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Board Books for Very Big Babies July 20, 2012

Posted by ccbooks in Uncategorized.
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Board books, while I think they are wonderful, are not my area of expertise. At Imagination Station, it was understood that my friend Melissa was the person to talk to about recommendations for anyone younger than 4 and I always leaned on her knowledge. Some board books are adapted picture books (this doesn’t always work well, it depends on the story) while others are only intended for the tiny babies for whom reading means chewing. However, since starting work at Hooray for Books! I have found a third category–board books that are really intended for adults.

The company BabyLit has created a series of counting board books by Jennifer Adams, all based on famous literature. The titles Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice include the subtitles “Little Miss Austen” and “Little Miss Bronte.”  Each book contains a list of items related to the classic such as ‘6 horses’ or ‘2 trunks.’ Many pages will appeal much more to the adult reader–I’m not sure babies will really understand ‘1 governess’ or ‘4 marriage proposals.’  The art, by Alison Oliver, is simple and pretty, with simple line drawings and cutouts of dresses, houses and faces. These are fun for those friends who you know will try to indoctrinate their children in Great Literature before they can event talk.

For adults who are obsessed with food, there is Foodie Babies Wear Bibs. Again, the language is a bit sophisticated for your average one year old, but the pictures of the baby reading cookbooks, eating outside and frequenting farmer’s markets are very cute. It doesn’t say where this baby lives, but I have a suspicion it is Portland.

To provide an opportunity to look at famous art outside a museum, there is the MiniMasters series from from Chronicle Books. Each board book is based around the work of Picasso, Matisse or another well-known artist. The rhyming text describes what happens in each picture, with lines such as “a serious boy steers a donkey around.” It’s a little hard to imagine a child reaching for these on his or her own, but adults will appreciate the reproductions of the art and the text that doesn’t require making animal sounds.

My favorite, however, has to be The Wonderland Alphabet by Alethea Kontis and illustrated beautifully by Janet K. Lee. I don’t know why this was published as a board book. I think  that very few people who understand children would actually read it to a child of board book age. It would make more sense to have published it as a small gift book, but I will take this clever text and these gorgeous pictures any way I can.  Kontis weaves her way through Alice’s adventures with puns, rhymes and pitch perfect lines such as “No one says ‘No’ to the Queen of Hearts.” Yes, as the back of the book warns, the pages contain ‘minimal violence’ (I’m not kidding. It actually says that.) but it also has hidden references to Shakespeare and Ogden Nash, which is much more important. The pictures match the text, with their whimsy and delicate line. The characters and objects appear (or disappear) on each page as suddenly as the Cheshire Cat’s grin. Each letter is illuminated with beautiful botanical details and silhouette skylines or doily borders ground each page. Yes, I am an adult. But adults can be big babies and enjoy board books too.

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