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The Essential Board Book Library

Big, beautiful, lavishly illustrated picture books are perfect for new parents. And it’s great to read those works of art to babies in the first few months of life, when just hearing words and sounds encourages brain development and the beginnings of literacy.

But, soon enough, new parents need something a bit more… sturdy.

Board books—those thick little books with the hard pages made of paperboard—can withstand teething, stacking, and the whims of toddlerhood.

So, we present a list of eleven of our favorite board books for the littlest readers. We left out anything with recognizable characters, because Big Bird, Maisy, Thomas, and all the rest will become household staples soon enough. And as much as we love Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton,

© 2016 New York Public Library

Giraffes Can’t Dance

by Giles Andreae
ISBN: 9780439287197

An early introduction to the idea of doing what you love, regardless of whether other people (or animals) approve.

Bark, George

by Jules Feiffer
ISBN: 9780062051851

The consummate cartoonist’s work for kids is funny and fun. George the dog’s mother tries to teach him what sound to make, with a little help from the veterinarian.

The House in the Night

by Susan Marie Swanson
ISBN: 9780547577692

The lulling rhythm of this gentle book, which hints at world of imagination that can be found in books, makes it perfect for bedtime.

What Can a Crane Pick Up?

by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
ISBN: 9780375867262

A cow, a plane, another crane… the list goes on. Effortless rhymes, great drawings, and a touch of humor.

Little Blue Truck Leads the Way

by Alice Shertle
ISBN: 9780547575742

The lesser-known sequel to the original, which is a modern classic. Better move, Little Beeper!

Dinosaur Roar!

by Paul and Henrietta Strickland
ISBN: 9780525458340

Lots of different goofy, colorful dinosaurs to entertain kids and parents alike.

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin

by Tad Hills
ISBN: 9780307981554

The title gives away the plot, but the plot isn’t the point of this lovely fall book anyway. Duck and Goose go on a fall-themed adventure, with an assist from their pal Thistle.

Do Cows Meow?

by Salina Yoon
ISBN: 9781402789564

Do cows sing? Do cows coo? All I know is cows go… cliffhanger! Lift the flap for the answer.

Early Bird

by Toni Yuly
ISBN: 9781250043276

It’s not surprising that the early bird gets the worm, but it is surprising what happens next. Bold lines, bright colors, and playful use of prepositions that would please an early-language development specialist.


by Nina Laden
ISBN: 9780811826020

Budding investigators will get a kick out of die-cut pages that offer a twist on games of peekaboo.

Big Red Barn

by Margaret Wise Brown
ISBN: 9780060207496

A lesser-known-but-highly-deserving classic from the author of Goodnight Moon. It traces a day in the life of a farm when the children are away, with ever-so-slightly haunting text and gorgeous illustrations of the farm at dusk and at night.

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