Over the past few years, my extended family has grown to include the next generation of littlies - my grand-niece and -nephew and two step-granddaughters. Naturally, I always want to buy them books! But when they're under two, what do you buy? Board books, usually. Those ones made out of thick, sturdy cardboard pages that can be chewed, dribbled on and thrown around the room. Not to mention read about 200 times. I don't think my niece has ever forgiven me for Moo Baa La La La (by Sandra Boynton). She said she could hear it in her head!
But what makes a good board book? Not just indestructability. I've stood in front of the board book section in bookshops for hours, pulling out one after another and despairing at how banal they are. Maybe I'm expecting too much, but maybe also some publishers are starting to realise they can do more than just present an array of farmyard animals or dogs or numbers. It's why I love Sandra Boynton's board books, and why I have my own copy (not for lending) of But Not the Hippopotamus. It does everything a good picture book does, include a surprise funny ending. That's my kind of board book!
Recently I was sent a board book for review*, and it did have a lot of the features that make it worth reading. Lulu's Lunch is written by Camilla Reid and illustrated by Ailie Busby, which is interesting as I'd say 98% of board books are written by the illustrator. The story is very simple - what Lulu has for lunch - but the extra in this book is the stuff you can touch. I emailed my niece to ask her, "Did your kids like board books that had things to touch on them?" Her answer was yes, so I guess that adds extra points. I wasn't so sure about the spaghetti at the end (wriggly string). I gave it a couple of good tugs but it might not last the distance with a strong toddler. There are also some lift-the-flap pages to add interaction.
It's not a fabulous board book but it is interesting and provides a fair amount of interaction - that's got to be better than more TV, surely?
I suspect there's a real skill to writing board books. They could be harder even than picture books, and as I can't illustrate, it means that most publishers wouldn't be interested in anything I wrote. Have any of you had a board book published? What was your experience?
If you'd like to go in the draw for a copy of Lulu's Lunch, just leave a comment!