Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Best Board Books in the History of Ever

When I was a freshman in college (or a sophomore...they all run together) and I set up my first radio station on Pandora, I stocked it with all my favorite bands and titled it, with gusto, The Best Music in the History of Ever. A few months later when I logged onto my Pandora account I found a message from a stranger saying, "Best Music in the History of Ever? Yeah right!" and pointing out several well known, well loved musicians that I had missed and belittling some of the choices I had included. Let's be honest: ACDC was on there. Don't judge. I was 18.

Anyway, point being that whenever I go to make book lists, that experience is in the back of my mind. So here you go:

The Best Board Books in the History of Ever

...except for the silly ones that I like that you don't...

...and except for the great ones that I totally forgot because I'm blonde and have a ton of kids sucking my brain juice away...

But for real: THE BEST BOARD BOOKS IN THE HISTORY OF EVER. (Author is not responsible for any negative side effects brought on by exposure to excess amounts of hyperbole.)

  • Anything by Sandra Boynton. I love Sandra Boynton so much that I bought her books before I even had kids. Seriously. I'm wracking my brains right now to remember if there are any of her books I've read that I hated.. and I'm coming up empty. The best part of reading Boynton is that not only is it entertaining for the kids, but it doesn't leave you wanting to rip your hair out after you've read each book 87,364 times--which is life with kids. If that's not enough of a recommendation, let me put it this way: when I was packing the twins' books for our month long move to CA, half of my selection was Boynton.
  • Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. I have no logical explanation for why this book has been so beloved by my children, but the wear and tear is significant. I blame the Man for improvising the line "THERE'S A GORILLA IN MY BED" which really helped flesh out the text which consists solely of "Goodnight!"
  • Eric Carle's collection. I have a dear friend who maintains that if you've read one Eric Carle book, you've read them all. Which is kind of true... BUT they are classics for a reason. The reason being that the colors are bright, the story line is simple, and everybody loves the Very Hungry Caterpillar. (True confession: this week I've been doing themed story time with the twins: one night was Sandra Boynton, one night was Eric Carle, one night was Beatrix Potter... It was fun.)
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney (author) and Anita Jeram (illustrator). I know. Some people think this book is overdone, but I will never get tired of Littles telling me that he loves me to the Golden Gate bridge and back and Tiny saying he loves me "all the way out of the universary".
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. The pictures are so beautiful, and I will be honest and cheesy here and say that I read these words like a blessing over my children. Even if my mom doesn't like that the child is referred to as "my friend" and is rigid about changing it when she's the one reading. Picky, I tell you...

  • The Pokey Little Puppy by Janet Sebring Lowrey (author) and Gustaf Tenggren (illustrator). Because it will make you want to cuddle your furry friends, eat dessert, and maybe (just maybe) dig under a fence and go out on an adventure into the wild, wild world.
  • The Monster at the End of this Book (and its sequel, Another Monster at the End of this Book) by Jon Stone (author) and Michael Smollin (illustrator). Honestly, I don't read these to the twins yet because I don't think they would quite get them, but the boys thought they were And I like working on my Grover impersonation.
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. I'm not going to lie: Mike Mulligan is not my favorite, but oh, do my boys love him. That includes Bruiser who thought the steam shovel was a trash truck.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (author) and Clement Hurd (illustrator). Another that is not my favorite--I'm sorry, but the artwork really is awful: those two kittens look like rabid squirrels--but it's a classic for a reason (I feel like I've said this phrase before...). The words are slow and soothing, and the quiet repetition is a boon at bedtime.
  • Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw (author) and Margot Apple (illustrator). This is another one I brought along on the trip to CA. I haven't fallen in love with the rest of the series quite as much, but the original sheep in a jeep is great.
  • Anything tactile. Bee's favorite (for several weeks) was Usborne's Touchy-Feely Penguins by Victoria Ball. The words weren't great, but the fuzzy penguins were happiness in a book. There are twenty gazillion of these kinds of books. Find one or two you don't mind your child becoming obsessed with and go from there.
I'm sure I'm forgetting more than a few, but if I don't quit now, you'll all have been bored to sleep (Goodnight Moon can do that to you). One quick honorable mention for the military kids out there, Over There and Coming Home by Dorinda Silver Williams (author) and Brenda Gilliam (illustrator) are fantastic board book choices for young kids dealing with deployment. While the Man was gone this last time, the boys read them almost every single night until Littles could recite them word for word. 

At any rate, I didn't think it was fair to write about reading to your babies without at least pointing you in the direction of some books that won't make you feel like bashing your head into the wall repeatedly (other than possibly Mike Mulligan but that's only after intense repetition).

One final word...I am a huge proponent of making use of your library system. In fact, the kids and I are heading that direction any moment now. But when it comes to board books, skip the borrowing and buy. The point of board books is that they can be chewed on, drooled on, carried around everywhere, slept get the point. Library just never know how many other grubby kids have done that before your kids got to them. Just saying. I'm not germaphobic, but everyone will enjoy their board books more thoroughly if they're not also enjoying the passing on of viral illnesses. Clorox wipes only go so far.

Okay, wait, one more final word: you will be seduced by all those beautiful lift-the-flap board books. Your children will love them. You will find them so cunning and fun. But they are another case of defeating the purpose. Those little flaps...they are so fun to rip. They are so impossible to reattach. The story line is inevitably so impossible to understand once said flaps are irrevocably destroyed.

So, anyone want to add any to our obviously completely exhaustive list of board books? ::there are no board books worth reading unless they have been mentioned in this specific blog post::


  1. My favorites are the belly button book and personal penguin but of course those are classic boynton. Also we had a board book of Jesus our brother kind and good and 1, 2, 3 a counting book by gyo fujikawa that are needing to be added!

  2. Urban Baby series! Not only are they droll and surprisingly logical, I'm still finding little surprises in the illustrations. 5 stars. But I also like your list :)

  3. And board books can do some nice damage when thrown at the head of nearby siblings. Board books forever! I like the ones with fuzzy animals to pet in them and the ones where you have 3 sections and you change the look of the animal based on which part of which page you are on.