What Does Baby See? By Begin Smart, published by Sterling Publishing
Age: newborn-6 months Genre: board book Pages: 10
Annotation: Start reading to your child early with What Does Baby See?. Using simple black, white, and red pictures (the colors your baby sees first), this book focuses on early literacy and parent-child interaction.
Review: Designed for babes aged newborn-6 months, the book only uses black, white, and red graphics and has not text. While it lacks a "story," it has instructions to the parent: talk to your child about the book and let them handle the book while you do so. This is a very interesting concept. It might be intimidating to parents who are not used to a lack of narrative structure, but the point is to encourage an early familiarity with books, and this seems like it will accomplish that goal.
Critical Reviews: none available
Counting Cockatoos, by Stella Blackstone and Stephanie Bauer, published by Barefoot Books
Age: 6 months-4 years Genre: board book, counting Pages: 29
Annotation: This board book focuses on counting and on identifying animals. The simple concept is illustrated by very beautiful and bold pictures. Very cute!
Review: The bright oil paintings in Counting Cockatoos add whimsy to the simple counting story. Through it all, a child focuses on counting the animals, but there are two cockatoos hidden on each page. Can you find them?
Critical Review: School Library Journal is favorable to the book, though says that because there are so many counting books on the market, it is ok to not purchase the book because the story has nothing new—it's the illustrations that make this book so good. On the other hand, Children's Literature says that this book would be a good purchase to flesh out a classroom or library collection as there is always a need for counting books and adults need variety. I'd agree with both of these reviews; the illustrations are what make this book so fun and it is important to not become board by a book. This would add variety to the collection.
Little One Step, by Simon James, published by Candlewick Press
Age: 2-4 Genre: board book Pages: 24
Annotation: Three ducklings get lost in the woods, but learn how to not give up and get safely home.
Review: Little One Step, a book about learning to not give up, teaches children to take life one step at a time. Originally published as a picture book, the board book edition was released in 2008. The delicate watercolor illustrations might be too faint for translation into a board book, and the story might be more suited for older children.
Critical Review: The New York Times says that this is a book that quietly charms with its simple illustrations and text. Kirkus Reviews say that this is a favorite for "lap sharing and…kids demonstrating their own steps." Both reviews talk about the delicate illustrations and understated text. But, both reviews are relevant to the picture book, not the board book, and say that the age range is 4-7. This book seems to be too complex for the board-book crowd, as it deals with complicated themes that might be too advanced for the 2-5s.
Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd, published by Harper & Row:
Age: 2-5 Genre: Picture book, rhyme Pages: 30
Annotation: A classic child's book, this would make a fantastic bedtime story as the narrator goes through the process of saying goodnight to all around.
Review: What to say? It's a classic and deservingly so. With pages alternating from black-and-white to color, the story begins by listing all things that are present in a room and then says goodnight to all of those items in order. The rhyming and predictability of the pattern build story anticipation and help with early literacy.
Critical Review: Both Christian Science Monitor and Children's Literature talk about the rhythmic words and the simple and predictable illustrations that make this book such a childhood classic. In a book that was originally printed in 1947, this is a childhood classic that still is used to read children to sleep. That durability is a testament to its quality as a childhood book. The whimsical illustrations and rhyming text work together to create a lyrical whole that continues to have power.
Here come the 123s, by They Might Be Giants, produced by Disney Sound and Idlewild Recordings
Age: 2-7 Genre: children's music Running Time: 44.5 minutes
Annotation: They Might Be Giants have produced a phenomenal kids' album focusing on numbers, though not necessarily on counting. The silly lyrics and upbeat rhythms will be fun for the whole family, whether it's doing the hustle for "High Five!" or enjoying the burlesque-style sound of "Number Two."
Review: This is a great CD. If you're already familiar with They Might Be Giants, you know that they have a penchant for silly and educational lyrics ("James K. Polk" or "Istanbul was Constantinople") so the transition to releasing a children's CD is a great fit for them. It's a fun disk and while it has an educational focus, it is still fun to listen to. It just proves that kids' music doesn't have to be obnoxious.
Critical Review: Jennifer White of Suite101.com said that this was a CD to have Indie-rock fans begging for more. The music on the CD doesn't condescend to its audience as it maintains the edgy humor that makes They Might Be Giants so distinctive. Geekparenting.com also wrote that this was a must-have album for parents and children—a merger of kids' music and adult humor. I whole-heartedly agree. In fact, I'm listening to it now for the 4th time!