Board Book Review: Peekaboo Morning

The simple format of our seventh board book is perfect for babies and toddlers.

Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora.
Putnam, New York, 2008.
Board book, 24 pages.

This book starts with “Peekaboo!  I see…” and then the reader (or their adult helper) must turn the page to find out what.  Baby sees Mommy, Daddy, and many other people and things.

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I had no idea what to expect when I ordered this book sight unseen.  At the time it didn’t occur to me that it could be simply a game of peekaboo.  It’s pretty cleverly done though.  As baby moves through his morning, he sees his entire family and many other items.

The pages with the repeating text “Peekaboo! I see…” are set off from the others by being visually smaller, with a large white space around the illustration and the text directly below the illustration in the white space.  The text is cleverly worked into the illustration of the other pages, but remains typed and clearly readable.

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Peekaboo Morning pages seven and eight.

Generally I’m not too into pastels as a medium for illustrating an entire book, but it works well here.  Isadora is able to work a lot of detail into each illustration and I was particularly impressed with her ability to show very expressive faces for baby.

The best and most intriguing part of this book is the set up for each peekaboo.  Baby is subtly moving through his morning (waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast).  More often than not, each illustration includes some nod both toward what will be revealed as well as the previous page.  Some of the peekaboos are fairly obvious to the adult reader while others are actually surprising (at least on the first or second read-through).

My absolute favorite part of this, however, is that baby is anchored in a loving nuclear family and caring extended family who are part of his day.  He is clearly loved and cherished by his family and nurtured in his home environment.  This is exactly the sort of subliminal message I want the kids to be receiving before the outside media and majority white culture is able to negatively impact their developing minds.

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Peekaboo Morning page nine.

The author is intriguing.  A white woman who was formerly a ballerina, more than half of her currently in-print books feature children of color.  Even this book is part of a series with follow-ups Peekaboo Evening and Uh-Oh.  Unfortunately the other books aren’t available as board books – too bad because I would definitely buy them!

Baby likes this book, but won’t yet sit through the whole thing every time.  It is the perfect size for him to hold so at the moment he likes to bang it on the floor or against the table.  As he gets older I expect it will interest him more.  This book is great for babies from about three months up to toddlers but won’t hold much interest for older children.

Board Book Review: Baby Dance

The diverse characters in our sixth board book will get you and baby dancing!

Baby Dance by Ann Taylor, pictures by Marjorie van Heerden.
HarperFestival Devision, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999.
Board book, 14 pages.

Baby is crying and Mom and the cat are napping, so Dad takes baby for a movement-filled dance that dries up the tears until the happy, well-rested family reunites on their couch.

Baby Dance cover resized

I absolutely loved the swirling movement of the illustrations, and the way that the background subtly moved through the rainbow from a calm purple to an energetic yellow.

I wasn’t keen on the depiction of the hair.  We meet three characters – mother, baby, and a man presumably father, but not named, so he could also be an uncle, stepfather, or other relation.  Mom’s hair is long and curly/wavy.  Baby’s hair appears in some pictures to be in twists or short braids, but in others to be loose with bows on it.  Dad’s hair is equally ambiguous.  In this case I would have liked a little more definition for the hair.

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Baby Dance pages 13 and 14 depict the family reunited on the couch.

Again referring to the art, I was a bit confused by how baby was drawn.  Were the pictures intending to depict an older child, or did the illustrator just not have much experience drawing babies?  Since father and child are continually in motion, the art is much more difficult to execute, and the child looked adult or awkward on some pages.

However, I did enjoy the shading, interesting backgrounds, and portrayal of dad.  I’m curious what medium was used (chalk? pastels?) to get the layered swirls of color on the backgrounds.  The balance of text/picture was perfect for a board book; there is never more than a sentence on each page spread.

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Baby Dance pages 9 and 10 show dad dancing with baby.

The text is based on a poem from the 1800s – I assume white South African illustrator Marjorie van Heerden did the adaption, although perhaps it was the publisher.

Probably the aspect of this that annoys me the most is the spine.  This is part of the Harper Growing Tree line, so the spine is red to correspond with the level and the logo takes up half the space.  It doesn’t connect with the book at all, and since the book is rather slim, this makes it quite hard to pick it out off the shelf when I want to read it.

Rated for Newborns and up, this certainly is interactive to read to a wee baby and dance along.  However, the size is a bit big for Baby to play with, so we mainly use this as a lap book.  I think it will be more intriguing to a toddler, and the text, despite a few difficult words (ceiling), could be deciphered by an early reader.

I did have some qualms about a few aspects of this book, but overall the dancing and portrayal of a caring, involved father figure won me over.

Board Book Review: Whose Knees Are These?

The fifth book in our diverse board book collection is the partner to book four.

Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
Little, Brown, and Company Kids, 2006.
Board book, 20 pages + title & copyright pages.

Whose Knees Are These? follows a set of two knees through a series of playtime adventures while we try to find out whose knees they are.  The answer might be surprising!

Whose Knees are These cover cropped resized

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Board Book Review: Whose Toes Are Those?

The first ordered, but the fourth book received and added to our board book collection.

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!

Whose Toes Are Those cover cropped resized

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.

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Whose Toes Are Those? pages 6 and 7

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.

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Whose Toes Are Those? pages 18 and 19

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.

Board Book Review: I Like Myself!

Book intended to promote self-esteem for all children is highly problematic for children of color – not recommended.

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004.
Board book, 32 pages.

I Like Myself is the story of an exuberant and imaginative little girl* and her dog.  The girl states in first person narration that she likes herself in a variety of ways and circumstances.

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Each page spread has at least one sentence and some as many as three.  The text is rhyming, but the rhymes are at times spread over multiple pages.  This book reads like a Seuss imitation, with additional words at the end as padding.  It felt like some of Seuss’ affirming early readers, but with a larger vocabulary and a huge disconnect between the words and the pictures.  The pace was uneven and relied heavily on the pictures to form a cohesive story.  Unfortunately the pictures were even more of a disappointment.

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Board Book Review: Snow

A welcome winter addition to a collection of diverse board books – our second book.

Snow by Carol Thompson.
Child’s Play (International) Ltd., Swindon, UK, 2014.
Picture book in board book format, 10 pages.
Winner of the Best Book Award from Oppenheim Toy Portfolio.

Snow is part of a series on different types of weather.  This book features a very young African American (possibly mixed race) boy seeing snow, preparing to go outside, experiencing and interacting with the snow in different ways, and finally returning inside as he gets cold.

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This was another Target pick that I found completely delightful.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m working on building a board book library for the littlest member of our family.  This book is square and larger than the typical board book, although it doesn’t have many pages.  It definitely needs to be held by bigger hands at first, or laid on the floor for a child to turn pages.

The words are sparse and written into the pictures on the white areas.  Most of the words are onomatopoeia, with a few no more than five word sentences.  The book could easily tell a complete story to a child even if the words were never read aloud to the child (although of course I encourage you to read the words and enrich your child’s experience).

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The opening of Snow shows the portrayal of a very young child’s hair growing in.

The illustrations are delightful.  In particular, I felt that Thompson appropriately visualized the way a very young child’s hair grows in, how as the strands of hair get long enough they begin to curl but there is a stage of tight curls mixed with wavier or even straight strands that haven’t grown in enough yet.  The graphics also convey a sense of delight, and the use of mixed media (with drawn characters) adds depth and interest without overwhelming the young reader.

Overall I was pleased with this book.  The bigger kids had a look and seemed to enjoy it, but it didn’t hold their interest long as the simple story is quickly conveyed with a single read-through.

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Second to last page of Snow.

The pages are significantly thinner than what I normally would think of as a board book. That combined with the larger than normal size makes this look a little more like a “real” book. This is a transitional board book – one that Baby could listen to sitting in an adult’s lap but not one to play with independently because it would get all chewed up!  Toddlers seem to be the intended age group for this book – able to hold and interact with the bigger size, less destructive on a book, and could sit and look through the pictures to understand the story.

This book is part of a series but the pictures online didn’t really make it clear whether the others are all diverse.  They don’t all feature the same characters, so I won’t be ordering any others unless I can flip through a copy beforehand.

However, I can recommend this book as a welcome addition to your home or kindergarten classroom library, or a gift for a toddler.

Board Book Review: The Snowy Day

Starting our diverse board book library out right, The Snowy Day is our first board book for baby!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
Viking, the Penguin group, board book edition 1996.
Picture book realistic fiction adapted to board book format, 30 pages.

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The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Board Book Edition

When we found out about Baby, of course there was a lot to do to get ready.  But one thing stuck in my head, bibliophile that I am – we didn’t have any board books!  Well, a few that the younger ones use for church, but not much for regular reading.  I didn’t quite get it together enough to have books ready before he arrived (practicalities came first), but the first week of the new year, I got busy!

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