Monday, 21 March 2016

Getting on board with board books by Jane Clarke

In the past, I've nearly always bought picture books as paperbacks, occasionally buying a hardback copy of a book I love in the hope of preserving it for posterity. 

All that has changed with the arrival of my two baby granddaughters. Sammy is 1 year old this week and Angelina turns 2 next month. They both love books. They love being read to - but they also love turning the pages (in any order), bashing the book, trying to pick the illustrations out of it and chewing and dribbling on the pages. 

It’s a joy seeing them interact with books, but it doesn’t do the pages of a conventional picture book much good, especially when they’re also being shared with a puppy.

So, recently, I’ve found myself buying board books. Board books specifically written and designed for the under 3s tend to have simpler text, not so many pages and not as much story as picture books. These delight my granddaughters, and I’ve loved writing some of them myself, but (whisper it) they’re often not such a satisfying read for the adult as a good picture book is.

Happily, lots of classic picture books are available in board form, and some (but not all) work really well in this format. I couldn’t resist getting some I read to my boys when they were small.The corners get a big splayed out and soggy, but they survive much better than the paperbacks ever did.

I’d love to hear what picture books you think work well as board books, so I can add to my collection.

Jane’s latest picture book 
Old Macdonald’s Things that Go, 
illustrated by Migy Blanco.
Out this month in hardback in the UK. 

Jane's four very yummy and chewable board books,
tastily illustrated by Georgie Birkett.


  1. I've only just pulled out our board books, to make room for picture ones, as my youngest is now five. I have them here beside me- these are the most worn out: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Cricket, One Gorgeous Baby (Martine Oborne and Ingrid Godon), Dancing Bears (Steve Augarde), A Magical Day with Matisse(Julie Meberg and Suzanne Bober), Rosie's Walk(my first son was born in Celtic Tiger times and every child at our health centre, and every health centre throughout the country(I think) was given a copy of this and Dear Zoo, also loved, and one other book whose title I cannot remember) and of course, Where's Spot?

  2. You absolutely have to get Mouse Paint, by Ellen Stoll Walsh. The board book version is just as good as the original, even through hundreds of readings.

  3. Nick Sharratt and Stephen Tucker's wonderful series about a baby - My Day, My Friends, My Toys, My Days Out. My children all loved these and they were were very well chewed.

  4. 'Guess How Much I Love You' (McBratney/Jeram) is really nice as a board book, as is 'Toddle Waddle' (Donaldson/Sharratt). A couple of me and Nick East's Goodnight books came out as board books this year, they each lost a spread to fit the format but they still work well! And while I'm blowing my own trumpet, 'Bear Boar' and 'Yak Yuk' with David Simm are lovely and were written specifically as board books - I was challenging myself to write a narrative in as few words as possible, inspired by Viv French's and Alison Bartlett's 'Lullaby Lion' - if you can get hold of a copy of that, I'd highly recommend it. It's a gorgeous board book with lots of heart.

  5. You can also mix board books with wooden bricks to make walls of buildings, I seem to remember!

  6. Interesting post! I think you and your grandbabies might enjoy the Indestructibles series of "board books". I put board books in quotes because these picture books are more like paperbacks but the paperlike material is untearable and washable. They're perfect for babies to chew on!

  7. Thanks Lauri, I don't know those, I'll check them out.

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