It’s a truism that children’s literature, like children themselves within our larger society, tends to occupy a less-respected space in the world of letters than books for grown-ups. And within children’s literature, books for babies likewise tend to garner less attention than books for older readers—truly, board books are the Rodney Dangerfield of the literary universe. But I happen to love board books, which is why I am really happy that this, my first regular column, coincides with the summer edition of our semiannual board-book roundup.

For babies, reading is a full-body experience. They put their books in their mouths; they stomp on them; they fling them across the room. Even when cuddled in a lap and experimenting with the miracle of the page-turn, babies give it their all. Knowing this intense engagement makes it all the more tragic to me that so many people overlook this particular art form. If we aren’t giving the very youngest readers the best that we can, what is that saying about our dedication to nurturing them into reading children and then reading grown-ups?Children_Cover

Fortunately, though it’s all too easy to see the failure to understand the critical developmental moment that board books aim for, there are a lot of dedicated practitioners of the art out there. In this issue’s roundup, you will see starred reviews of books by Lorena Siminovich, Karen Blair, Cybèle Young and Leslie Patricelli (yes! The Patricelli imp is back!). These and many other terrific board books in our roundup will take readers from literal infancy to the far reaches of toddlerhood. I hope you—and more to the point, your babies—find them as exciting as I do.

Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor at Kirkus Reviews.