11 of the Best Designed Board Books

May 20, 2013

Board Books for Hipster Babies  |  Design Mom

By Carter.

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 Seattle123 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.

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{ 7 trackbacks }

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jane May 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

Thank you for all of these great suggestions! My 1-year-old son LOVES board books (chewing on them, especially — but also paging through, touching things, opening flaps, etc.). I’ll be adding to our library with these.

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2 Lisette Wolter-McKinley May 20, 2013 at 10:12 am

I am huge fan of Charley Harper.

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3 Jenna May 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

Such a beautiful collection. I may be eighteen, but I want to read them all!

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4 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 11:19 am

I’m almost twice that age, so I say go for it! It’s just art in a throwback form, right?!

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5 Amy Hackworth May 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

Literacy for the littlest! I love it, Carter. Our boys have moved on to other books, but well designed board books will always have a special place in my reader-heart. I feel like Jenna: I may be 35, but I want to read them all!

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6 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 11:21 am

Me too! I’m with Jenna.

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7 Raleigh-Elizabeth May 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

This is fantastic! We’re scooping up the ones we don’t already have right now. The Baby Lit series is really fantastic though. I’m in LOVE with the Little Master Shakespeare books. My kid may not be able to understand the nuance of Romeo and Juliet, but he’ll surely know the name Mercutio before he’s three!

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8 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 11:24 am

Good timing for you!

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9 Alicia May 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

My daughter was gifted Pride and Prejudice by Baby Lit for her first birthday. Her aunt gave it to her (they both share the same middle name Jane). It is a favorite around our house. Even the almost seven year old boy will pick it up and read it! We hope to add a few other Baby Lit board books to our collection.

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10 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 11:24 am

Oops, meant to reply to you, Alicia!

I just heard about this version of Pride and Prejudice today – felted illustrations, limited words, super unique:

http://www.simplyreadbooks.com/book.php?book_id=119

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11 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 11:23 am

I just heard about this version of Pride and Prejudice today – felted illustrations, limited words, super unique:

http://www.simplyreadbooks.com/book.php?book_id=119

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12 Alex May 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Great list! My toddler (and me!) love Herve Tullet’s The Game of Patterns- she has loved looking at it since she was an infant and it is a book that is growing with her as she gets older.

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13 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I love that! You know about his Press Here, right?

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14 Alex May 21, 2013 at 1:04 am

Obviously :) but we dont have that one in a board book version.

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15 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag May 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Il Sung Na is a GENIUS. Seriously. Love love love and love some more. Some of the most beautiful art out there!

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16 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm

And some more!

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17 Angela DeMuro May 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I just love your weekly posts! Being a lover of children’s art and stories it is something I look forward to each Monday:) Thanks!

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18 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Thanks, Angela! That means so much!

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19 Jane May 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Color Farm!

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20 Marnie May 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm

This list is fabulous. I am a big fan of Charley Harper’s work. Sometimes I do find it a bit busy though! Love the Book of Sleep! :-)

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21 heidi May 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm

You missed my all time favourite. Freight Train by Donald Crews
http://www.amazon.com/Freight-Train-Donald-Crews/dp/0688117015
I bet I’ve read it 1000 times with my boys.

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22 Carter Higgins May 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Love that one!

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23 Regina May 20, 2013 at 10:12 pm

We have the Pantone book and Orla Kiely’s Numbers at home! I really love those books.

My 1.9 year old loves The House in the Night (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2769817-the-house-in-the-night) — it’s one of our favorite bedtime stories. I marvel at how three colors were enough to illustrate the book beautifully.

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24 Dee Wilcox May 21, 2013 at 7:24 am

Ooh, I love these. And just when I thought we were moving beyond board books, you’re drawing me back in. :) Thanks for the bonus tip on the Pantone book — I don’t know how I missed that one!

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25 Melissa S. May 21, 2013 at 8:36 am

I have to mention the “Les Petits Fairytales” series here! Adorable (with sparkly covers) first fairytales to share with your little ones. Just a handful of words retell the original tales. A great opportunity for interactive storytelling between adult and child.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Mermaid-Petits-Fairytales/dp/0805097899/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y

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26 megwrites May 23, 2013 at 10:01 am

These all look lovely. I really like the “Mini Masters” board book series–they use the paintings of Renoir, Seurat, Picasso, etc.

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27 Milagros May 25, 2013 at 11:34 am

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28 Elida May 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm

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29 Corazon June 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

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30 Jennifer Adams September 12, 2013 at 10:42 am

So honored that you featured Moby-Dick. Thank you! Three new BabyLit books–Sherlock Holmes (a sounds primer), Anna Karenina (a fashion primer) and Jabberwocky (a nonsense primer) release this week!

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31 Uli June 26, 2014 at 6:00 pm

I love oliver Jeffers books. Especially their design. The pictures are simple and unique. My total favourite is “stuck”.

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