If you're looking for books that babies and toddlers can look at, and you know they'll survive baby gums, teeth and dribble - then Puffin have brought out three funky boardbooks:
ABC: Little Frond Series by Fraser and Matthew Williamson (Puffin)
Open up the board book and you'll see quite a funky design; lots of bright colours (not the primary colours though, more the colours in between) and Fraser Williamson's distinct illustrations. 'A is for Aroha' and you'll see a Pakeha boy with his arm around a Maori girl (or a boy with long hair - you cannot tell nowadays). The print is white block and the background is caramel. 'B is for Bungy' and an Indian girl is doing a bungy jump. The backdrop is white with burgendy print. This style of design continues throughout the book with one page full colour, the other white with coloured print. The alphabet objects are very kiwi: 'H is for Haka', 'J is for jandals', 'N is for Nikau'. A baby is not going to grasp these abstract ideas but the more you expose your baby to books, language, pictures - the more brain synapsis you are helping your baby's brain to create. Apparently, babies from one years of age can identify stylised art as representing real life things so this book is not just for babies. It will last to 3-4 years but you'd be using the book in a different way by then. At that age, you might use it to encourage your toddler to identify the first letter with the sound of the word or pointing to the real life objects out in your garden, on TV, or when you see them for real out in the real world.
Colours: Little Frond Series by Fraser and Matthew Williamson (Puffin)
Again you're not going to get traditional colours and objects in this book. The word 'red' is printed in white with a burgendy full cover page. On the opposing page is a pohutukawa flower and the word 'pohutukawa' printed in the burgendy colour. The flower offsets the white background. The other colour matches are with very New Zealand objects: 'blue' with 'blue penguin', 'green' with 'flax', 'black' with 'rugby jersey', 'brown' with 'kiwi' and etc. Again the word matches are quite complex but one day your toddler is going to name the object without being told and it will be because he or she had the board book read to them hundreds of times.
Counting: Little Frond Series by Fraser and Matthew Williamson (Puffin)
There's more going on this book compared to the other two - those are simple and stark. This book has a design element behind the number, a bold colour background, the number in numerals and written out as a word and the label for the scene on the opposing page. On 'one' is the phrase 'midnight morepork' (words written out on the left side) and on the right side is a stylised morepork (its head on one side), sitting on a branch, with a silhouetted tree in the background, bush, leaves and a 3/4 moon. On the next page is '2', 'two', 'cool kingfishers' and on the opposing page: two kingfishers sitting on bleached branches in a lake (or river) and on the other side of the water is bush and sand dunes. All the numbers correspond with our native birds. It is all very attractive. It is a lot for a baby take in but I can remember holding my son in front of a tapa design and watching his eyes tracking all the lines and shapes. He's now a big strapping 16 year old but has always been good with form and line drawing - I believe that early exposure helped.
These are sophisticated board books but as I've said I believe you're helping your baby's brain develop when you show them this type of artwork in books. Instead of giving the books away once they're toddlers - hold on to them and use them to identify sounds of letters and identify the objects in real life. These books will also make great presents for overseas relatives with toddlers.
Fraser Williamson is a well-known illustrator of children's books. His illustrations are throughout Learning Media's school journals, Anthologies, and Kiwi Bite books. His brother Matthew Williamson (from Halycon Design) has supplied the words and design for the series of books.