Playing and Learning with Board Books

Little Bear Where Are You?
Little Dog Where Are You?

Ekaterina Trukhan
Nosy Crow

It’s true to say that babies enjoy playing with mirrors and this new Where Are You? series has a mirror on every spread.
Taking inspiration from the hugely popular Family Finger rhyme, Little Bear introduces in turn little frog, little deer, little rabbit and little bear by means of a text with a repeat pattern: ‘Little —— , / Little —— , / where are you? // On the opposite page, comes the reply, ‘Here I am! Here I am! / Where are you?’ When the animal’s face is flipped down we see the words, “There you are!’, and a mirror is revealed for little humans to see their faces.
The final spread shows all four animals and beneath the fold, the titular character addresses the baby whose face is reflected in the mirror.
The large card flaps are easy to manipulate and sufficiently sturdy to stand up to the frequent use the books are likely to have.
Using the same structure, in Little Dog, illustrator Ekaterina Trukhan portrays first little hamster, followed by little bird, little cat and lastly, little dog (sporting a bobble hat).

Peekaboo Lion
Camilla Reid and Ingela P Arrhenius
Nosy Crow

This latest in the novelty series with sliders and a final mirror, features wild animals, although they look deceptively friendly in Ingela’s vibrant, patterned illustrations. The playful rhyming text comprises two words per page and introduces animals large and small; and there are opportunities to meet both adult animals and their young on some spreads.
A fun way to develop tinies’ language and manipulative skills together with a surprise finale.

Don’t Mix Up My Puppy
Rosamund Lloyd and Spencer Wilson
Little Tiger

Little humans will enjoy getting their paws on this mix-and-match doggie delight, with its five different puppies depicted, one per spread, in Spencer Wilson’s bold illustrations.

First we meet a Dalmatian with a spotty, dotty tail, then a velvety tailed dachshund, next comes a sly terrier whose tail is fancy and flowy; the white poodle’s tail matches his cute, curly self and finally there’s an Irish setter with a fluffy, furry tail.

Toddlers can have fun turning the wheel, finding each pup’s tail and feeling the respective tactile rear end appendages. Just right for developing hand-eye coordination too.

We Are Love / Don’t Mix Up My Dinosaur

These are two new titles from Little Tiger – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

We Are Love
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott

Animal parents furry, wrinkly, scaly and feathery invite little humans to watch their demonstrations of love for their offspring. Whether it’s leaping squirrels, plodding pachyderms, diving dolphins, waddling penguins or whatever, we can find loving care in a multitude of places. Young children will be reassured to see that the final pages show a mother and her small child showing their heartfelt love for one another.

A clever cutaway design feature enables the second of the two spreads allocated to each loving parent and little one, to show them coming together to form a heart shape. 

A simple rhyming text that flows nicely and Elliott’s textured illustrations of the featured creatures make for a reassuring lap book or bedtime book to share with the very youngest, some of whom may notice that there are other unnamed animal pairs in the background also forming heart shapes and even some minibeasts forming hearts with their wings.

Don’t Mix Up My Dinosaur
Rosamund Lloyd and Spencer Wilson

Five dinosaurs provide tactile fun in this matching game of a book. By turning the wheel little ones can help Triceratops find her missing horn; enable Ankylosaurus to get back his lumpy, bumpy club, make sure Velociraptor and her fluffy tail are reunited, 

put Parasaurolophus’s crest where it should be and put Spinosaurus and her scaly tail together again.

The wheel is easily moved by little hands and young children will enjoy meeting the various brightly coloured dinosaurs – in their correct or mixed-up forms. They’ll also enjoy learning (and trying to get their tongues around) their correct names; these are provided on the back cover though not in the simple repetitive text. Interactive, inventive and appealing.

Fish, Llamas and a Visit to the Zoo

1 2 3 Fish in the Sea
Luna Parks, illustrated by Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

There’s tactile fun along with the counting and number recognition between the covers of this brightly coloured, textured, rhyming board book. We start with one three coloured little fishy swimming in the ocean, that one meets a speedy friend, and then another. The three explore inside a cave where they meet fishy number four, followed soon after as they dash around by fishy number 5. But then as they swim 5 abreast a scary shark gives chase. Time to hide little fishes …

Be Calmer, Llama!
Rosamund Lloyd and Gareth Lucas
Little Tiger

In her rhyming, counting down narrative, Rosamund Lloyd starts with five llamas frenetically rushing around. They decide that it’s time to slow down for that way lies more greater happiness so they hope. Each one finds a different way to become calmer: the first does so by means of water, the next gives himself a bit of self-love, leaving three giddy creatures. A wise one does some relaxing exercises, leaving two females; one undertakes some deep exhalations and as the last is anticipating some solo relaxation, back bounce the others. I wonder what happens …
Counting fun set against Gareth Lucas’ five calm-inducing natural backgrounds, each bursting with wildlife that adults and toddlers can talk about together, in addition to trying out some of the llamas’ ways to slow down.

Not really a board book but offering a wealth of language possibilities is

Lola Loves Animals

In this wordless picture book illustrated with brightly coloured digital art, readers join young Lola and her mum on a trip to the zoo. Its clever concertina construction shows the red path they take against a white background on the walk to the zoo and as Lola enjoys her encounters with in turn an elephant, a gorilla, a moose, giraffes and a hippo. (I love the changing emotions on the faces of the characters). Her toy duck meanwhile enjoys making a new friend. 

During this time the weather has changed from sunny to rainy, and as they head homewards, it’s dark.

At the end is a lift the flap door; this gives readers entry to the second part of Lola’s adventure on the other side of the page. Here, a black background shows her dream of flying through the air and having an exciting adventure with the animals she met at the zoo.

The clever accordion fold means that the book stands up easily enabling it to act as a backdrop for a child’s imaginative play (thus fulfilling the cover boast: ‘Book & Playset in one!’) There’s a wealth of storytelling potential between the covers of this clever book, especially if you add some small world characters and objects.

You Can Be A Supercat / Vehicles

You Can Be A Supercat
Rosamund Lloyd and Chris Dickason
Little Tiger

Here’s a rhyming narrative that, together with fun feline scenes, invites little ones to participate in some role play. I’m sure small human would-be superheroes will love the opportunity to emulate wonder kitty Supercat as she whizzes around smiling at everyone and sporting her snazzy underpants, cloak and funky purple mask (there’s even one of those tucked inside the front cover for the little reader to wear) and performing acts of kindness as she goes. She’s always ready to offer help or invite a lonely person she spies to play with her, and despite not having lots of toys Supercat is more than willing to share those she has.

When it comes to a vocal rendition, this wonder kitty will sing with gusto and assuredly bring on a laugh as she performs with her feline flair. What youngster would want to turn down the chance to be a Supercat just like her; for sure it’ll make those who seize the opportunity feel good inside.

OKIDOKID, illustrated by Liuna Viradi
Little Tiger

This lift-the-flap book uses all kinds of means of getting around to present and explore five pairs of opposites. Thus a tricycle goes slow whereas a train moves fast; a submarine dives down low but a hot air balloon drifts high up in the sky; as she moves a pedal cyclist is quiet, on the other hand a motorcyclist’s vehicle is noisy.

There’s a small yacht sailing on the waves and there’s also a big steamboat and finally, the pink van is empty but the larger van has a full load. The book becomes interactive when little ones open the flap on each recto but adults can instigate many more interactions. For instance they might ask a child, “where do you think the train is going to?”; “how many passengers can you count?” and so on – there are numerous possibilities herein that are presented in Liuna Viradi’s bold, bright stylised illustrations

Board Book Play and Learn

When I Grow Up I Want To Drive …
When I Grow Up I Want To Be …

Rosamund Lloyd and Richard Merritt
Little Tiger

Both books hide much of their brief snippets of information beneath the thirty flaps found between the covers.

The first offers 5 different vehicles – a tractor, an ambulance, a cement mixer, a recycling truck and an aeroplane each shown on the verso and then as part of an appropriate scene on the recto, while the final spread is an integral scene …

A similar pattern is used in the look at 5 possible jobs tinies might aspire to, with a representative from each introducing themselves opposite a look at the role in action. Again the places of work are all shown in the final spread.

Bright artwork by Richard Merritt shows in turn an astronaut, a teacher, an athlete, a firefighter and a doctor.

Let’s Find The Dinosaur
Let’s Find The Mermaid

illustrated by Alex Willmore
Little Tiger

Search-and-find fun with a hunt for a T.Rex in the first book, and Mermaid in the second, is given a tactile element with felt flaps and die cut pages.

As tots engage in the game of hide and seek they’ll listen to descriptive clues such as ‘T-Rex has a scaly head. Could this be T-Rex behind the leaves.’ Or ‘Mermaid has a swishy tail. Could this be Mermaid in the coral?’

Alex Willmore’s attractively patterned spreads will ensure that each game is a playful learning opportunity, while the repeat refrain textual patterning will help with word recognition if appropriate for the particular child.

Baby 101 Touch and Trace: Plant and Grow/ Build a House
Patricia Hegarty and Thomas Elliott
Caterpillar Books

Two new titles in the STEM series for toddlers take a look at horticulture and building construction.

Plant and Grow tells of the vital things needed for seeds to germinate and thrive until the crops are ready to pick and consume.

There’s a mathematical thread to Build a House with such vocabulary as basic 2D shape names and simple counting (of roof tiles) as well as a spread showing how bricks might be bonded.

Both titles have a tactile element thanks to the ‘touch-and-trace’ details built into Thomas Elliott’s illustrations on every page to  help develop the fine motor skills of little users.

Fun learning for babies and toddlers.