It is National Library Week, and what better time to write another roundup of our favorite children’s books?
Especially at Peeper’s age, words are not the only important factor in a great book: Illustration is at least as equally compelling. So when I head to the board books section at my local library, I flip through the pages to see if I like the visuals as much as the topic.
If I don’t like the illustrations, I put the book down and search for another.
Here, then, are a few of our most-loved, beautifully illustrated baby books (along with a few bonus stories!).
I Can Do It Myself! by Steven Krensky, illustrated by Sara Gillingham. Toddlers love the empowerment that comes from picking out their own clothes and feeding themselves, and this bright book celebrates that independence. Pop art-like illustrations (think Roy Lichtenstein) are fun, visually arresting and unlike anything else you’ll see in the children’s section. I can’t get over Gillingham’s use of contrasting patterns that are, on the one hand, potentially seizure-inducing but are whimsical and exciting on the other.
How Loud Is A Lion? illustrated and written by Clare Beaton. Readers tramp through jungle and savannah, wandering past antelopes and zorillas (what’s a zorilla? Read to find out!), and all the while a lion is hiding in the background. Beaton’s hand-stitched work is inspired by folk art, and she uses felt, ribbon, beads and vintage fabrics to create the gorgeous tableaus. Beaton has dozens of other books; we’re reading Who Are You, Baby Kangaroo? right now.
Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Marlin, illustrated by Eric Carle. I couldn’t get away with a list of gorgeously illustrated kids’ books without mentioning Carle, could I? The rich, saturated colors against a white backdrop are his signature, and I love that I can see how he assembles the figures in this book. It introduces us to a menagerie of animals, and I can’t help but sing the text. This book transports me back to sitting on the floor in kindergarten, singing along and staring raptly at the pages my teacher, Mrs. Weineger, turned.
I already wrote about When I Was Born in my other children’s books post, but I have to include it again because I. Love. The. Illustrations.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Peeper’s other two favorite books of the moment, even if they’re not illustrated.
Dog, by Matthew Van Fleet. Peeper has already begun to destroy it (the latest casualty: a wagging tail), but all the interaction is well worth a few rips here and there. She knows that the poodle has a fluffy coat she can touch and that the bull dog lifts its leg to pee. When she plays by herself, she lifts the pages and opens and closes the book over and over and over and over again. She could do it for an hour!
Reach, by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisosvkis. Peeper laughs the minute I pick this one up. I know the rhymes by heart and could recite it any time, but she continues to be captivated by the babies who reach for their toes, milk, toys and daddy.
As a side note, I appreciate that baby faces books, including Reach, feature children of a wide range of races and ethnicities. Baby faces books are perhaps the only ones dedicated to diversity, when shelves are filled with white characters. (Of the 3,200 children’s books printed last year, fewer than 100 were about black main characters, according to this important op-ed challenging the whitewashed children’s book industry.)
What are your favorite books of the moment? What are your favorite illustrations?