I love board books. Literacy for the littlest. Sturdy pages for stubby fingers. Visually spectacular to developing brains. I adore them so much that I have a growing collection, despite having zero kids in my house. But I obsess over my portable art, and these books are stunners. For this particular roundup, Gabrielle and I gathered some of the very coolest-looking board books out there — selections with a design or art angle. Think of them as board books for hipster babies. : ) I hope you’ll find some new treasures in this list for your tiny reader — or the perfect baby gift for your graphic-designer-best-friend.
1) Since board books are designed to be tactile (also chewed up and drooled on, dropped and kicked and loved hard), one inspired by a textiles designer makes perfect sense. Alexander Girard’s simple sophistication and playful patterns are a perfect match for this bright board book, Color. I love that the hues are not your usual primary colors – cyans and fuchsias, pale pinks and muted golds leap off the page, too.
2) A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na. The story here is just as soothing as the pictures. Both are lush and sweeping, but quiet — which sets the perfect tone for a nighttime (or nap time!) read. An alert owl details how other animals sleep – some are noisy, and some sleep standing up! They all snooze at night, but when the day rises, it’s the owl’s turn.
3) Picture This… by Alison Jay pairs singular words with paintings inspired by the American primitive style. But if you spend a little more time in the illustrations, it becomes much more than a simple language primer. Images featured on one page become hidden details on others, and their recurring cameos make this an extra engaging read. Also, note the subtle shift of the seasons as the book progresses. Really smart stuff packed into a really short read! Find more of Alison Jay’s beautiful board books here.
4) Another tip of the hat to the large world of tints and hues is Orla Kiely’s Colors. The concept of color is a popular one in these formative books, (and rightly so!) but this one especially dazzles. Perhaps it’s the fashion designer sensibilities at work, but the tones are especially striking. And it’s cloth bound, so it’s lovely to the touch.
5) Do you know the Babylit series? You will love this! Literary classics, ultra condensed — and also in an appropriate delivery for their audience. They are also magically addicting to look at, with their sharp design and clever words. Moby Dick is transformed from something weighty and allegorical to a charming primer of ocean life — including stars, sailors, and anchors. Don’t miss the clever exploration of color in Alice in Wonderland, or the loose nod to Jane Eyre through counting. This is a special series and a true delight – and maybe even a fun gift for an artist or literature buff, regardless of age?
6) Board books are fantastic for concept, but they also are proving to be rich sources of content. Take Susan Goldman Rubin’s art series as a genre-busting example – Jacob Lawrence in the City is my favorite. Its syncopated beats and rhythm pulse against acclaimed painter Jacob Lawrence’s vibrant cityscapes, and the whole thing is a sensory romp smushed right into a board book. Other unusual titles in her series are also visual introductions to icons – Counting with Wayne Thiebaud and Matisse Dance with Joy are particularly lovely.
7) I Like Toys by Lorena Siminovich. An obvious novelty to board books is how tactile they are! Chunky fingers that want to grab everything will adore this series, because they can touch and feel textures as they read and play. Can they touch (or smack!) their way to the shiny rectangle on the robot? Or find the sailboat’s triangle? The collaged illustrations are a dynamic way to present texture and shape. Also in the Petit Collage collection, check out I Like Peas and I Like Fruit. So darling!
8) I am in love with Charley Harper’s Colors. You probably are, too! I’m not sure I’ve met another soul who isn’t taken by his work. Breathtaking and bright are the first words that come to mind. Swoonworthy, even? I’m just entirely smitten with his art. And your baby will gaze at it with just as much awe! His pictures are splashed with vibrant color and stylized, but still engineered from recognizable shapes — perfect content for a board book. For a well-rounded collection, be sure to also check out Charley Harper’s 123s and ABCs.
9) This book is unlike any other obvious book on opposites — Hippoposites by Janik Coat takes a look at some intelligent duos. Some spreads explore rough and smooth, thick and thin, but some abstract concepts show up, too – like opaque and transparent, clear and blurry, positive and negative space. And all of the pairs are illustrated by hippos! Any designer you know will fall head over heels for this one.
10) Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews. What can you do with ten black dots? One is a sun or a moon, three can make a snowman’s face, five can make buttons on a coat. At its heart, Ten Black Dots is a counting book, but Crews’ stark illustrations are perfect for shape and color hunting as well. And his use of contrasting colors in his pictures will delight little eyes.
11) Counting is an obvious choice for a board book theme, given the intended audience. But this collaboration between author Puck and illustrator Kevin Sommers is a little more lively than most. In 123 New York, the numbered items are city favorites – taxi cabs, apples, and subway cars. If New York isn’t your city of choice, check out 123 Seattle, 123 California, or 123 Washington, D.C., or lots of others. Whichever location sings to you, prepare to take colorful and bold field trip. Maybe a fun collection for the well-traveled tot?
Now your turn, Dear Readers. What are the super-cool board books you would add to the list? Any favorite titles here? I’d love to hear!
P.S. — Bonus pick: Don’t forget the very design-y Pantone book.