One glimpse of the merry Wells (The Language of Doves, p. 1159, etc.) characters that caper through these pages—a cast of hundreds—one flip through the pages where Opie (I Saw Esau, 1992, etc.) has arranged almost 70 familiar and not-so-familiar rhymes to an effect of unabashed glee, and readers will be in love again with the original Mother Goose. There's little point in pretending that even prodigious collections of nursery rhymes can do without this one—it's a must. (index) (Poetry. 2-8)
Capitalizing on research on infant development, this handsome oversized board book features high-contrast black-on-white pieces of modern art. Julian Opie’s “Natasha,” a simple bust of a young woman, appears opposite Bridget Riley’s “Fragment 3,” an array of irregular, interlocking zigzags; Kazimir Malevich’s bold, simple “Black Cross” shares an opening with Damien Hirst’s “Hypovase Prazosin Hydrochloride,” a square field of gray and black dots. It’s an ambitious enterprise, but its lack of text poses some challenges. If the adult reader has the confidence to follow baby’s cues and hold off on page turns, it bids fair to be a terrific mutual experience. An accompanying frieze “for your nursery wall” gives baby an opportunity to enjoy the art one-on-one and provides additional information on each artist on the reverse. (3-18 mos.)
One of those rarest of rare birds: a board book derived from a larger-format picture book that works and works well. Twenty-five images from Bancroft’s Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words (2010) are reproduced, one to a page, set mostly against complementary solid-color backgrounds. As the subtitle promises, the subject is Australian: Some of the items pictured include boomerangs, dingo, koala and platypus, as well as the less-exotic but equally beautiful sun and river. The Aborigine artist’s style works perfectly for infant visual stimulation. Boldly outlined figures with intricate interior patterns rendered in high-contrast bright colors are a feast for the eyes. While the vocabulary built is a hemisphere or two away from cow, dog and car, the sounds are fabulous in themselves and open up worlds of phonetic possibility: quokka, numbat, lyrebird. Gorgeous. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)
In a natural follow-up to Global Babies (2006) and American Babies (2010), an empowering text and vibrant photos present baby girls from Canada, China, Guatemala, France, India, Liberia, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, the United States and more.
From the girl on the cover wearing a hijab to an American tyke wearing overalls, the girls mostly sport everyday wear in a broader range of colors than pink and purple. As girls are not always valued, the text, meted out in a few words per page, is a rallying cry in support of their potential: “Baby girls / can grow up / to change the world.” The portrait of each girl is presented on a full page or with a boldly colored border that allows for the occasional word of text. The babies mostly present happy or serious facial expressions, and a few engage in activities that illustrate girl power in subtle ways; an American baby, in her father’s arms, clutches a crayfish, and an Italian toddler looks as if she is “reading” aloud from a book.
Another baby-faced winner from the Global Fund for Children, with an important social message to boot.
(Board book. 3 mos.-1)
A lovely and simple concept book covering counting and colors for the youngest butterfly spotters.
From one red Tachyris zarinda to 10 pink-tipped clearwinged satyrs, each full-page painting spotlights a different butterfly variety. The text simply labels the color and number of the butterflies using a large, serif typeface. In Bersani’s fine-brushed, detailed art, some butterflies are shown in the context of their habitat, such as the eight brown Orion butterflies alighting on yellow stalks of wheat, but most of the butterflies rest on pleasingly mottled backgrounds painted in soft hues. The butterfly names, in an inconsistent mix of scientific and common appellations, are included on the back cover in small print. While a little more information on each insect would have been a nice addition for adults and older children, they can seek out age-appropriate books if piqued.
Glowing art and simple concept presentation—just right for the target audience—may make counters and butterfly enthusiasts out of readers.
(Board book. 6 mos.-3)
“The garbage truck goes, / burbaba burbaba burbaba / screech beep-beep-beep / crunch crunch / CRUNCH.” Text on the left of each stretched-out, semi-proportioned spread gives way to a gorgeous truck silhouette on the right, brilliant watercolors against negative space with just enough detail to make each image pop. Smoke belches, yellow headlights and red taillights gleam. Slightly oval-shaped black tires hover just over the horizon line, lending a terrific sense of movement to the whole. From garbage truck through box truck, auto carrier, tanker, fire engine, tow truck, cement mixer and finally horse trailer, each muscular machine moves from left to right, the orientation granting the whole visual unity. The onomatopoeic text lends itself to deliciously growly out-loud readings. A rumbustious success in every way. (6 mos.-2)
Geese prepare their nest for their brood, carefully arranging it for their eight eggs. One month passes, and the parents welcome their babies with open wings. The little birds follow their proud mama and papa out of the nest to swim—but one goes missing! Readers have little to fear, as the little one is found almost immediately. The text is rendered separately in English and Mandarin. Mandarin characters appear on the left-hand page, and the corresponding English text is placed on the right; the consistency provides a pleasant stability. A pronunciation guide on the last page gives some access to the Chinese characters, but the explanation of the pitched tones is too simplified to be very helpful. Charcoal gray with mauve and royal purple accents contributes a heavily soothing tone to the outdoor scenes; swirling periwinkle blue and striking forest green provide depth to water and land. Spring turns to summer with a similar style in Summertime Rainbow; gouache spreads feature eager bunnies exploring a field of bright flowers.