Give your baby something to chew on and your toddler something to think about (and play with) by reading them these 2021 board books that range from the adorable, hilarious, interactive, and sweet.
Our Favorite 2021 Board Books
Curls and Glow (05/04) by Ruth Forman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers (Little Simon)
Curls, published in late December of last year, is a celebration of Black girl curls, while Glow celebrates Black boy skin. Both use poetic and simple text paired with luminous and vibrant art to depict Black joy. Babies will love the character’s big eyes, and they’re both empowering reads. If you want a look at the art, check out these pictures of Curls on our Instagram.
Little Duck by Britta Teckentrup (Orca)
Orca has published a series of little animal board books that are made from all-natural, recycled materials. The other books in the series are Little Owl, Little Squirrel, and Little Fox. These are quick, simple reads that are also adorable. In Little Duck, the duck plays in the water with her siblings until bedtime.
The Lovely Haze of Baby Days: A Tribute to Motherhood and Life with Babies by Lindsay Kellar-Madsen and Mie Frey Damgaard
This board book shows both the ugh and the happy moments of the first few months with a baby: “Tummy time makes you so sad, and I need rest I haven’t had.” Most children’s books about those early days fail to show how rough they are, and I love how this board book combines tenderness with honesty. It would make a great baby shower gift. If you want to see some pictures of the art, check out our review of it on Instagram.
Baby Young, Gifted, and Black: With a Mirror! by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins (Wide-Eyed Editions)
Baby Young, Gifted, and Black is the board book version of the author/illustrator’s older children’s biography collection Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present. Of course, the board book version is simplified, with one brief statement for each Black figure from history. The vivid illustrations are sure to capture a baby’s eye, and there’s a mirror at the end for the baby to see themself. This colorful board book is an excellent way to start celebrating Black history from the start.
Turn Seek Find: Habitats by Ben Newman (Twirl)
This cleverly designed board book can keep kids entertained well past their toddler years. There are two wheels to turn, and one shows an item to find in each habitat and the other a color. The item in each color variation can be found in the illustrations. For example, a seal can be found in “The Ice Field” in various colors. The illustrations are vibrant, and it’s a lot of fun to play with. We also have Seasons by Philip Giordano, which has the same premise.
Love in the Wild Board Book by Katy Tanis (Mudpuppy)
Written and illustrated by a biologist, this rhyming, vividly illustrated board book depicts the many kinds of love in the animal kingdom. So neat! While the story is sweet and simple, the back contains more details about animal behavior and same-sex relationships in the animal kingdom.
SURPRISE! Slide and Play Shapes by Elsa Fouquier (Feb. 16; Twirl)
Of all the board books Twirl/Chronicle Books sent us for review consideration, Surprise! Slide and Play Shapes is my daughter’s favorite. Each shape can be manipulated differently so that something pops out of the book. It’s a great book to practice fine motor skills and learn about shapes.
Pull and Play Books: Pacifier and Sharing by Alice Le Hénand and Thierry Bedouet (Feb. 16; Twirl)
Both of these interactive board books help transition toddlers through a phase — giving up a pacifier and learning to share. The books have little flaps to pull that change each image. Little bear has a pacifier in their mouth; now little bear is putting the pacifier in the school cubby. My daughter loves these books. We recently weaned her off the pacifier except when sleeping, so she’s drawn to books about pacifiers. I like the sharing book equally, but we have fewer opportunities to discuss sharing since we’re quarantining. There are a whole bunch of books in the Pull and Play series. We’ll have to check them all out at some point.
Mamasaurus (03/08) and Papasaurus (05/09) by Stephan Lomp (Chronicle)
These two board books are a lot of fun to read, especially for dinosaur-loving children, which my daughter is. Each book has a little dinosaur (looks like a diplodocus, or another type of “long neck”) who has lost his mama or papa. He thinks he hears or sees his mama/papa, but it turns out it’s another dinosaur, until the very end when his mama/papa finds him. The illustrations are quite cute, and these are a big hit. I especially like that there’s an actual story with these.
The Night Is Deep and Wide by Gillian Sze, illustrated by Sue Todd (March 16; Orca)
The gorgeously illustrated board book is a gentle, rhyming bedtime story. The illustrator uses linoleum carving for her illustrations, and they remind me of the woodcuts from The House in the Night. Black and white illustrations attract infant eyes, so this board book is great for little ones under one.
Matching Game Book: Bugs and Other Little Critters by Stéphanie Babin, illustrated by Manu Callejón (March 16; Twirl)
I’ll admit, I’m not a bug fan, but my daughter enjoys books about bugs and watching bugs outside, so this matching board book is a hit. Though I’m not too fond of bugs, I love this board book because there are so many games to play on each page. It’s great for keeping my three-year-old occupied. Each page shows many bugs in their natural habitat on one side, and then the other page has panels to slide to show various bugs. This board book can be used as a matching game, a search and find, and more.
Don’t Push the Button! Let’s Say Good Night by Bill Cotter (April 6; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
We are big fans of Bill Cotter’s Don’t Push the Button series here. Each book has a button that you absolutely under no circumstances should push, and a monster named Larry, who, of course, encourages the reader to push the button. My daughter thinks this series is hilarious. This newest edition is slightly smaller than the other books we have in the series and focuses on bedtime. Check out our review of the Halloween book here.
Unicorn Day: A Magical Kindness Book for Children by Diana Murray, illustrated by Luke Flowers (April 6; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
The picture book version of Unicorn Day was published in 2019 and instantly became one of Marian’s favorite books. I have this book memorized. It’s a funny, vibrant rhyming book with a sweet message. It’s about a very special day — Unicorn Day! — where unicorns play and have fun all day. But unbeknownst to the unicorns, there’s a horse in their midst pretending to be a unicorn. What happens when the horse is found out? This book is an absolute blast to read, and I’m glad they’re publishing it in board book format.
My Heart Beats by Rina Singh (April 13; Orca Book)
This super sweet board book uses photographic illustrations paired with descriptions of a heartbeat in different languages to celebrate the love between parents and their child. “Thump thump,” in English, “doki doki,” in Japanese, and more. It’s a lovely book.
Little Faces: Be Careful, Dragon! by Carly Madden, illustrated by Hanako Clulow (April 20; words & pictures)
Dragons! Feelings! Various magical creatures have big feelings in this short, funny, and cleverly designed board book. Every time a page is turned, a magical creature’s expression is changed through a Venetian blind technique. We have a few similarly styled books at home, and they’re a big hit.
Bunny! Don’t Play with Your Food by Paul Schmid (April 27; Andrews McMeel)
It’s time to eat, but instead of eating his carrot, Bunny plays with it! He pretends he’s a zombie, a pirate, a space hero, and more. I too have a little one that plays with her food, so I’m sure many toddlers will relate to this book! I received a pdf of this one and read it to my daughter from my computer, and it got big belly laughs. It’s going to be even more fun reading it once we have a print copy.
City Baby by Laurie Elmquist, illustrated by Ashley Barron (May 11; Orca)
This super sweet board book shows a baby out on the town with their mama. I’m a big fan of Ashley Barron’s papercut art, and I will pretty much read any of her books. The text is appropriately short and simple for baby attention spans.
Martin Luther King, Jr. by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Mai Ly Degnan (July 6; Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)
Quarto Books is re-releasing some of its popular picture book biographies in their Little People, Big Dreams series as board books, and I think it’s such a fantastic idea. Other books being reformatted and released as board books are their Steve Jobs and Greta Thunberg biographies, though I confess to being most excited about this Martin Luther King Jr. board book.
I received some of these board books for review consideration from the publishers, but all reviews and opinions are my own.
What board books are you most excited about reading this year? If you’re looking for more board book suggestions, check out this list of 2020 board books and this list of feminist board books.