Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘concept

cover image for Are You My Mommy?Are You My Mommy? by Joyce Wan

“Mommy! Mommy! Where is my mommy?” a little bunny cries, as they ask all the animals they encounter if they are their mother.

SQUEE! A new Joyce Wan book!

No, this is not a new premise, but Wan’s take on it is excellent and fresh and adorable, as always.  Wan turns the common trope into a guessing game, as each adult animal responds to the bunny by saying “No, I am a [chicken/pig/horse] and my baby is a…” with the answer on the next page, giving little ones a chance to guess and show off. Each answer is also revealed with the use of a clever cut out, creating visual and tactile interest.  Plus, for such a small, short book, it does a wonderful job of introducing vocabulary – many board books use words like “chicken” but fewer use “foal.”

cover image for In My MeadowIn My Meadow by Sara Glillingham & Lorena Siminovich

I’ve reviewed another in this series and everything I said about In My Forest is true of this book as well.  The sense of place is not quite as well defined here, but that’s only because this book focuses more on sustenance (clover, strawberries, and cool water) than on surroundings.  And since that’s a decision that makes sense for a series of board books, and creates a richer experience over the course of the series, I can’t fault it or the creators for doing so.

cover image for Creature ColorsCreature Colors by Andrew Zuckerman

Yes, I know that your library probably has more books about colors than you know what to do with, but you’ll want to make room for this one, I promise.  Zuckerman’s brilliant, bright, and detailed photographs really make this book stand out, even if it does sometimes feel like half the animals are birds of one type or another.

cover image for The End (Almost)The End (Almost) by Jim Benton

A blue bear named Donut has a story he wants to share with you!  But when the story is over, will Donut be ready for the book to end?

I could tell you how silly and hilarious this book is, but since it’s written and illustrated by Jim Benton – creator of Dear Dumb Diary, Frannie K. Stein, and the Happy Bunny – do you really need me to? More seriously though, Benton did a great job adapting his humor to a younger set of kids than his books usually target. It’s not quite There is a Bird on Your Head levels of funny, but it is definitely entertaining.

cover image for HippoppositesHippopposites by Janik Coat

This is, indeed, yet another board book about opposites for young children. Coat’s book is worth highlighting, however, because of it’s uniqueness and memorable design.

This particular concept book doesn’t feature a popular character or only make use of the typical pairings for such titles.  Instead, the pages inside use a (often) red hippopotamus to illustrate the difference between heavy and light, in front and behind, etc.  By using the same basic shape for each page (the red hippopotamus has a very geometric design to it) Coat’s book is able to present concepts (like “transparent”) that would be much more difficult otherwise  This is also one of those board books with the extra thick and glossy pages, and several of the shapes on the pages are raised or indented, making the pages easier and more interesting for little hands.  Not every pair works as well as it could, but it’s well done overall. Highly recommended.


inside pages of Hippopoositesinside pages for Hippopoositesinside pages of Hippopposites


cover image for The Rainbow FishThe Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (board book version)

Rainbow Fish was beautiful, too beautiful to play with the other fish.  Only, now Rainbow fish is lonely. What will he do?

That first sentence up there is almost exactly what the first page says.  Which tells you all you need to know about this book.  I suspect that there’s more text in the picture book version of this story, and perhaps the extra words are an improvement. But yikes! I think the moral of the story was supposed to be about sharing or being considerate, instead the lesson seems to be that you should give away parts of your body so that people will like you.

cover image for SnowSnow by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

“I have always loved the snow.” Page by page, a young bunny talks about all the things she loves about snow and winter.

I always have such high hopes for Wallace’s books; she’s done so many on the kinds of topics that make for great preschool themes.  And yet…the text is always matter of fact, there’s no rhythm or elegance to it, and the illustrations are readable but lack inspiration or harmony.  They’re always just serviceable enough, but never really well done.

cover image for National Geographic Look and Learn: Opposites!Look and Learn: Opposites by National Geographic

Despite the page layouts being slightly busier than they ought to be for a board book, this is an excellent concept book for little ones.  National Geographic’s stunning photographs are put to good use (badly photoshopped cover notwithstanding), as they always are.  It also goes beyond the typical set up for such books; after each type of opposite is introduced in the traditional way (an image illustrating that particular pair, and the accompanying text) it doesn’t immediately move onto the next pair.  Instead, the following pages then present a similar, but more complicated picture, as well as questions that invite parents and toddlers to have deeper conversations about the concept.  The layouts on these pages could use some cleaning up, but they do an excellent job modeling for parents how to engage their children in dialog about the books they are reading.

cover image for My Lucky Little DragonMy Lucky Little Dragon by Joyce Wan

I adore Joyce Wan’s You are My Cupcake and We Belong Together, so I was very excited to stumble across My Lucky Little Dragon on display at the bookstore.  Just like the other two board books, My Lucky Little Dragon features a different endearment on each spread, this time focusing on the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.  Wan’s illustrations are just as adorable as always and full of personality.  They also feature a variety of colors that pop! off the page, yet remain soft and almost pastel, rather than being limited to high contrast primary colors.

cover image for Curious Baby Curious George:  My First Words at the FarmCurious Baby George: My First Words at the Farm by Greg Paprocki

Just as the title says, this board book is about farm related words, consisting of illustrations and the names of various nouns included in the pictures.  The illustrations themselves will likely delight it’s target audience, but the choice of font and words are questionable.  It’s not an awful book, but there are much better books out there available for the same price.

cover image for Baby ColorsBaby Colors by Rachel Hale

If you recall, Hale is also the author/illustrator of Baby Giggles, which was cute, adorable, and well put together – but extremely homogenous, in terms of the kinds of babies being photographed.  Baby Colors still treats white as the default, but manages to have closer to a quarter or third of the children pictured be children of color.  The rhyming text works, although the colors being discussed aren’t always as prominent as they could be.  Overall, a good book to have in the collection, despite it’s flaws.

cover image for The Day I Had to Play With My SisterThe Day I Had to Play With My Sister by Crosby Bonsall

A young boy and his even younger sister attempt to play hide and seek, but the younger sister doesn’t quite understand how to play.

For some strange reason I remember liking this book as a kid. Which makes me wonder about the overall quality of easy readers available at the time. To be fair, there is humor here, and it’s the kind of humor that your average seven year old with a younger (or older) sibling can relate to.  The illustrations in particular haven’t aged well though, and it’s a meaner type of humor than, say, what readers find in the Piggie and Elephant books.

cover image for Up CloseUp Close by Gay Wegerif

Brightly colored shapes make faces that (with a turn of the page) belong to one animal or another.  It’s a cute book,  but I’m not sure how well it works for toddlers.  My guess is that older babies/younger toddlers may have a hard time recognizing the shapes as faces, and that even those old enough to play along with the guessing game the book sets up (“I see your round snout. You are are…”) will not have enough clues to make the connections that are needed.  I’d need to read it to some kids to be sure though.

That said, it is very cute (did I mention that already?) and clever and I’m definitely interested in the author’s other books.

cover image for Colors inside pages of Colors

Colors by Xavier Deneux

There is no shortage of concept board books out there, but Deneux’s manages to memorable despite the odds. Bright,bold colors and shapes are balanced by cute characters and smooth edges and textures. Each double page spread also features a raised image on one side and a corresponding hollow in the other, giving this book added interest for little fingers.  Even better, Deneux manages to add in a few surprises that expand on the pattern he’s created rather than breaking it, thus keeping the topic fresh while still being consistent enough for the book’s target audience.

cover image for Baby Giggles cover image for Hello Winter

Baby Giggles by Rachael Hale

Quick, snappy rhymes and adorable babies doing baby things – and demonstrating a nice range of emotions.  I can see why the author/photographer has gotten the recognition she has, I just wish the the babies themselves were as diverse as their expressions.  I don’t know if Hale’s other board books are any better, but fifteen out of the sixteen photographs in this one were of white babies (as far as I could tell).

Hello Winter by Sanrio Company

This is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be: Hello Kitty doing wintery things and saying “hello” to things like snow and ice skating.  It’s really meant to appeal to adult fans of Hello Kitty, but it works well enough for toddlers.

cover image for Mommy! Mommy!Mommy! Mommy! by Taro Gomi

Two little chicks search for their mother. Mommy! Mommy! Is she behind the bush? Beside the fence?  There she is.

Simple, yet full of personality, Taro Gomi’s books are always a delight.

cover image for Good Night!Good Night! by Benoit Marchon

Good Night one and all! Everyone has a chance to say goodnight as the face in the cutout remains the same, but the pages turn to reveal all manner of people and creatures.  Unlike Spoonful, the face is easy to recognize as such and there’s no obvious gender stereotyping going on.  Overall, it’s cute and unique enough that I may have to add it to my staple of bedtime books to give to new babies.

cover image for SpoonfulSpoonful by Benoit Marchon

Everybody gets a spoonful!  (Of what, I’m not sure.)  As the pages turn, the people and creatures change, but the face (a cut out) remains the same.  Unfortunately, the personality that makes the illustrations so delightful also makes the meaning of the cut out shape less immediately recognizable.  Even worse, there’s quite a bit of annoying gender essentialism going on.  The pages don’t just alternate between a cat and then a dog, but also include (in order) a witch, a (male) firefighter, a fairy princess, and a (male) superhero.  No. Just…NO.  We really don’t need to presenting to toddlers that boys are heroes and girls are either witches or princesses. WTF?

cover image for I Say You Say Animal SoundsI Say, You Say Animal Sounds by Tad Carpenter

I say cat.  You say…MEOW!

With bright and unique illustrations, Carpenter makes use of a familiar, but popular, idea for little ones.  It’s the combination of repeating phrases and large sized flaps that makes this book stand out – together they both encourage children to complete the sentences and give them enough time to do so.

cover image for Surprise!Surprise! by Liesbet Slegers

A typical but solid “where is [baby]?” board and flap book for little ones.  I was especially impressed with the way the back side of the flaps were illustrated so that they blended in with the rest of the page, rather than simply being blank.  It’s a nice touch that is indicative of the care that went into making it a quality rather than a gimmicky board book.

cover image for Go! Go! Go!cover image for Let's Get Dressedcover image for Who's Hiding?

Go! Go! Go! by Scholastic

Things that go done in bright colors.  Pretty standard, except for the addition of textures and the oversized format, both of which help make this book stand out, but don’t quite make it a must buy.

Let’s Get Dressed by Caroline Jayne Church

Getting dressed has so many complicated steps for toddlers.  Thankfully, the chunky pages and flaps in this book are much simpler.  Also, I’m a sucker for cute, toddler-like teddy bears.

Who’s Hiding? by Scholastic

Cute “where is” type flap book.  The text is rhythmic and engaging. The illustrations are nice enough, but don’t stand out.

cover image for Baby Be Kindcover image How Does Baby Feel?cover image for Little, Big!

Baby Be Kind by Jane Cowen-Fletcher

Manners for toddlers.  Appropriate, but not brilliant.

How Does Baby Feel? by Karen Katz

Wonderful, just like all of Katz’ board books, with distinctive illustrations and big, sturdy flaps that should last longer than most.

Little, Big! by Amanda Wood

Tiny, chunky, board book about opposites.  Not very memorable.