Babies and toddlers may not yet be able to read to themselves, but they do love to turn the pages and look at pictures while they’re being read to. With so many board books to choose from, we asked eight booksellers to recommend their favourite titles that will help nurture a love of books in little ones. Read on for the best new releases, much-loved classics, and the most inventive interactive board books.
The best board books
“I used to be able to recite this one off the top of my head because I’d read it so many times,” says John Newman, children’s book buyer at Newham Bookshop, in East Ham, London. “When our little ones were babies we used to lay them on a rug and put it by the side of them so they could see it, as the colours are really lovely and bright, and the multicultural illustrations reflect the world they are living in.”
Meera Ghanshamdas, manager at Moon Lane Ink, in Herne Hill, London, counts this as one of her “all-time favourite storybooks.” “It’s a lovely rhyming story done in a really fantastic way, about getting a baby to bed and trying to get them to do things,” she says. Valentina Alexander, owner of MyBookBasket, in Birmingham, also recommends this title, adding that it is “a fun book to read through” with “great illustrations”. To order books from Moon Lane Ink please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“This is a classic children’s story which I loved when I was a child,” says Ellen Wilson, general manager at Golden Hare Books, in Edinburgh. Judith Kerr’s picture book about a lovable, bothersome cat was first published 50 years ago and has now been adapted into a board book, which Wilson says is a really “lovely edition.”
“This one does grab your throat a bit when you’re reading it,” says Ghanshamdas. “It is a really simple story — there is literally one or two words per page — but it has a clear message about bullying and friendship and it is really touching. I recommend it to virtually every parent.”
Alexander “loves the descriptive phrases in this book” by renowned feminist theorist bell hooks. “It is a great way to celebrate Afro hair,” she adds.
“This board book was only released in August and it’s already very popular,” says Madeleine Neilly, owner of Wee Bookworms, in Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland. “Axel Sheffler’s illustrations are beautiful.” It’s a little rhyming tale about a friendly cow who is looking for the perfect place to get a good night’s rest.
“You may think this topic is too old for a toddler, but both of my kids could speak quite early and I always put that down to early reading,” says Ghanshamdas. “This book is an alphabet of words related to equality, rights and democracy, and so the age capture is broader than many board books, I’d say it goes right up to 5-year-olds. One of our customers who was a local councillor, she buys this book every time one of her friends has kids.”
The best interactive board books
“This is one of my absolute favourite books,” says Newman. “Seeing children interact with Press Here reminds you why books are so important. You ask the child to press on a spot, or shake the book, then turn the page to see what has happened. It’s just incredibly creative.”“This is one of my absolute favourite books,” says Newman. “Seeing children interact with Press Here reminds you why books are so important. You ask the child to press on a spot, or shake the book, then turn the page to see what has happened. It’s just incredibly creative.”
Alexander recommends this “fun rhyming book” as it can “help you bond with baby.” It is also a personal favourite of Angel Miller, CEO of No Ordinary Bookshop, an online store committed to selling books for and about Black, mixed race, and dual heritage children. “It’s such a darling little counting book,” she says. “It’s about a mother talking to her little one, discovering her toes: ‘There’s ten little toes all in a row, whose toes are those, do you know?’ And you’ve got these little brown feet sticking up.”
“This little series of hide-and-seek board books will bring a smile to your baby’s face,” says Neilly. “I love every single one of the series but I Thought I Saw A … Lion! is probably my favourite with its vibrant illustrations and funny situations. On each page there is a lot to explore and the little ones will enjoy moving the sliders to reveal the lion.”
Peekaboo is one of the first games babies learn how to play, which is why this book that encourages children to interact with mechanisms to push, pull and turn to reveal faces on every page “is bound to become a favourite,” according to Rachel Givertz, owner of Bags of Books, in Lewes, Sussex.
“In this split book you have to match animals to the scene they are in and then find the animals in the picture,” says Jones. “This is for those more sophisticated toddlers who will enjoy finding the tiny details, possibly with the help of a patient older sibling. It’s a fantastic idea I haven’t seen done before in this format and it has been a resounding hit.”
“This is part of a series of seven beautiful books about a cheeky little boy, which just fly off the shelves every single day,” says Miller. Her favourite title in the series is this one in which toddlers can lift the flaps to discover all the things Ted is doing to avoid going to bed. ”Ted’s very busy, I don’t know how his mum can keep up with him, that’s what makes it really interesting,” she adds.
“A wonderful gift for first-time parents,” says Neilly. “It features a nostalgic, simple, rhyming story that tells us about a day in a baby’s life. The illustrations are very detailed and provide a lot of opportunities for little conversations.”
“This is a gorgeously illustrated board book,” says Givertz. “Turn the shaped pages and follow the noisy train all the way to the seaside,” making the engine noises as you go.
“Absolutely beautiful,” says Newman. “Yonezu’s board books are just genius.” Cut out shapes become part of different animals with each turn of a page. “You get the reaction from the child every time — and it’s quite hard to do that, to actually keep children engaged,” Newman adds. “A good board book has to not only entertain a child, but also the adult who is having to read it over and over again, and that’s why I’d recommend Yonezo, because you just never get tired of reading his books.”
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