duncan and Samantha, our newest library babies, are just a few months old, but they’re not too young for books. Board books, made of heavy cardboard with just a few words on each page, fit babies’ interests and attention spans perfectly. They are just the right size for lap sharing, and their sturdy construction means you can safely prop them up next to a baby who’s too little to hold them but big enough to pick up her head and enjoy the pictures.
My favorite board book to give to babies is Tana Hoban’s “Black & White.” First published as two separate board books, “Black on White” and “White on Black,” the new edition includes both books in an unfolding accordion-style format, just right for standing up in the crib of a curious infant.
Each panel shows a familiar object - keys, leaves, baby bottles, etc. – photographed as a black silhouette against a white background, or vice versa. Research has shown that high contrast images are easiest for babies to distinguish, and feedback from parents tells me that even the youngest baby loves to linger on these pages.
Books about love between parent and baby are an always-popular choice. Karma Wilson’s “Baby Cakes” shows a parade of happy babies loving their teddy bears, smooching them on the toes and nibbling on their feet. “Oh, my little Baby Cakes tastes so sweet!” Illustrator Sam Williams pictures a diverse array of babies in a loose, warmly colored style. Babies six months and up hearing about babies bouncing Baby Cakes on their laps and playing peek-a-boo will eagerly join in the fun.
“Daddy Hugs” by Karen Katz is also about parental love, this time with charming pictures of Daddy giving “peekaboo pajama hugs” and “pat and burp the baby hugs.”
Babies love to look at pictures of other babies. “Global Babies” from the Global Fund for Children features color photos set against colorful backgrounds. Babies from around the world are decked out in embroidered caps or fur-lined parkas, or snuggled into brightly colored cloth wraps. Babies from Bhutan, Rwanda, the USA, Fiji or Greenland may wear different garments, but all have in common the penetrating gaze that only a baby casts on the world.
Helen Oxenbury’s series of oversized board books includes “All Fall Down,” a very simple rhyme about young toddlers singing, running around, bouncing on the bed, and falling down in a soft little tumble. It’s short, sweet and funny, and you’ll want to track down the other three: “Tickle, Tickle,” “Clap Hands” and “Say Goodnight.”
Annie Kubler’s illustrations for “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” show onesie-clad babies gleefully pushing and pulling each other back and forth as the words of the song – including a couple new verses – run along each page. Kubler has illustrated a handful of other preschool songs that every baby loves, including “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
Older siblings may know Rosemary Wells’s books about rabbits Max and Ruby. Now Wells introduces the “Baby Max and Ruby” series with four board books. Each is geared to a young toddler’s interests (“Love,” Counting Peas,” “Sandbox” and “Birthday”), while her charming illustrations are enhanced by raised surfaces to engage tactile learners.
With books like these, Duncan and Samantha are off to a great start!
First published in the Free Lance-Star on September 7, 2010.