Board Book Review: My Heart Fills with Happiness

Our tenth board book will bring joy to your heart.
And has narwhals!

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My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 24 pages.
Lexile:  AD280L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: Not yet leveled.

This simple book asks us “What fills your heart with happiness?” and gives many examples of things that might make us happy.

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My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett.

Julie Flett is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators.  She has a great sense of color and space.  As soon as I saw the review at AICL, I wanted this book!  Most of the libraries I work at don’t circulate board books, so this was high on my wish list, but it took a while to arrive which is why this and We Sang You Home were not in use sooner.

Continue reading “Board Book Review: My Heart Fills with Happiness”

Web: Board Book Lists

Some other diverse board book lists.

So, a while back I mentioned that when I started reviewing board books, it was difficult to find diverse board book lists.  That wasn’t so much because they don’t exist, as because most of the ones I found have problematic content, or are board and picture books mixed together.  Here are a few pretty good ones.

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We Sang You Home back cover with text “When wishes come true.”

AICL has a great list of Native board books.

This is important because most other lists (including some I’ll share) have poor indigenous representation.  I always look for a review from AICL or an #ownvoices reviewer, and check if the author/illustrator are Native.

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Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin.

PragmaticMom has a good top ten of multicultural board books.  The caveat is that I would NOT recommend Mama, Mama, Do You Love Me? – see above for better Native books.

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It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young.

While it wasn’t recommended as a “diverse books list”, I loved that most of the books on this list are diverse, including Hawaiian, Native, and specialty religious books that are diverse.

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Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

And finally, Drivel and Drool has a list broken down by ethnicity of the main character, with again the caveat to please check the Native books against AICL’s listing as some are problematic.  I like that this book includes some nonfiction board books.

 

Board Book Reviews are Back

TL;DR ~ New page for board book reviews!  This series will no longer be in chronological order.

Writing these blog maintenance posts is always a bit weird.  I don’t like to put the information in a book review, but can’t think of another way to get the word out to those of you who read these posts via WordPress or email.

The last time I had the camera, one of the things I got done was photographing a good number of board books from our diverse board book collection.  However, in real life books don’t always stay on the shelf (or to be photographed pile) the way they start off.

Our eighth addition to the board book collection didn’t get any pictures taken, even though I had a review all written and ready to go.  This is probably a testament to how much the kids have enjoyed that book, although it could just as well have been me absentmindedly moving it.

After that, I just stalled out on doing board book reviews, even as we built up a pretty impressive collection.  However lately, having seen a few people find my blog based on this review series, it reminded me why I started it – there aren’t many resources available for finding diverse board books.

So I went ahead and made a page for listing all of the diverse board books we own, and added links to those I’ve reviewed.  From now on, these reviews will be skipping around a bit, but probably still roughly chronological.  The reviews are short, but photographing and formatting them takes a long time, especially if the book’s in heavy use and I can’t lay hands on it to photograph!

Board Book Review: We Sang You Home

Just go buy this book. I’ll wait.

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 26 pages.

This lyrical book is the story of a family – two parents, and the baby they sang home and love.

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The book starts with a couple on a blanket in the forest, singing.  Then they are joined by a tiny baby as they go about their day.  Baby sleeps and snuggles and grows teeth and crawls and gardens with mom and even walks until eventually they are back in the forest singing with baby.

The text is a poem or a prayer written in the second person, which normally I dislike, but works perfectly for this book intended to be read from parent to child.  There are two lines on the left page of every two-page spread except the final one, which ends with the final picture across from the copyright page.

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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.

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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!

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Continue reading “Board Book Review: Whose Knees Are These?”