Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
Little, Brown, and Company Kids, 2006.
Board book, 20 pages + title & copyright pages.
Whose Toes Are Those? follows a set of ten toes through a series of playtime adventures, including a round of “this little piggy goes to market” while we try to find out whose toes they are. The answer might be surprising!
Finally, an #ownvoices board book. Not only that, but an African-American author and a noted Vietnamese American children’s book illustrator teamed up for this one. I actually bought this just because it was an #ownvoices board book without even realizing who the illustrator was. Of course I would love it because LeUyen Pham is fantastic!
This is a welcome addition to our growing board book collection. I actually ordered this first (knowing I’d buy The Snowy Day at Target because I had seen it there before), but it took a long time to arrive, so it was the fourth diverse board book added to our collection, and sadly, the first #ownvoice board book. (But I’ll find more.*)
This book perfectly exemplifies what I was bemoaning the lack of in my last board book review. In this book, the text and the pictures match up. Each tells a complete story that is even better when combined. The book also invites parent and child to play.
The text is well divided, with no more than a sentence per page in most of the book. It interacts with the pictures and moves around the page in a way that board book text can and early reader text should not. The book is a standard board book size, and the pages are very sturdy and well-printed, with bright colors and readable text.
The illustrations are perfect for a board book. Most pages have good contrast, and the main picture is fairly simple but with a textured background or extra lower-contrast illustrations that draw interest. The main character is drawn with light brown skin (at one point has a visible blush) which is also referred to in the text. The hairstyle is not specifically African-American but could be worn by a variety of little girls. Normally the fuzzy way the hair was drawn would have irritated me. However as this board book draws comparisons between the girl and the reader, I liked that this interpretation left it open for as many girls as possible to find themselves in the main character.
There is a companion book to this text called Whose Knees Are These? which we will definitely be getting. The only drawback to this book is that apparently these are a boy and girl version. Not noticing the pink on the cover when ordering, this one has the lines “All these piggies must surely belong…//to the girl with the sparkling eyes” which makes it less appropriate for a boy when the end states “Why, those are YOUR toes.” We will still read this, but if I could only afford to get one book, or if I give this as a gift, I would choose the version matching the gender of the child.
The only other minor quibble I had was the lines about the piggies traveling to England and Rome. Obviously the line about Rome needed to stay for the rhyme to work, but England could have been replaced with another, non-European country.
Overall, this is a fabulous book in every aspect. Recommended for all children.
*It took a while for me to get pictures for this book. Since then, I have found many more #ownvoices board books, although they are still sparse compared to board books by white authors.