Posts Tagged ‘concept books’

Looking for some great reads for those little shavers, say 15 months and up? Bold, jolly books, short in length but long in painstakingly-crafted ideas and artwork, coming right up!

Truck, Truck, Goose, written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Zoe Waring
published in 2017 by Harper

One oblivious duck goes on a picnic. How much trouble could that cause?

Plenty and more! Jazzy bright color, gobs of jolly trucks, great humor, and a sweet ending. Fabulous.

Goodnight World, written and illustrated by Debi Gliori
published in 2016 by Bloomsbury

Debi Gliori’s chalky, curving, comforting images spill across the pages in this lovely book…

… simply saying goodnight to all kinds of good things in the world. A creamy dreamy treat that’ll end your day with a warm glow.

Round — written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

An impeccably gorgeous book with a deceptively simple premise — exploring the round bits in our world.

One of my favorite books of the year. Warm, full of wonder, and beautiful.

Which Way? written by Marthe Jocelyn, illustrated by Tom Slaughter
published in 2010 by Tundra Books

Slaughter’s bold-as-brass graphic design and bright primary colors will arrest a child’s attention as you ponder together all the ways to get around and reach your destination.

Simple. Classy. Intelligent. This same team has several other cool titles for toddlers as well.

Stack the Cats, written and illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Abrams Appleseed

So stylish.

Beginning with one cat sleeping, we count up by cats. When enough of them arrive, we can stack ’em. But too many cats in a stack teeters and totters. Add a few more, and we can stack cats in a couple of equal, smaller stacks. Effortlessly mind-stretching number awareness on tap here with a side of wit.

I Know Numbers! written and illustrated by Taro Gomi
published in Japan in 1985; first U.S. edition 2017 by Chronicle Books

Taro Gomi’s genius explores the numerous places numbers show up in our world from thermometers to bus stops, team jerseys to dice…

… all delivered with aplomb and massive child-appeal.


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It’s difficult for me to review board books — which I know many of you are looking for — as my library does not let me request them and they land higgledy-piggledy in branch libraries across the metro area. Sigh. Not a good system for folks looking for specific titles to share with their smallests.

However, I managed to nab a few recently, and thought I’d share with you what I liked best.

First category — books that say “I love you,” and “The world is a beautiful place!”

my heart fills with happiness cover image

My Heart Fills With Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett
published in 2016 by Orca Book Publishers

This book is one of my favorites on the list today. Featuring Julie Flett’s gorgeous artwork (if you see her name on a book, just grab it!) the text simply narrates the gems in a small child’s world that fill his or her heart with happiness.

my heart fills with happiness illustration by julie flett

The special joy of this is that it’s written and illustrated from a Native American/First Nation’s perspective. It’s a lovely combination of widely-human thoughts — seeing the face of someone I love, singing — and specifically Native elements — bannock in the oven, drumming. Exceptional! Highest recommendation!

little you cover image

Little You, by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett
published in 2013 by Orca Book Publishers

Again from Julie Flett, this time accompanying the tender, sweet words of love whispered to a baby by his/her parents. “You are life/and breath adored. You are us/ and so much more.”

little you illustration by julie flett

Sophisticated design, rich colors and patterns, make this a great choice for those who can’t handle cute animals in pastel pinks and blues in their baby books!

we belong together cover image

We Belong Together, written and illustrated by Joyce Wan
published in 2011 by Cartwheel Books

Joyce Wan’s bold designs with her distinct contemporary-Japanese influences, rocket this book to exuberance as we discover that we belong together “like smitten little mittens” and like “peanut butter and jelly.”

we belong together interior by joyce wan

There is so much cheer packed into this small book! I’d say it’s one to buy, fully prepared to wear it completely out with re-readings!

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Two Long Ears, written and illustrated by Jacob A. Boehne
published in 2016 by Schiffer Publishing Inc.

Here’s one that some of you will roll your eyes at and some will immediately fall for!

two long ears interior by jacob boehne

Count from 1 to 10 while you introduce your baby to the spectrum of folks they’ll meet in any Western urban center — folks with plugs and studs and tattoos and green hair. Embrace the differences! Apparently if you purchase this book it comes with a wall poster and color-it-yourself poster.

Moving on to concept books. This is what I think board books are mainly for — a way to interact with your child over a book. Flip the pages any which way. Read the same page 10 times. It does not matter. There is no particular story line to follow. Just ideas to talk about together.

colors and counting cover images

Counting,created by Aino-Maija Metsola, published in 2015
Colors, published in 2016
both from Wide Eyed Editions

Let’s hear it for this Finnish illustrator/designer and her Marimekko-style designwork in these two brilliant books.

counting interior by aino maija metsola

Besides the riveting illustrations, these books feature flaps to lift revealing tiny puzzles for little ones to solve. One blackbird. Lift the flap to read, “The blackbird flies away to find its dinner. Can you spot 3 acorns?” Now we’ve got to glance around the page to locate those three acorns. In the Colors volume, we have to spot the odd one out.

colors interior by aino maija metsola

Great art, clever brainwork, loads of potential here.

pattern-tastic treasure hunt cover image

Pattern-tastic Treasure Hunt: Spot the Odd One Out with Nature, by Hvass and Hannibal
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

Another spot the odd one out book, this time with patterns to distinguish — spots, spirals, stripes.

pattern-tastic treasure hunt interior by hvass and hannaibal

Lots of great vocabulary to acquire and clever puzzlers to pore over.

brown bear color book cover image

Jane Foster’s Brown Bear Color Book
coming soon: October 2016, published by little bee books

Line up for textile-designer Jane Foster’s Color Book, coming out this fall. It’s a darling choice for people too young for the ideas required by the previous few titles.

brown bear color book interior by jane foster

Yet there’s great space for interaction and learning as we try to name all the red, orange, yellow objects on the page and also spy that beautiful fellow, Brown Bear. Charming.

rhymoceros cover imagehippopposites cover image

Rhymoceros and Hippopposites, by Janik Coat
published in 2015 and 2012 respectively, by Harry N. Abrams

Concepts of rhyming and opposites are playfully introduced in these two runaway favorites.

rhymoceros interior by janik coat

Check out the “stinky” and “inky” rhinos or the “clear” and “blurry” hippos, and discover a whole new world of word-fun. Extremely clever images stand strikingly alone on white pages, leaving us to fully engage with these good sports!

Moving On. I am of the mind that if a child is old enough to be working on her alphabet, she is probably ready to not be reading board books! Yet there are so, so many ABC board books! Here are a couple which I find so beautiful artistically, that it really does not matter whether elephant starts with an E or not!

A B See Cover image

A B See, by Elizabeth Doyle
published in 2015 by Little Simon

Intricate, lovely artwork here, with each letter made up of objects that begin with it. There are hundreds of beautiful particulars to name in this book.

A B See interior by Elizabeth Doyle

Lists in the back will help you search for or identify even more items than you originally spotted. Did you find that anchovy in the A? How about the Kimono in the K? As you can see, the level of sophistication makes this a book that will suit a wide age range. Bring it along on a car ride to while away the hours.

Charley Harper's Animal Alphabet cover image

Charley Harper’s Animal Alphabet, text by Zoe Burke, illustrations by Charley Harper
published in 2015 by Pomegranate

Charley Harper needs no introduction. If you want your kids to interact with sizzling design, you might let them meet more than 45 animals, introduced alphabetically, in this handsome book.

charley harper's animal alphabet interior by harper and burke

Zoe Burke provides brief rhyming text if you want something to read. Otherwise, you can just ooh and ah and name and wonder and chat together about these magnificent creatures.

Language acquisition is at its peak right now. Capitalize on that with these books introducing foreign languages. I’ve mentioned this series of books before. Now there are a couple more titles:

how monkey says my name is cover image

How Monkey Says “My Name Is!” and How Iguana Says “I Love You!” by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts
both published in 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Find out how monkey says “My name is Monkey” in eight different languages or how Iguana says “I love you!” as they travel around the world.

how monkey says my name is interior samoun and watts

The same languages are used in each book: French, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, and English. Pronunciation guides are included. We will still mangle the sounds of these beautiful languages, but hey, it’s fun to hear the 2-year-old tell Grandma “I love you” in Japanese, right?

If vehicles are your toddler’s bread-and-butter, these should do the trick:

whose truck cover image

Whose Truck? by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Jim Datz
published in 2015 by Harry N. Abrams

Six trucks. Six riddle-icious questions. Which truck is needed for which job? What do they use it for? What are the special parts on it?

whose truck interior buzzeo and datz

Gatefolds open to reveal the answers. Great, bold design with just the right amount of detail for curious kids. Included is a firetruck, snowplow, ambulance, broadcasting truck, utility truck and crane. Exciting stuff!

trucks cover image

Trucks, by Roger Priddy
published in 2013 by Priddy Books

Roger Priddy’s trademark black-line and riveting, bold illustrations open up the world of trucks to small fry. Lift the flaps and learn about diggers and dump trucks and fire engines and more.

trucks interior by roger priddy

This is just one in the line of Priddy’s lift-the-flap books that will transfix your kids over and over and over again.

yellow copter cover image

Yellow Copter, by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone
published in 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers

This is the book with the most storyline today. But trust me — there’s just a few jazzy lines to help you dive into this breathtaking adventure! The yellow rescue copter is on a mission! He’s got to rescue the teacher who is stuck on the ferris wheel! Watch him get the call and zoop into action!

yellow copter interior by hamilton and petrone

This is the third in a series of suspenseful, vehicle superhero tales! If you like, track down Blue Boat and Red Truck as well. Much imaginative play will result from these storylines I’m guessing!

cityblock cover image

Cityblock, by Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Peskimo
coming soon, in September 2016, from Abrams Appleseed

This is the fourth book in this dynamite series which began with Alphablock. These tremendously-hefty books are illustrated with pizzazz, their pages flooded with booming color, and are conceptually brilliant, with enticing die-cuts revealing just a little something, a hint for us as we guess what we’ll find when we…

cityblock interior by franceschelli and peskimo

…flip it and discover the entire picture.

cityblock interior2 by franceschelli and peskimo

Explore the city from the heights of a skyscraper to the depths of the subway in this volume. Great little item to have in mind for Christmas, perhaps.

Finally, I’m sure you’re all aware of the Scanimation book series but on the off-chance that you aren’t, these are a blast to share with small children. The one I have at home is:

waddle cover image

Waddle, by Rufus Butler Seder
published in 2009 by Workman Publishing Co.

Unless you see these, they are terrifically difficult to explain. Using a method of overlaying images and striped acetate, Seder has created mesmerizing MOVING pictures in his books. So yes, you can watch a penguin waddle and a frog hop by turning the pages. And then you can try it, too — can you waddle like a penguin? Can you hop like a frog?

waddle interior by Rufus Butler Seder

Other books in the series include Gallop!, Swing!, and ABC Animals. Great fun for a wide age range.

Hope you find something you love to “read” with your wee ones!

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before after cover imageBefore After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui
published in France, 2013
first US edition 2014 by Candlewick Press

I’ll just start right off and say: I am utterly smitten with this book! (I may have even hugged it.)

I am highly recommending you check it out.

Look at that gorgeous cover. Even the front and back covers hold before-and-afters. 

Inside are 176 pages of swoon-worthy design flowing across creamy pages. It’s art that children and adults will equally admire.

ramstein aregui before after illustration3

There are no words. Just pairs of images to make you think: What is the connection between these? How does this, follow this? Must it always follow?


Some are easy-pie ones like a towering, delectable cake on the left, and then on the right, a cake plate with just one scrumptious slice left. Plus crumbs. Hmm! What happened here?!

ramstein aregui before after illustration2

Some are trickier. Like this: 

before after ramstein aregui illustration5

Some are double pages or sequences of pages or have an intriguing connection point to the next set.

You could snuggle up and chat with your preschool child about these pages for hours. Or your kids can look and re-look at this book on their own and find all kinds of interesting connections.

before after ramstein aregui illustration4

As a bonus — you can finally find out which came first: the chicken or the egg!

This is brilliant stuff. Don’t miss it.


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In my annual Christmas lists, I’ve mentioned a few of my favorite-ever board books — those would be Farm Animals by Phoebe Dunn, and the Helen Oxenbury set — Tickle, Tickle, All Fall Down, Clap Hands, Say Goodnight

It’s harder for me to get my hands on new board books because of how they’re handled at my library, and truth be told, I think many board books are better as regular books with pages. 

But here, today, are five jolly selections for giving at baby showers, buying for a grandchild, purchasing for the children’s wing of a hospital…

one-two-three-climb-carol-thompson-cover imageOne, Two Three… Climb, by Carol Thompson
published in 2013 by Child’s Play

Multi-racial roly-polies scrabbling up the pillows and people in their world. So happy and charming.one two three jump cover image thompson

This has a similar vibe to the Helen Oxenbury series I mentioned up top. Sweet, simple, with content for the 6-18 month crowd. There are three more titles in this lovable series, coming out of the UK.

big and small cover imageBig and Small, by Britta Teckentrup
published in 2013 by Barefoot Books

Britta Teckentrup is brilliant with these concept books for the teeny ones, so look for her name and find some more gems for yourself.

Big and Small features seven pairs  from Nature — a lion and a cat, a tree and an acorn — showing the largeness and smallness of the world around us.

big and small illustration teckentrup

Knock-your-socks-off color, cheery as a robin, pleasing design, and a morefast and slow cover image interesting vocabulary than many books for this age group.

A companion book, Fast and Slow, contains pairs of vehicles — rocket and hot air balloon, truck and wheelbarrow. Love these.

alphablock cover imageAlphablock, by Christopher Franceschelli, art by Peskimo
published in 2013 by Abrams Appleseed

I fell for this the moment I came across it — such fun!

First of all, it is Hefty! It feels like you’ve got your hands on something mighty important!

Then, the cover — oh so snazzy. Doesn’t it make you want to see what’ inside?!

Each letter has a two page spread, with a die-cut letter that hinges in the middle. You can see how that works here:

Alphablock-letter-M fromtheshelf dot com

At first you just catch a glimpse of something beginning with “M.” Flip the letter and you get the whole moon.

Look what starts with letter C!

Smart graphic design, sweet colors. A whole lot of fun to look at, even if you have no idea what the alphabet is all about.

the swing cover image julie morstadThe Swing, by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Julie Morstad
published in 2012 by Simply Read Books

Here’s Julie Morstad again (author/illustrator of How To), bringing her amazing talents to bear on Stevenson’s classic poem. 

A lovely poem,

the swing illustration julie morstad

treated sublimely by this Canadian artist.

the swing illustration3 julie morstad

Just…lovely is all.

how hippo says hello cover imageHow Hippo Says Hello! by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts
published in 2014 by Sterling Children’s Books

Want to raise a polyglot? Or at least a world-aware child? Might just get started now with this friendly hippo who travels to France, Russia, Egypt, India, China, Japan, and Argentina.

Everywhere he goes, he greets one new friend  — Hello! — in the new language.how hippo says hello samoun and watts 001Charming illustrations provide ambiance and setting, and there’s a pronunciation guide so you can figure out how to say “Al Salaamu Alaykum!” properly.

A companion book, How Gator Says Goodbye, visits all the same countries, teaching us how to bid a fond farewell.

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