A guessing game about opposites in a cleverly designed board book that epitomizes the maxim “show, don’t tell.”
The rather abstract concept of opposites is successfully demonstrated in Baruzzi’s whimsical, graphically flat cartoon illustrations. Older children will quickly learn the formula. The left-hand page of each spread poses a binary choice with the first option illustrated on the facing page. But pull the gatefolded page to the right, and it expands to a full 13-inch illustration of the second one. So a small blue truck is shown to be pulling a large blue-and-yellow excavator, one sheep is revealed to be part of a flock, closed window shutters open to a sunny view, etc. Opening each flap provides an “aha” moment, if not exactly a surprise. Most of the choices are obvious, though one might wonder why fish in an aquarium stay only in the hidden section and how a shirt came to be dirtied on only one side. Similarly, the thin pencil has no logical relationship to the wide bridge; the edges of the bridge just fold conveniently to create a yellow colored pencil. But these are small matters. With the text limited to just one three-word question (“Short or long?”) per spread, young readers are allowed to use their own words to describe what pulling the flap reveals.
This deceptively simple concept book is the opposite of confusing.
(Board book. 1-3)
Photographer Davidson specializes in expressive, irresistible pet portraiture, a subject with natural appeal to the board-book audience. Over 20 pages, nine different dogs illustrate nine vocabulary words and phrases describing pet locomotion and play. The dogs model familiar actions over double-page spreads, set against clean, white backgrounds. Multiple images convey a sense of motion. Isis, a French bulldog, strides determinedly across one page, then the next. “Walk” is spelled out in a streaky type that suggests the speed of her gait. When mixed-breed Archie goes airborne, the “m” in the word “jump” gets air as well. Two drops of slobber drip from the word “lick,” as Duke, a long-tongued pit bull, works on a couple of those hard-to-reach spots on his muzzle. A dotted line indicating a curlicue trajectory accompanies shots of a mutt named Ziggy, on his back, on his side, and then righted; the text, “roll over” follows suit, with the second word inverted at the midpoint of the roll. His trick completed, Ziggy stares up as if to ask, “Did you get all that?” Other terms depicted are “wag,” “fetch,” “chew,” “sit,” and “shake.” The final two pages identify the cast by name and breed. A companion volume, Heads & Tails, replicates this formula with equal charm.
Will delight kids and caregivers alike.
(Board book. 6 mos.-3)
In the first double-page spread, a yellow bird arrives at the foot of a tall tree after what the text calls “a very long journey,” but her story is far from over. As she makes a home in her tree and then a family with a red bird who joins her, this board book explores the circle of life. The book’s illustrations are large and rounded, mostly circles or half-circles, enhancing that “circle of life” theme. The book holds removable play pieces that can be slotted into the compositions in different ways. For example, a round yellow piece symbolizing the sun can be taken, flipped, and inserted into a recess in the picture opposite as the bushy round crown of a tree. Each double-page spread offers at least one removable piece to be fitted into the opposite page; they do not require carrying over into subsequent spreads. The interactive play is a perfect spice to a simple story that will delight little ones. The pieces aren’t dangerously tiny, but some will inevitably make their ways under the couch or become stuck between cushions. Luckily the compositions still work well enough without them.
A charming, not-so-simple board book that will surely engage.
(Board book. 2-3)
Counting from one to 10 is the usual math activity in simple picture books, but this one takes on other mathematical operations, too.
The rhythmic text starts simply: “One cat sleeps. // Two cats play. // Three cats? / STACK! // Four cats teeter. / Five cats totter.” The pattern then changes. In a double-page spread, the text reads: “Six cats prefer / two stacks of three cats.” The picture clearly shows the two stacks of cats, an unnumbered ruler on the left, and a matching dotted line to the right to show the equal height of the stacks to allow for balancing. A similar page is shown for nine: “Nine cats agree / to three, three, and three.” Here numerals are shown for the only time, in a number sentence, but the measuring devices don’t appear. When it comes to 10, the author/illustrator sends some cats to hide and some to seek, encouraging discussion about subtraction, and then opens the question: “How will you stack the cats?” Here an adult could help an inquisitive child pursue the concepts of multiplication and division, hinted at earlier. The simple but elegant cats, mostly in shades of golden-yellow, orange, white, and black, with some marmalade tigers, are boldly set against aqua-blue and deep-orange backgrounds.
Thanks to its gentle inconsistencies, this is a book that can expand children’s thought processes.
(Picture book. 2-5)
This delightful board book unfolds to become a train almost 6 feet long with lots to explore in each car.
Each page in this concertina-structured book is a train car covered by a big flap, hinged at the top of the page. Lift the flap, and the interior of the car is revealed. Readers can unfold the book to see the train in its full length. Anthropomorphized animals and a multiethnic, multicultural cast of characters constitute the passengers on the train. Colorful cartoonlike illustrations include a gnome, a brawny, kilted white Scot, a scholarly looking bald eagle, a sleeping vampire, and a yoga-practicing giraffe. On the cover readers see a brown-skinned young passenger boarding the train sporting a bright red-and-yellow baseball cap over a black Afro. As the book unfolds, the baseball cap is now missing, and readers will follow the intrepid passenger from car to car on the search for the baseball cap. In each car there are colors to spot, shapes to find, noisy things to identify, and lots of details to take in. On the verso, there is also much to see and identify as the train makes its traverse from countryside to urban setting. Young children and their adult readers will find plenty to keep them engaged.
This well-designed board book is a short read that offers big entertainment for little readers. A series of endearing critters of sequentially increasing dimension, presented on pages of likewise increasing proportion, introduce the concept of relative size. Murphy’s simple and easily grasped line drawings have a degree of charm and personality well in excess of their sparse detail. Mouse and friends, Tortoise, Pelican, Zebra, Elephant, and Spider, inhabit brightly colored, monochromatic two-page spreads, each die-cut page on the right slightly larger than the page that preceded it. The pages are thick, very stiff, and easy for even rough little hands to grip and turn without tearing. The text is basic, easily assimilated, and well-matched to the illustrations. The flip-flap gimmick of graduated page size should encourage toddlers to enjoy this book both with their caregivers and independently. The parade of ever larger animals reaches an unexpected conclusion with an amusing reminder that bigger isn’t always better. This volume will be a quick read at bedtime, but it has the potential to become a real favorite of aspiring young readers and page-turners, and it should stand up well to significant abuse from typical toddlers.
A winning reminder that sometimes the little guy comes out on top.
(Board book. 1-3)
A deceptively simple primer on shapes becomes a spot-the-difference game.
The first double-page spread looks elementary enough. On verso, a red triangle sits atop a pink circle, which balances on a blue square; the text reads “triangle / circle / square.” On recto, a large pink circle rests on a blocky, orange rectangle, which teeters on the point of a purple triangle: “circle / rectangle / triangle.” But with the turn of the page, readers see, “triangle / elephant?! / circle” on verso and “elephant / elephant / rectangle” on recto; the layout is identical to the first spread, with the three shapes or objects presented in vertical towers. It gets even sillier as pages turn, with the introduction of a “boat!” and then three more; a smiling “face!” (another appears to be somber); and then lemons, buses, birds, black hats, and a fish. Each time a new variable is introduced, it is italicized and exclamation-punctuated, prompting animated reads. The pacing ensures that no new element appears too quickly for little readers to assimilate it, and the relatively high page count facilitates their joining in the game by the end. All the elements appear to be hand-drawn, with comfortably fuzzy edges, and they are all laid out on white space for maximum discernibility. The objects that are not shapes are represented elementally and consistently enough that little ones should be able to spot them with ease.
This debut lift-the-flap book by printmaker Weston follows the life cycle of a monarch butterfly with detailed black-and-white illustrations and flaps that reveal flashes of brilliant orange, yellow, purple, and green.
The stunning black-and-white images are precise and meticulous, with a woodcut feel, and the brightly colored undersides of the flaps bring the liveliness of the outdoors into the book. Information about the butterfly’s metamorphosis is conveyed more through flashes of color under the flaps than in the spare poetic text, limited to the deliberate choice of a couple of words per page (“An egg / a feast // a change / a stretch”). Each page features a number of flaps, showing the butterfly in its various stages of metamorphosis, migration, and hibernation. A variety of plants and their flowers that serve as hosts for the monarchs and food for their caterpillars as well as a place for their hibernation are shown, but no additional information is included. Young toddlers may have difficulty in finding and manipulating the flaps at first, but they will be awed by what they reveal.
Best for one-on-one reading and exploration with conversations, this tall and artistic board book brings together mystery, surprise, and wonder for children and adults alike.
(Board book. 2-5)