0 - 2 years

Board Books, Chronicle Books, Contemporary Books, 0 - 2 years

Hide and Seek

Words & Illustration by Taro Gomi

Published by Chronicle Books

Another fantastic board book from Japanese Author-Illustrator Taro Gomi. Playful and absurd, this seek and find book is full of ultimate cuteness that only the Japanese can pull off. I love this book! Gomi's illustrations are colourful and all of the animals are elegantly captured with a soft paint effect.  

Children will delight in the challenge of finding objects hidden in plain sight and will laugh at the absurdity of some of the illustrations. Each page has one additional animal so as well as finding hidden objects, readers can practice their counting. 

A toothbrush in a crocodile's grin, a cap on a bird's head, and hearts on a butterfly's wings. A small illustration of the hidden object is shown on the left hand side of the page. This clue or preview will assist younger readers to be able to read this book on their own during playtime. This book will challenge most 18 month olds so is best suited to children over 18 months.

If you like the look of this book, I have previously reviewed Gomi's Peekaboo - a fun and interactive board book that remains a strong favourite in our house. 

0 - 2 years, Tate, Vintage Books

Hippu

Words & Illustration by Oili Tanninen

A sweet story about a mouse called Hippu that invites a homeless dog called Heppu to stay with him. Together with many baby mice and a random chick, they enjoy a day filled with many simple and everyday activities. Little readers will be able to identify the ordinary activities on each page and relate to Hippu & Heppu as they go shopping, eat, play dress ups, go for a walk, watch television, have a bath, sleep and drive a car. 

Originally published in 1967, this book was republished by Tate Publishing in 2014. This book is so fresh and modern that it could easily have been created today with computer illustration. There is a lovely blurb at the rear of the book written by Tanninen that describes her inspiration and process for the book. It is lovely to read that the bold illustrations were created with collage, using torn and cutout  pieces of Japanese origami paper and Tanninen then filled in the images by drawing. 

The Finnish author and illustrator's three objectives for the book were as follows: The book had to be small and square and easy for a one year old to hold in their hands, cheap to print using only two colours (red and black); and the book had to tell a story with ordinary, everyday events that all children could relate to. 

Similar in size and equally bold, this book will sit well next to your Dick Bruna classics. A simple story with a sweet message and seriously cute illustrations. Perfect for the littlest of readers. 


0 - 2 years, Vintage Books, Babalibri

Il Palloncino Rosso

Illustration by Iela Mari

Published by Babalibri

Simple, minimalist and elegant. A wordless Italian children's book that follows the transformation of a red bubble as it morphs in to a balloon, apple, butterfly, flower and finally into an umbrella. All objects commonly depicted in children's books. The perspective and size of the red object constantly changes throughout the book. 

Originally published in 1967 by the Italian artist, Iela Mari. The small green hardcover book is detailed using only black pen lines and one block colour of red on each spread. The hand drawn black lines capture large areas of detail such as fields of flowers and apple tree branches. The detailed black lines contrast beautifully with the heavy block of red colour. The rain has been beautifully depicted with very fine, black parallel lines offset very close together across the page. A superb contrast to the large red umbrella.  

The book starts with a young boy blowing a red bubble and ends with this same boy holding a red umbrella. Perhaps Mari is trying to convey a deeper meaning by reintroducing the boy at the end of the book. This is very subtle and a bit lost on me but others may read something in to this. 

A short and sweet wordless book. It is graphically bold and superbly simple. Kids will be amazed by the transformation of the red bubble. 

0 - 2 years, Board Books, Macmillan Children's Book

Orange Pear Apple Bear

Words and Illustration by Emily Gravett

Published by Macmillan Children's Books

Emily Gravett has perfected simplicity with this delicious board book for babies. 

Simple, funny and playful. The four words in the title are rearranged and repeated to create a playful series of sweet illustrations that depict an orange, pear, apple and bear. The order and punctuation of the words change the meaning depicted on each page of the book. Imagination is ripe with the changing appearance of the cuddly bear and his lively and mischievous antics with his soon-to-be devoured lunch. The varied combinations and accompanying illustrations make this book a great primer for the introduction of colours, shapes and simple language.

The book's illustrations are perfectly minimalist. Softly outlined sketches are filled with the muted watercolours of orange, green and brown and a crisp white background makes each of the illustrations stand out. 

Using only five words (orange, pear, apple, bear and there), the repetition and rhyming of these words creates an enchanting tempo and spoken rhythm. 

This book is a little surreal and really funny! It is wonderful to find a board book for babies that is just as amusing for adults and children alike. To enliven the imagination of your little one, this book will certainly bear fruit! (Sorry about the pun.) 

0 - 2 years, Pop-Up Books, Walker Books

I'm Shy

Words and sculptures by David A. Carter

Published by Walker Books

This charming pop-up book is read on repeat in our household. Like no other, my little one is completely entranced. "Who is in the hole?"

The bashful octopus needs a little bit of encouragement, but with each turn of the page he slowly reveals a little more of himself. And just as he introduces himself as "shy" he slowly disappears back in to the hole. 

The paper sculptures have been meticulously designed by the talented David A. Carter so that the octopus literally moves in an out of his hole as he slowly reveals himself. The sweet little octopus exudes so much character that he really does appear to be alive.

This book is very sweet and perfect for the littlest of readers. While it will be necessary to restrain little fingers to avoid losing any tentacles, the movement of eyes and tentacles as they dart across the page or pop out of the book are fascinating for babies and toddlers. 

0 - 2 years, Board Books, Gibbs Smith

The Secret Garden

Words by Jennifer Adams

Illustration by Alison Oliver

Published by Gibbs Smith

'Little Miss Burnett: A Babylit Flower Primer: The Secret Garden' is a gorgeous board book that introduces flowers and colours to children using quotes from Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novel 'The Secret Garden.' The book is simple, fun and colourful and is a pretty yet sturdy addition to any little library.

Each spread of the book is dedicated to a different springtime flower such as the columbine, daffodil or iris. One page of the spread has an illustration of a flower with a text label and the opposite page is a hand drawn pattern that contains a quote from the original text. Quotes examples are "crocuses burst into purple", "th' very little ones are snowdrops", "they'll look like a bed o' blue an' white butterflies", "iris rose out of the grass in sheaves". 

When reading 'The Secret Garden' from cover to cover, the quotes do not make much sense outside the context of the original text and are at times a little awkward ("th' woman in th' shop threw in a packet o' poppy seeds"). While the meaning of each quote may be lost on the young readers, most parents will appreciate this tribute to the classic text. Young readers will enjoy the colourful illustrations, trying to identify the different flowers and finding the hidden details contained within the beautiful patterns such as spider's webs, birds, keys, snails and watering cans.   

While I was enchanted by Alison Oliver's charming hand drawn illustrations, I have to admit that I was disappointed that this book does not introduce The Secret Garden's main character Mary Lennox or provide a basic plot outline. I think that other Babylit books such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Jungle Book are more successful and introduce new words from the vocabulary of the original books or provide an introduction to the great characters and stories contained within these literary classics. I will be reviewing Babylit's The Jungle Book Playset in a future review. 

With this said, this exquisite board book is the prettiest introduction to flowers that I have seen and it is refreshing to find a series of educational board books with substance. (Thank you Jennifer!) The Babylit series is a wonderful way for literature loving parents to be able to share the world of classic literature with their child. There is over 18 books in the series (Emma and Treasure Island are about to be released) and each board book is based on a classic novel by great authors such as Lewis Carroll, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen and Rudyard Kipling; and is combined with an educational theme such as counting, colours, sounds, animals and the spanish language. 

For any book loving parents, The Secret Garden (or any book from the Babylit series) will make a wonderful gift for a new baby as their first introduction in to the wonderful world of literature.  

Reviewed by Georgia White

0 - 2 years, Vintage Books, Tate

The Apple

Words & Illustration by Dick Bruna

Published by Tate Publishing to honour the 60th anniversary.

I love this book, I have always loved this book. I had a copy of it when I was very young and I have remembered the striking forms such as the Rooster and the bowl of grapes for what is now decades. The yellow rooster is probably the earliest hero that I discovered when I began reading.

'The Apple' is Dick Bruna's first children's book and was created before he created his most iconic Miffy character. It is a beautiful and simple story of friendship. A red apple is taken on an adventure by a yellow rooster and it demonstrates how with the help of a friend you can have new adventures and experience the world from a different perspective.  

Bruna wrote and illustrated 'The Apple' in 1953 while he was working as a freelance graphic designer in Amsterdam. The dozen illustrations in 'The Apple' are distinct and easily recognisable as the work of Bruna with his use of bold black lines and minimal colours. It is likely that Bruna was influenced by artists such as his countrymen Rietveld & Mondrian and the Dutch graphic design movement, De Stijl.

Bruna's simple bold style is a design standard for graphic designers today, but was considered by many adults to be too simple in the 1950s when this book was first written. Bruna himself comments:

“I remember when I had finished The Apple, I had no idea if it would appeal to children, so I took some copies along to a local book fair. All the parents who came past my stand dismissed my book saying it was too simple, but their children pointed at my pictures and said “But that’s how I draw! And that colour green is just like my green!” So I thought maybe I was right, and I should carry on with this approach.”

When Tate Publishing republished this book in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary, the Official Online Press Office for Miffy issued a press release. It was really interesting to find out that Bruna originally published this book in a rectangular format. The format was changed to the smaller square format (still used today), to make reading easier for the small hands of his readers. 

Reviewed by Tom White

Vintage Books, 0 - 2 years, Golden Books Publishing

Pat the Bunny

Words & Illustration by Dorothy Kunhardt

Published by Golden Books Publishing Company

The Easter Bunny came a day early in our house. I could not wait to put this 1940's classic through the hard yards with my little one.

Each page shows the characters Paul or Judy involved in an activity and the young reader is invited to participate. Activities include peekaboo, look in the mirror, make the dolly's ball squeak and waving bye-bye. 

Pat the Bunny is a touch and feel book and introduces young children to the senses, even smell. The 'smell the flowers' page is embedded with the scent of old lady perfume (flowers). Strange but true. And while taste is not depicted on the pages, my little one has already started eating the book. 

I was very keen to see if my little one would in fact pat the bunny and feel Daddy's scratchy face. This book did not disappoint and we shared many giggles as we joined Paul and Judy in their many activities. 

Some of the pages are a little bit cumbersome (and strange) with a squeaky ball or rattle box inserted between the pages. It is also quite unusual to see a book presented with a plastic comb binding. It does remind me of a workplace document or school assignment and I am not sure how durable it will be with a curious toddler who puts everything in her mouth. With this said, I have no doubt that this sweet and simple book will be a hit. 

Reviewed by Georgia White

Board Books, Contemporary Books, 0 - 2 years, Chronicle Books

Peekaboo!

Words & Illustration by Taro Gomi

Published by Chronicle Books

My little one loves to play peekaboo and this beautifully illustrated board book by the Japanese author & illustrator has become a new favourite in our home. With minimal text, each page is a different peekaboo mask with fun characters including a robot, cat, bear and frog. This book is really good fun!

Reviewed by Georgia White