10 Brilliant Board Books from Birth and Beyond
Board books are not just for babies. They’re portable, hardy in your handbag and less likely to become tatty. While these are suitable to be read to young babies, they will also provide fun for toddlers and delight children of primary school age.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
A quirky classic that will be treasured for decades, this adored zany tale combines adventure, mischief and cheer. With its rhyming pentameter it is a joy to read aloud and your children are sure to request it repeatedly. An inspiring gem from Dr Seuss’s unrivalled collection, which includes Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Giles Andreae states the obvious in this unique story that makes you feel about ten-foot tall! And – spoiler alert - it turns out giraffes can dance after all. A poetic introduction to self-belief from our long-necked jungle animal pal Gerald, who learns that it’s okay to be different and if you try hard, you can reach your goals. Oh and always listen to wise crickets when they give you top tips. Obviously.
Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman
A whole series of rhyming reads, featuring aliens, monsters, pirates and Father Christmas (Aliens Love Panta Claus), these are available as board books and paperbacks. Wonderfully illustrated by Ben Cort, imaginative and hilarious for all ages – because what child doesn’t find light toilet humour amusing? It will make them laugh with lines like: “Dinosaurs were all wiped out a long way back in history. No-one knows quite how or why, now this book solves the mystery.”
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
With pictures by Helen Oxenbury, it is not difficult to see why this won a Smarties Book Prize and is described by The Independent on Sunday as “a dramatic and comic masterpiece… Beautifully produced, written and illustrated – a classic”. The words “Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!” will probably swim round my mind for all eternity because it is each of my four kids’ favourite books from early childhood.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Millions of young fans of this enduring tale love its colourful collage illustrations and simple satisfying story of hope – charting the progress of a caterpillar eating his way through the weeks. A true classic by the award-winning globally cherished author-illustrator, its clever cut-out detail, sturdiness and gloss make the board book version extremely appealing to young children.
You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano Love
If this beautiful emotive book doesn’t have you a bit weepy, then – oh whatever, it certainly will! (“I am your dinner; you are my chocolate cake. I am your bedtime; you are my wide awake.”) I imagine myself in the future, surrounded by too many cats and empty Pot Noodles, pouring over the meaningful phrases. With lines of magical metaphor such as “I am your water wings; you are my deep. I am your open arms; you are my running leap”, you will need to squeezy-cuddle your child as you read. Even if that child is 22 years old. Hang on - I’ve got something in my eye.
On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
On the night you were born, Daddy was in the pub… It doesn’t go like that. This sentimental narrative celebrates the individuality of every child and is a poetic poignant reminder parents will enjoy at the end of a busy day. It is interactive in places, which holds interest (“The sound of your name is a magical one. Let’s say it out loud before we go on.” And “In fact, I think I’ll count to three so you can wiggle your toes for me”).
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
I have to admit the first few times I read this I thought I had drunk one too many double espressos. It’s whacky in its occasional random approach to word-smith-ery (which is definitely a real word). Phrasing such as “goodnight comb and goodnight brush” leave you wondering if it is a good idea to encourage your infant to talk to inanimate objects. But you do get used to reading “Goodnight nobody. Goodnight mush. And goodnight to the old lady whispering ‘Hush’”. With lulling calming soothing words and mid-century illustrations by Clement Hurd, it’s gentle, rhythmic and timeless - recently celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
This story helps depict to children how tricky it can be to convey in words just how very much we love someone. Anita Jeram’s illustrations are as gloriously sweet as the text, telling the story of a daddy hare and his young son and how much they love each other (“I love you all the way down the lane as far as the river”, cried Little Nutbrown Hare. “I love you across the river and over the hills,” said Big Nutbrown Hare.”). It is a global bestseller with heartwarming charm.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
This enchanting story is a huge hit with kids, partly for its rhythmic predictable phrasing and engaging romp through the deep dark wood, in which a mouse meets a fox, an owl and a snake before coming face to face with a Gruffalo. After a few more tantalizingly tense pages, we are told the Gruffalo’s favourite food is Gruffalo crumble and none of the creatures get eaten, so everyone is happy. Phew.