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  • Where the Board Books Are

What's on Your Shelf? Interview with Emily Hannon

A big thank you to Emily for talking with me about her favorite children's board books as well as other favorites in their house! For more lovely posts from Emily you can follow her on Instagram at @emilybhannon.

Kelsey: With two boys under the age of three, what are some of their favorite board books?

Emily: We love The Tale of Peter Rabbit Story Board Book by Beatrix Potter, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Martin Jr., Bill and Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, and Curduroy by Don Freeman. We also have lots of seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor, Gerda Muller's seasonal board books (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter), Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, and Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck and Felicia Bond. I love to soak up each season with my children and teach them about God's creation that is continually changing and growing, and to recognize the beauty that surrounds them every day. Their little minds and hearts amaze me as they open to the joy and wonder of each new season and the lessons that they bring. Reading books together is such a simple, beautiful way of participating in the change of seasons and marveling at what God has created out of love for us. This is another reason why I keep little "reading stations" around the house (basically just baskets or low book shelves filled with books) to encourage the boys to sit down and flip through a book whenever they want (or rather, chew on a book in our 10 month-old's case).

Kelsey: The board book industry has steadily increased in the past five years and continues to be a prominent section in bookstores, yet it's sometimes hard to find quality board books. What do you look for when assessing a board book?

Emily: I always keep my eyes peeled for board books with one of the following qualities: tough, teething-friendly material, beautiful illustrations, seasonal stories, and interactive elements (e.g. touching different textures, flaps, etc.). I also like to find board books that succinctly condense a traditional story into an abridged version suitable for babies and toddlers; for example, The Tale of Peter Rabbit Story Board Book condenses Beatrix Potter's classic tale into a more accessible version for very young children. My boys don't love board books with just a single word or two on each page, so I try to stay away from those and stick to board books with an actual story with characters and a storyline.

Kelsey: Our daughter loves vehicle books almost as much as our son did but there's something special about finding that perfect vehicle book for little boys who never seem to tire of all-things big and noisy. Do you have any favorite vehicle board books? Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site is still a favorite for our almost four and a half year old.

Emily: We are pretty obsessed with that one, too! My two year-old also loves the Little Blue Truck series. His all-time favorite, though, might be the Thomas the Tank Engine Series. There is a great 26 book collection on Amazon that was released for the 70th Anniversary. The books are relatively small and perfect for little hands, but they each contain several short stories. Jack is also completely obsessed with tractors, so if you have any favorite tractor books, I'm all ears!

Kelsey: I value board books not only because they don't tear as easily and because they prevent paper cuts, but because of the tactile experience of the thick cardboard pages and the spotlight they place on the world's tiniest learners. Can you think of any picture books that you wish were in board book format?

Emily: I would love to see more traditional, classic nursery rhymes in board book format. It's hard to find board books with really beautiful stories and illustrations. A Apple Pie by

Kate Greenaway is one of our favorite books of nursery rhymes that I would love to see in board book form. A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson is another beautifully illustrated book with sixty-six poems about childhood and nature that could be condensed to make a lovely board book.

Kelsey: When our daughter was born our son was almost three and loved picking out board books such as Brown Bear Brown Bear What do You See? to recite to his baby sister. Are there any board books that J really enjoys showing P?

Emily: Yes! That's got to be one of my favorite things to see my boys do. Jack absolutely loves reading (showing) Dr. Suess board books to Peter and trying to recite the rhymes himself. Go, Dog, Go! has always been his favorite since he was a baby, so he takes every opportunity to sit Peter down for story time and recite what he can remember. It's so funny! I'm always amazed at how Dr. Suess's rhymes seem to stick so quickly in those little brains.

Kelsey: Bedtime stories are such a special part of the day in our family. If you had to name your top five favorite bedtime books (either picture books or board books) what would they be?

Emily: We usually dedicate at least 30 minutes every evening to bedtime stories (our two year-old doesn't let us get away with ever skipping a night), so I'm always trying to add more books to our current collection.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Paterson and Pamela Dalton is perhaps the most stunning children's book I've come across in the past couple years. Paterson reimagines a hymn originally written by Saint Francis of Assisi that celebrates the great breadth of creation, from the sun, moon, wind, and fire to community, family, work, and contemplation. Dalton's cut-paper artwork brings it all to life.

James Herriot's Treasury for Children is another beautifully illustrated collection of stories about life on a farm told through the eyes of a veterinarian. I'll Love You Till the Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi and Kristyna Litten is a sweet bedtime book that Jack has been loving lately.

Good Night, Pittsburgh by Mark Jasper is another current favorite that is part of the bestselling Good Night Our World Series, which includes hundreds of locations in the US. Jack loves pointing out special spots in our city that he has seen and recognizes from the book. It's a fun way to interact with our beloved hometown.

Look Again, Thomas by the Sisters of Life is a wonderful book about two little boys who learn to see people as God sees them. I love reading it just as much as my boys do!

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