Essay / Best Books

Best Board Books for Brainy Babies

by Danielle Hitchen

A child’s moral imagination is most often formed first by the books their parents read to them. From the basic counting primers to the garish yet calm Goodnight Moon to the emotional complexities of Llama Llama Red Pajama, books are fundamental to shaping our child’s early understanding of themselves, others, and their world. As a mom of three young kids and a children’s book author myself, I have spent countless hours over the last six years reading, writing, and thinking about books for our littlest readers. The following are my personal recommendations for board books which are timeless, readable on repeat, and thoroughly worthy additions to any baby’s shelf.

Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper
Too much “Go” leads to chaos. Too much “Stop” leads to nothing. This fun construction romp is about a green and red traffic light who learn how to work together and balance their strengths to get a job done.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
A rhyming story of ovine mishaps. Hilarious. Adorable. Perfect.

Pride & Prejudice (A Counting Primer) by Jennifer Adams
Count your way through Jane Austen’s most beloved novel – one English village, two rich gentlemen, all the way up to ten (thousand) pounds. Does it get any better than learning your numbers and your Austen all in one go? This was my very first BabyLit Classic and although I own approximately two dozen of their primers, this remains my favorite. Honorable mention to BabyLit Classic’s Wuthering Heights (A Weather Primer).

Matisse Dance for Joy by Susan Goldman Rubin
This simple, dance themed book winds it ways through Matisse’s bright and bold cut-out art. It’s a perfect way to introduce a child to fine art and fine artists. Rubin’s work also includes board books on Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol, Edgar Degas, Rene Magritte, and Jacob Lawrence.

Red Wagon by Renata Liwska
Little Lucy Fox wants to play with her new wagon, but her mom wants her to run an errand to the market. Using her imagination, Lucy turns a tedious chore into a grand adventure. This book is full of soft illustrations and teaches that obedience can also be fun.

How Do I Love You? by Marion Dane Bauer
“I love you as the ancient world love the dinosaur!” I’d love to call this an adaptation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?”, but it’s really more of a riff. Even still, the poetry is simple and dear and the illustrations are sweet.

Sometimes I Like to Curl Up In A Ball by Vicki Churchill
The main character is a wombat. If that isn’t a good enough reason to want this book, it’s also a wonderful depiction of taking joy in who you were created to be. Be loud, make a silly face, stand still, run, or maybe just curl up in a ball.

Behowl the Moon adapted by Erin Nelsen Parekh
Parekh takes Puck’s last lines of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and illustrates them for kids. This is straight up Shakespeare, which teaching littles to listen to poetry and iambic pentameter. The illustrations are a bit dark, even spooky at points, but on the whole the fantastical nature of the language and art make this a fun addition to the bookshelf. (Be sure to also check out Parekh’s While the Waves Whist, taken from The Tempest.)

Once Upon a World, a series by Chloe Perkins
These stories are a straightforward and age-appropriate introduction to classic fairy tales – so far the series has produced The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Snow White. And all the books are illustrated in fun folk art styles – one from each Russia, India, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Japan. Unfortunately, the stories themselves are not at all specific to the cultural style they are illustrated in.

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
Join the wakeful owl as he flies around the globe looking at how other animals sleep. This book has lovely illustrations and is a sweet and calm bedtime read.

Baby Believer, a series by Danielle Hitchen
If you’re the sort of person who wants to buy books about Austen and Matisse for a baby, you’ll also probably appreciate the Baby Believer books which introduce basic theology in a primer format (counting, opposites, animals, etc.). Tucked amongst the scripture quotations in the series, you’ll also find the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds, traditional hymnody, and even a church father or two. It’s a simple way to steep your child in the word of God from their earliest days. Be sure to keep an eye out for We Believe: An Alphabet Primer coming September 1!

About Danielle:
Danielle Hitchen founded Catechesis Books in 2016 in order to build out a collection of biblical and theological resources for little ones. She desires to create beautiful books to help parents have better faith conversations with their children and has since published seven books in the Baby Believer series. Danielle is a graduate of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola. She and her husband and their three sweet kids live in northern Virginia.

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