Searching for the best gift for the littlest readers? Look for some good quality board books.
Yes, the thickness of the cardboard pages of board books limits the possibility of baby book ripping, but the real benefit is the ease with which readers with tiny hands can turn the pages. This helps develop fine motor skills, and also teaches young readers how a story develops from one page to the next.
In choosing board books, look for those with a very simple text and bright illustrations. Often publishers will take a favorite picture book and re-publish it in board book form; mostly it's best to steer clear of these books. Great picture books don't necessarily make good board books because there's usually too much text and the illustrations are too detailed.
Here's a look at some wonderful new board books that are perfect for the youngest readers:
• A young protagonist brims with cheerful confidence as she details her knowledge in "I Know A Lot!" (Abrams/Appleseed, $6.95, ages 1-3). Author Stephen Krensky uses a lilting rhyme in his sparse text in which the cornrow-headed heroine states: "I know rocks are heavy/And flowers are light./I know bright means day/And dark means night." Artist Sara Gillingham's appealingly retro-style illustrations, featuring bright, simple shapes are a perfect match for the text. "I Know A Lot!" is the third in an "empowerment" series published by Abrams/Appleseed; look also for "I Can Do It Myself!" and "Now I Am Big!," also written by Mr. Krensky and illustrated by Ms. Gillingham.
• Author Sally Symes and illustrator Nick Sharratt team up to create a book that's playful, colorful and interactive in "Whose Toes Are Those?" (Candlewick Press, $7.99, ages 6 months-3). Each two-page spread features an animal mostly covered up, except for its face and back legs. To see the entire animal, young readers lift a flap. It's a fun way for young readers to help "read" a book.
• For more "lift-the-flap fun, try "Who's Hiding?" (Candlewick Pres, $6.99, ages 1-3). Written and illustrated by Sebastien Braun, this book asks young readers to lift a flap to see what's hiding under the leaves (a caterpillar) or behind a watering can (a snail).
• "Polar Bear Night" (Scholastic, $8.99, ages 6 months-3) is one of the rare picture books that also works well as a board book. Here, author Lauren Thompson and illustrator Stephen Savage team their talents to craft a lovely, soothing bedtime tale.
• Check out these two new ABC board books: Construction equipment holds great attraction for many young readers, who will revel in learning the alphabet with "B Is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $7.99, ages 3-5.) Here, author June Sobel and illustrator Melissa Iwai use the alphabet format to identify the various pieces of construction equipment.
Another alluring subject for young readers -- baby animals -- is the focus of "ABC ZooBorns!" (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, $7.99, ages 1-3). With eye-and-heart-catching photographs, this book written by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland is sure to become a family favorite.
• Maisy, the smiling young mouse character created by author/illustrator Lucy Cousins, has long been a star in the board book world. Ms. Cousins' brilliantly colored artwork and Maisy's engaging personality make the many "Maisy" board books just right for young readers, who now can enjoy two new "Maisy" books (Candlewick Press, $6.99 each, ages 6 months-3 years).
In "Maisy's First Colors," the young mouse and her friends join forces to help teach color recognition, mostly by matching a color to a fruit. Animals help teach little ones how to count to five in "Maisy's First Numbers."
• Young readers will be entertained as much as they are educated by two new interactive books by author/illustrator Amelie Graux. First published in France, "I Love to Eat" and "I Love to Sleep" have been re-published here by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The books highlight simple objects in the everyday life of a baby and toddler. Each object is simply depicted, and each features some material -- inset into the illustrations -- that young readers can touch.
Ms. Graux adds further luster to her books by naming each object in English, French and Spanish, offering adults an easy way to expand their child's -- and perhaps their own -- knowledge of other languages. Each of the books costs $9.99; the books are aimed at ages 1-3.
• Two board books from Japanese children's author/artist Taro Gomi have recently been published in English. In "Peekaboo," Mr. Gomi provides some interactive fun as he invites young readers to open his book wide and peek through two die-cut holes to try on nine different masks, from a cat to a robot.
In "Mommy! Mommy!," Mr. Gomi shows two chicks searching for their mother in various places in the barnyard. Both books feature Mr. Gomi's trademark, deceptively child-like illustrations, which are filled with color and whimsy. Published by Chronicle Books, the books cost $6.99 each and work well for ages 1-3.
Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.