By Salina Yoon
The first book a child ever reads may be a board book. She’s reading its shape, its form, its weight, its texture, its size, its pictures, and even its taste. Early learning concept books for ages 0-3 are hugely important because they are often the first books a baby lays their beautiful eyes and hands on.
So I think about my reader and all their senses when I create my books. Note that I say “create,” and not “write” or “illustrate.” I think about the WHOLE book, and how the concept, the art, the text, and format will work together as a package.
(Photo: Stacking Shapes, published by Scholastic in 2010)
For Stacking Shapes, I was mostly inspired by two classics for children:
1) Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack
I know this isn’t a book recommendation, but it is important! Consider what makes this toy appealing, and how you could bring those elements into a concept book! Consider other favorite toys for babies and see what they inspire.
2)Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
Note the simple geometric design and bold primary and secondary colors that on its own would be abstract, but together make a picture. Deceptively simple, but genius design in both the illustrations and layered die cuts.
Plop a young child in your lap. It would be rare for her to sit still and simply watch the book. She will reach out to touch and feel, and depending on her age, put it in her mouth, too! The WHOLE child actively explores each book.
3) Where is Baby’s Home? by Karen Katz
In Katz’s signature style and lift-flap peek-a-boo format, she charms us with her adorable babies with fun textile-like collage and mixed media work.
4) Rock and Roll COLORS by Salina Yoon
Oh, how did that get in there! That’s my book! But I want to point this one out for its unique sliding disc format that moves back and forth in a hidden track when you rock the book side to side. The mechanic was inspired by the simple mechanic in the game, Connect Four!
5) ABC by Xavier Deneux
This unique board book with die-cut illustrations have opposing pages with die-cuts that fit together almost like a puzzle when closed. Fun to touch and feel the edges of the die-cuts while giving it an added dimensional quality.
6) Finger Puppet Book series by Chronicle Books
Millions of these have sold! Cute plush finger puppets attached to each chunky board book make characters come to life as you read and play with the puppet.
7) Peek-A-book Farm by Joyce Wan
Giant lift-flaps and super cute art style make this a winner. Babies and toddlers are attracted to faces, and boldly illustrated ones like these will grab their attention.
8) Peek-A-Moo by Nina Laden
Another gorgeously illustrated page turner packaged as a funky, chunky peek-a-boo board book.
9) Color Wonder: Hooray for Spring! By Chieu Anh Urban
Movable wheels add an extra layer of interactivity in this fun, colorful book full of wonder and surprises.
10) Belly Button Book
You can’t have a post about concept board books for babies and toddlers without including a Sandra Boynton book! Charming, clever, and always funny! Her sense of humor and witty illustrations make these books a stand out.
What do all of these books have in common? They are all simple in design, colorful, bold, stylistically unique, concept driven, and interactive. The fun of these books will draw its readers back to them again and again!
Salina is giving away one copy of her bestselling early learning books: DO COWS MEOW, published by Sterling, and DINOSAUR DISCOVERY and BUG HUNT, also by Sterling. To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must comment on each post, be registered by March 4, and consistently read picture books throughout the challenge.
Salina Yoon is the author and illustrator of over 160 books for children with over 3.5 million books sold worldwide. Her visibility and name recognition continues to grow, with four of her PENGUIN series picture books (Bloomsbury) currently available in mini editions with Chick-fil-A children’s meals. As the Kohl’s Cares featured author for summer 2016, seven of her books and four plush animals based on her characters, were sold nationwide in Kohl’s stores. You can read more about Salina and her projects at www.salinayoon.com. Her next concept board book will be out with Random House Penguin with WHERE’S SANTA BOO? In the fall of 2018.