Category Archives: Board Books

But Not the Hippopotamus


Lots of animals are doing fun things together. But not the hippopotamus. Will she ever join in?

Our Boynton mini-theme continues with this somewhat bittersweet book. The boys enjoyed the rhymes, the very expressive animals, chiming in on the reoccurring title phrase, and the unexpected ending.

Author: Sandra Boynton
Illustrator: Sandra Boynton

Doggies: A Counting and Barking Book


The title pretty much says it all here. Like Blue Hat, Green Hat, it is vaguely educational but could get by on pure fun. I still have it memorized.

Author: Sandra Boynton
Illustrator: Sandra Boynton

Blue Hat, Green Hat


Sure, this book touches on learning colors and correctly putting on clothing. But it really is an excuse for enjoying dramatic reading (the boys especially appreciated their Dad’s version of this one) and a silly, silly turkey.

Author: Sandra Boynton
Illustrator: Sandra Boynton

If You Were Born a Kitten


This quiet book tells gestation/birth/baby stories for many different animals, ending with one human baby:

You rode curled beneath your mother’s heart,
growing and growing. You floated in a salty sea, waiting
and waiting. Waiting for us who were waiting for you.
“We’re ready,” we said. And you were ready too.
So you squeezed out, wailing.

My toddlers thought babies were interesting.  That tendency, combined with the interesting details on the various animals and gentle pictures, ensured this cozy book kept their attention during the board book years.

Author:  Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrator:  JoEllen McAllister Stammen

The Very Hungry Caterpillar


There isn’t much plot or characterization here.  An egg hatches.  The resulting caterpillar eats (and eats), then builds a cocoon, nibbles his way out, and is a beautiful butterfly.  Simple.  But the book’s design (especially the holes) and unexpected food choices reliably caught the boys’ attention when they were toddlers.  (And I liked making the butterfly “fly” at the end by flapping the back cover.)

Author: Eric Carle
Illustrator: Eric Carle


What to Read (to Your Toddler) When You’re Expecting


We found all of these books to be helpful (in different ways) for preparing for an sibling.

Waiting for Baby and My New Baby have no words; their stories revolve around a toddler’s-eye viewpoint of what happens when mom is pregnant and then what happens when the baby arrives.  There are three primary reasons these books are a great way for toddlers to get used to what is going on and what is likely to happen next.  First, you can customize the “story” to where you are in the process and what they most want to know.  Second, there is a real focus on showing how the soon-to-be sibling will be involved in the process (for example, helping make dinner for a tired mom, or helping dad take baby on an outing). Third, the books make it very clear that the older sibling always has an important place at the center of the family. We “read” these books a lot.

What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? gets toddlers used to the idea that babies cry sometimes, and there are things that you can try to do that might help, but sometimes they won’t work out as hoped (and that is OK).

On Mother’s Lap has a simple, sweet message of there always being enough room on mother’s lap (and, implicitly, enough love to go around).

Authors:  Annie Kubler, Cressida Cowell, Ann Herbert Scott
Illustrators:  Annie Kubler, Ingrid Godon, Glo Coalson



Hush, Little Alien

Hush, little alien,
don’t say a word,
Papa’s gonna catch
you a goonie bird.

If that goonie bird flies too far,
Papa’s gonna lasso you a shooting star.

If that shooting star’s too hot,
Papa’s gonna
find you an astronaut!

When my oldest was two, he started singing this song. I thought he was making it up as he went along and was absolutely amazed.  Finally I caught on that he had heard it at school, started searching, and found the song has come from this really fun variation on “Hush, Little Baby.”  (Of course, I still think my boy hung the moon.)

Caveat:  The astronaut Papa finds fights back (with his fist), so the aliens move on to something else.  I always just shook my fist, added the line “Put me down, please!” and moved right along, but if you are concerned about any kind of physical confrontation, you may want to skip this one.

Author:  Daniel Kirk
Illustrator:  Daniel Kirk

Baby Beluga


Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.

Baby beluga, baby beluga,
Is the water warm? Is your mama home,
With you so happy?

This book is as adorable as its song and sweetly sends kids off to bed.  I have only one small quibble:  if you were going to choose one of the thirty-plus species of dolphins to illustrate “way down yonder where the dolphins play” with Baby beluga, would killer whales be at the top of your list?

Author: Raffi
Illustrator: Ashley Wolff



This adventure of a boy, a bear, and “billions of berries” was very popular a few years back.  It is great to read aloud, with a wonderful rhythm and enticing pictures (by the illustrator of the original Magic School Bus series).  You might need multiple copies and you are likely to memorize it.

Author: Bruce Degen
Illustrator: Bruce Degen

Good Night, Gorilla


My youngest loved this book as a young toddler.  He’d ask for it every night before bed and we’d watch the gorilla release all of his animal friends so they could follow the zookeeper home.  We’d loved the details, like the toy in each animals’ cage,  the balloon that drifts through each double-page spread, and the mouse constantly lugging around a huge banana.  He would giggle and giggle when one of the characters got a big surprise.  A real charmer and, of course, perfect for bedtime. (He also loved the Scholastic video version of the book, which is less detailed but equally sweet.)

Author:  Peggy Rathmann
Illustrator: Peggy Rathmann