Book List

Best Picture Books of 2018 for Babies & Toddlers

Appealing characters, novel presentation, and useful concepts—a winner! (Board book. 1-3)

OPPOSITES

From the Zoe and Zack series

A clever introduction to the concept of opposites for the board-book set.

Clear, simple drawings and the ingenious use of die-cut pages illustrate several paired, contrary concepts. Zoe, a zebra, and her friend Zack, a chameleon, introduce readers to a series of geographical, physical, and emotional antipodes. On the first two pages, the two friends run down parallel sets of stairs; turn the page with the die-cut staircase, and those very same images of Zoe and Zack appear to be bounding up the stairs. In the next spread, Zoe and Zack sit sadly, watching a caged bird. Turn the die-cut page, and the bars of the cage become the stems of flowers, as the bird flies free to the obvious delight of the now-happy friends. Readers will easily grasp the contrasted concepts, although not all of the words are exact antonyms. “Happy” is paired with “sad” and also with “angry.” A castle is “knocked down,” rather than broken, and then “fixed.” The book was originally published in French; some of the featured terms may have been more obvious opposites prior to (the uncredited) translation. Perhaps the weakest pairing is “upset” and “not upset anymore,” although the expression of opposites through negation is a useful, age-appropriate construction, and the meaning, expressed in terms of lost ice cream and the palliative power of sharing, couldn’t be clearer.

Appealing characters, novel presentation, and useful concepts—a winner! (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-2-74708-700-1

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

With this masterful board book, little listeners are in for some smooth sailing.

LITTLE BOAT

Intrepid Little Boat encounters pint-sized obstacles before returning safely to his family.

Here’s an author who understands how much bravery it takes to be little in a big world. Little Boat floats through mild perils that will feel quite familiar to most toddlers: a crowded shipping lane where he fears being bumped, a frightening run-in with a much bigger freighter, concern about a scary storm, and loneliness. Little Boat’s anxiety is apparent, as he’s pictured teeny-tiny against the waves, but the clouds are so sweet-faced and the waters so gently rolling that it’s clear there’s no real danger. After he successfully navigates the challenges, Little Boat’s parents congratulate him on his brave solo expedition, and toddlers will similarly bask in his feeling of accomplishment. Although the small ship is ostensibly on his journey alone, he’s gently advised and reassured by a narrator who makes sure everyone, including the audience, knows that “Little Boat is fine!” The spare art is expressive in its simplicity, with ships made of basic shapes, rustically outlined and perfectly personified with paint-dabbed faces, all set against a tonally pleasing palette of blue, teal, and rose. Our hero’s white hull, jaunty triangular flag, and blush-pink–dotted cheek are both easily spotted and eminently charming.

With this masterful board book, little listeners are in for some smooth sailing. (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6301-7

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Crawling babies will pause to enjoy this story again and again, and older toddlers, perhaps remembering their own crawling...

GO BABY! GO DOG!

It may be hard to believe just eight words can make a complete and exciting story, but that’s all this board book needs.

Repeated reading of simple text is how children first learn to read. Kennedy seems to understand this and has created an ideal package for early success. A series of two word exclamations and expressive drawings combine to tell the story of a diaper-clad tot’s evolving relationship with a skeptical hound dog. “Go baby / go baby / go baby. // Go dog.” The baby crawling across a blue floor shows up clearly against a bright yellow wallpaper decorated with simple light blue flowers. The only additions to this pleasing design are a cushy blue chair the baby peers under (“Look baby”) when the dog disappears through a doorway leading to a room with light blue, diamond-patterned wallpaper. Baby’s cries bring the dog back. Spoiler alert: Baby and dog end up sound asleep, together: “Nice baby. / Good dog.” The simple repetitive text shows up clearly when placed against the yellow wall. The text set against the bottom blue stripe is yellow so it stands out boldly too. Baby has pale skin and red hair; dog is white with brown splotches.

Crawling babies will pause to enjoy this story again and again, and older toddlers, perhaps remembering their own crawling escapades, will want it read repeatedly too. They may even read it to their dogs. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8075-2971-3

Page Count: 20

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Clear, endearing, and important.

WILL LADYBUG HUG?

A sweet and simple introduction for toddlers to the ideas of consent and boundaries.

Author/illustrator Leung hits all the right notes in this useful and appealing volume that reminds kids that gestures of physical affection aren’t always welcome and that it’s OK to say, “No.” A series of vignettes presents the simple lesson, in Q-and-A fashion, in paired two-page scenes. The first two pages introduce the protagonist, Ladybug, who “loves hugs! She hugs to say hello. She hugs to say goodbye….” The following spread poses the book’s fundamental question: “…but will her friends let Ladybug hug?” For the rest of the book, Ladybug asks permission of her cute animal friends to hug them, enjoying several consensual hugs and being an understanding friend when she learns that “Sheep does not want to hug, and that’s okay.” The artwork is clean and simple, the backgrounds colorful, and the characters charming and expressive. In the denouement, Ladybug’s friends gather to see her off at the airport (in the final illustration, she flies away on her own power, sans airplane). “Does Ladybug want a super group hug? Yes.” Everyone clinches but Sheep, and that’s apparently still OK; no one gets hurt feelings. Sheep does accept a high-five, suggesting that, hugging preferences aside, Sheep is a part of, and not apart from, the group of friends.

Clear, endearing, and important. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-21560-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Beautiful in its simplicity, this book deserves a spot on any toddler’s bookshelf.

BLACK BIRD YELLOW SUN

Toddlers can follow a black bird as it goes on a colorful expedition from yellow sun to fabled blue moon in this concept board book.

As the titular black bird goes from page to page it makes a striking contrast against the vibrantly colored objects it encounters along the way. Simple, declarative statements in large black type on each page identify the objects: “Black Bird / Purple Grapes // Black Bird / Green Grass // Black Bird / Red Snake.” The bird often interacts with its colorful surroundings, seeming about to pluck a grape and, perhaps, flying away from that red snake. In a departure from his recent line-heavy style for older readers (Lucky Lazlo, 2016, etc.), Light’s clear, uncomplicated illustrations are done in collage and by printing cardboard shapes with ink. The result is so wonderfully textural children will be tempted to touch, and adult readers and their young listeners may even be inspired to try their own hands at stamping with thick gooey paint. Observant readers will not fail to notice there is a small orange worm also making its way across the book. Once again, Light (Trucks Go, 2008, etc.) shows his understanding of the target age group.

Beautiful in its simplicity, this book deserves a spot on any toddler’s bookshelf. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9067-0

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Caregivers will flip over the innovative flaps, warm animal art, and opportunities to interact with little listeners

PEEK-A-WHO?

Just when you thought it couldn’t be done, there’s a new twist—ahem, fold—on a classic guessing game! Read the clues, then open triangular flaps to see animals hidden beneath.

Folded into a robust, surprisingly compact triangle, the book opens into a diamond shape with a simple, animal-sound–related hint, such as “Who says MOO?” printed across. Pull down one flap and then the other to reveal a charming red cow. Giving readers two separate flaps per spread extends the delicious anticipation of discovering who’s hiding, making it a slow, almost theatrical reveal. Underneath are elegant, painterly animals in bold, matte colors embellished with wispy dashes and tiny dots in contrasting colors, all of whom gaze directly toward viewers, making the book equally useful for playing a spirited game of peekaboo as well as guess who. No mere novelty, the flaps are integral to Mroziewicz’s animals, folding upward into perky ears on an impressionistic cat’s face or down for dangling turkey legs. Putting the flaps back in place is fiddly but easy enough, though the book’s eye-catching triangular shape makes shelving difficult. Each of the 11 animals has its own evocative typeface and accent color. Warm pink flaps open to a zany patchwork piggie; the snake’s “HISSSSSSS” is printed in wavering, slithery type.

Caregivers will flip over the innovative flaps, warm animal art, and opportunities to interact with little listeners . (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-988-8341-57-3

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Minedition

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

ANIMAL SHAPES

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Published in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, this book is its own little work of art.

A PILE OF LEAVES

An art book, an autumn book, a discover-the-world-around-you book, all rolled into one.

As the book starts, young readers are told, “A pile of leaves is like a collage. Each layer adds something new and hides something underneath.” When children turn to the next page they’re in for a delightful surprise. Indeed there is a pile of leaves, but what a pile of leaves it is! A series of board-framed acetate pages makes up the pile. Each see-through page has an image or two on it. As children uncover the layers by turning the pages, they encounter different kinds of leaves, an acorn, ants, a grasshopper, a worm, a mitten, and someone’s lost key. As the pile on the recto gets deconstructed, the pile on the verso builds up in reverse. Some children may be inspired to tuck in their own little additions to the pile. What a wonderful way to invite children to explore not just this book, but also the world around them, where so many simple treasures hide in plain sight. For those curious to know the names of the different leaf types, bugs, and objects in the leaf pile, the last double-page spread identifies each.

Published in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, this book is its own little work of art. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7148-7720-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

Even though it is only black and white, it is infinitely creative and colorful.

FIND COLORS

Wife-and-husband team Shopsin and Fulford have done the impossible and reimagined the color concept book.

“We made you a colors book. It has no color: Hold up the pages and look through the shaped holes. You’ll find all the colors you need.” So begins the only text in the book, except for the directive to “FIND” the named, absent color on the double spreads. Each page includes a die-cut hole at the center that youngsters can hold up and peek through to find the specified color in their environs. The recto is white and the verso is black, which allows children to use either as the frame. A sun (a die-cut circle with die-cut lines radiating out) is in search of yellow, a rooster needs red, and a leaf requires green. After the usual subjects are out of the way, the project goes on to include less-common colors, like a trio of squiggly worms for pink, four paw prints for brown, a pair of sunglasses for black. The seek-and-find mission ends with a rainbow arc and the decree to “FIND COLORS.” Created in partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art, this book would be an excellent companion for readers’ next gallery visits. The tough binding and sturdy pages will withstand robust interaction, but younger toddlers may need some adult help holding up the book due to its substantial weight.

Even though it is only black and white, it is infinitely creative and colorful. (Board book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7148-7659-7

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

Communicating the universal concept of color within the specific celebration of Holi, this gem deserves a place in every...

HOLI COLORS

Singh celebrates Holi, the Hindu festival of colors and love, and highlights six colors in this vibrant, playful board book.

Hindus celebrate Holi and the arrival of spring by tossing colored powders called gulal on one another. Short rhyming couplets, with type set within a design of the appropriate color, describe where the color is found. Some can be found everywhere (“Riding on the gentle breeze / came the GREEN of all the trees”), and some are specific to India (“Peacock brought the dreamiest BLUE— / he said he saved it just for you”). Stock photographs depict diverse children and their families and friends, with skin colors of different hues, laughing and celebrating with various Holi colors smeared over their faces and bodies. The sheer joy of the event comes through on nearly every page (and one suspects the child crying due to an eyeful of powder will brighten up soon enough), introducing the fun of the observance to all readers. A brief note at the end of the book gives more information about the festival, explaining that it “celebrates the legendary love of Lord Krishna for his beloved, Radha.”

Communicating the universal concept of color within the specific celebration of Holi, this gem deserves a place in every child’s book bag. (Board book. 2-5) (Board book2-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1849-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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