Chelsey Bahlmann Bollinger and Skye Deiter
You’re never too young to fall in love with a book! In this column, we take a look at books for babies and toddlers to enjoy one-on-one with family members and caregivers or in early childhood settings. Books invite the youngest of readers to explore language and learn about the world around them—and, of course, enjoy snuggles with loved ones.
Amara’s Farm (Where in the Garden? #1). JaNay Brown-Wood. Illus. by Samara Hardy. (2021). Peachtree.
Young Amara is preparing for an autumn potluck and needs to gather some pumpkins. As she searches her farm, readers learn about a variety of cold-weather fruits and vegetables. JaNay Brown-Wood uses descriptive words to identify the garden bounty including apples, persimmons, potatoes, cauliflower, eggplants, and kumquats, which readers can identify in Samara Hardy’s colorful ink-and-watercolor illustrations. Eventually, as luck would have it, Amara spots the pumpkins, which are “large, round, and orange with thick shells.” Her molasses pumpkin bread recipe is included at the end of the book for readers to enjoy.
Angelina’s Baby Sister (Angelina Ballerina). Katharine Holabird. Illus. by Helen Craig. (2021). Little Simon.
In this refreshed hardcover edition of Angelina’s Baby Sister, a popular Angelina Ballerina story originally published in 2006, Angelina Mouseling is anxious to welcome a new baby and become a big sister. But shortly after Polly arrives, Angelina struggles to understand how her baby sister can take up so much of her parents’ time and attention. Feeling overlooked, Angelina finally reaches a breaking point, but it’s her family who lifts her spirits in a sweet, feel-good ending. Katharine Holabird’s reassuring text is complemented by Helen Craig’s quaint, softly colored illustrations of the Mouselings in their home as they navigate the journey of welcoming a newborn and making sure everyone feels loved.
Comparrotives (Grammar Zoo). Janik Coat. (2021). Abrams Appleseed.
In this oversize board book, Janik Coat introduces readers to comparatives, which are demonstrated by a funny parrot. As she did in the earlier books in the Grammar Zoo series--Hippopposites (2012), Rymoceros (2015), and Llamaphones (2018)—Coat includes tactile elements to illustrate the comparison between the two words. For example, the silly parrot is wearing bunny ears and the sillier parrot is wearing a large rainbow glitttery wig, which is created with a raised, grainy-feeling texture and a clown outfit. Children will love reading this book over and over again.
Ducks on the Road: A Counting Adventure. Anita Lobel. (2021). Paula Wiseman.
In Anita Lobel’s latest picture book, she keeps readers engaged through counting little yellow ducklings all in a row. Mama and Papa Duck are taking a walk with their ten little ducklings following behind them—“until the tenth little duck in the line turns back to quack, ‘Hello, Frog!’” One by one, the duck at the end gets distracted by an animal and drops out of line. Eventually, Mama and Papa Duck realize they have lost all of their ducklings. Then, they hear their ducklings and see that they are all lined up together with the various animal friends that they met along the way. Young children will continue to delight in the surprise that comes at the end of the book each time they count the little ducklings in Lobel’s softly colored gouache-and-colored pencil illustrations during repeated readings.
Goodnight, Little Panda (Baby Animal Tales #3). Amanda Wood. Illus. by Vikki Chu. Photo. by Bec Winnel. (2021). Magic Cat.
Little Panda spends her days with her family snoozing in the bamboo forest and munching on crunchy bamboo stems. Growing tired of the same meal for breakfast and lunch, the determined panda sets out to find something new for dinner. “Have you got anything nice to eat?” she first asks the monkeys, then some birds, and finally a frog. To her disappointment, Little Panda is only met with meals that are yucky to her and an empty tummy. At last, she meets Red Panda, who has just the meal to help Little Panda feel nice and full before settling down for bed. This Baby Animal Tale with Bec Winnel’s photographic images of adorable Little Panda, set against a background of her bamboo forest home created by Vikki Chu’s watercolor paintings, is perfect for reading when it is time for snuggling up at bedtime or naptime and for offering little ones a gentle message on the importance of self-discovery.
No! Said Rabbit. Marjoke Henrichs. (2021). Peachtree.
With expressive cartoon-like illustrations and relatable characters, Marjoke Henrichs’ debut story is the perfect story-time picture book. Toddlers will relish each “NO!” the stubborn young rabbit offers his mother as he goes about his day while adults will relate to the mother’s unwavering patience time after time. As soon as he responds with a rebellious “NO!” to each of his mother’s prompts, Rabbit always seems to find himself in a contradictory position enjoying the very activity he just tried to resist such as eating his breakfast (“But I can see juicy orange carrots . . .”) or playing outside (“But those are my lovely rain boots . . .”). Readers of all ages will take comfort in the familiar affection shared by a mother and her child as the book comes to its heartwarming close with Little Rabbit’s emphatic “YES!” when Mom says it’s time for bedtime cuddles.
Not Now, Cow. Tammi Sauer. Illus. by Trey Cummings. (2021). Abrams Appleseed.
It’s springtime. “Duck is ready. Helps things grow. / Sheep is ready. Skips below. // Goat is ready. Gives a show. / Cow is . . . // Oh, Cow. / Not now.” Readers will enjoy this laugh-out-loud picture book about a cow who, despite the changing scenery around him, can’t seem to get his seasons straight. As the story follows each season’s change, short rhymes are coupled with vibrant, digitally created cartoon illustrations to reveal the rest of the farm animals appropriately dressed for enjoying seasonal activities such as flying kites in spring, cooling off with ice cream in summer, carving pumpkins in fall, and ice skating in winter. And just when readers think Cow may finally be ready, they are met with a hilarious twist.
Ocean Animals (Words of the World). Motomitsu Maehara. (2021). Blue Dot.
This multilingual board book features colorful found-paper collage portraits of sixteen ocean animals including a clownfish, seahorse, sperm whale, hermit crab, sea lion, and dolphin. Each animal is identified by name in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Esperanto, French, Hindi, and Spanish. Readers can easily find the language they want to follow throughout the book as each language is color coded and numbered. Ocean Birds was published simultaneously. Two additional books in the series, Animals and Plants, will be released in October.
Off to See the Sea. Nikki Grimes. Illus. by Elizabeth Zunon. (2021). Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.
Nikki Grimes’ free-verse text and Elizabeth Zunon’s colorful, expressive illustrations, created using oil and acrylic paint with cut paper collage, marker, and gel pen, capture bath time with a wiggly toddler perfectly in this playful story. Mommy corrals her reluctant-to-get-in-the-tub little one, and together they play pretend with various bath toys to have an imaginative adventure. Parents will relate to “sneaking in the shampoo” during bath time fun.
100 Animals. Steve Jenkins. (2021). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Steve Jenkins introduces young readers to a world of animals in this interactive, padded word book that features one hundred animals including both familiar ones (like butterfly, cat, and shark) and lesser knowns (like wombat, macaw, and yak). Crafted in Jenkins’ cut-paper illustrative style, individual portraits of animals are grouped on double-page spreads by habitat: underwater, underground, treetop, airborne, desert, arctic, and indoor. The color palette for each habitat is set in different tones to match typical surroundings, such as using blue tones for the water and icy arctic habitats, green tones for the leafy forest, and orange and tan tones for the underground and sandy desert habitats. On each double spread, two flaps offer readers a child-pleasing interactive experience to learn more about the animals’ habitats, movements, and behaviors.
One Springy, Singy Day. Renée Kurilla. (2021). Abrams Appleseed.
Preschoolers will smile in delight as they listen to the reading of this rhythmic, sing-songy picture book about ten toddlers going about their days, starting with the first toddler waking up (“Stretchy / yawny / wide awake at dawn-y”) and ending with one headed to bed (“Comfy / cozy / kiss your tiny nose-y”). Renée Kurilla dedicates two double-page spreads to acquaint the reader with each new toddler, offering short, silly rhymes to describe their adventures. Paneled and full-page colorful illustrations are loaded with familiar objects children will love discovering as they listen and sway their bodies to the rhythm of the story.
Red Truck, Yellow Truck. Michelle Robinson. Illus. by Jez Tuya. (2021). Peachtree.
As Red Truck and Yellow Truck, both driven by dogs, travel around town, readers learn about the jobs of various types of trucks (also driven by various breeds of dogs) such as tug truck, tow truck, garbage truck, and low-bed truck. Michelle Robinson creates a rhythmic storyline while Jez Tuya’s colorful, detailed illustrations provide clues to help readers predict what will happen on the next page. Truck and dog lovers will be delighted to discover that all of the trucks are working towards the purpose of opening a dog themed Fun Bark.
Tow Truck Joe Makes a Splash (Tow Truck Joe #2). June Sobel. Illus. by Patrick Corrigan. (2021). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
“Summertime is full of fun, / and Tow Truck Joe is on the run. // Patch the Pup does her share, / helping Joe with each repair.” During the summer, Tow Truck Joe and his good friend Patch the Dog fix a variety of mechanical issues around Motor City. One big problem is that an eighteen-wheel semi-trailer truck is stuck in the Splash ‘n’ Dash carwash. Joe and Patch come up with a clever plan to get the truck out by using soap from the car wash. With June Sobel’s rhyming couplets and Patrick Corrigan’s colorful illustrations featuring anthropomorphized vehicles and an abundance of details to be discovered on each page, this board book is one that toddlers will want to read again and again.
Chelsey Bahlamnn Bollinger is an assistant professor in the Early, Elementary, and Reading Department of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Skye Deiter is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and a new mom who enjoys reading with her little one
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG).