Board Books for that Deserted Island

best top kids toddlers preschool board book long enough

Top ten, um fifteen (this is hard), board books you must have when stranded on a deserted island with your preschooler. Because water and food are so very overrated.


Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Kids love the idea of knowing something that a book character does not. Especially when it involves a clever, key-stealing gorilla. The double-page spread of all the eyes opening in the dark upon realizing they've been caught sneaking into the zookeeper's bedroom is pure perfection.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle

The finest example of simple repetition involving an even simpler rhyme scheme. Easy to memorize, and teaches colors, animals,  and rhythm.


Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton

All of Boynton's board books are beyond hilarious. This one, however, is the cream of the crop. My son called this the "silly turkey" book. As in at the end of every page he would shout with glee, "HA HA HA THAT SILLY TURKEY!"


Goodnight, Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

A long while back I wrote a lengthy paper in library school explicating this as the perfect picture book. To make a long story short, the lullaby of the great green room is peerless. This is my number one must have, forever and ever, amen.


Gossie and Gertie by Olivier Dunrea

All about friendship. The simple text and clean watercolors are perfect for the preschool crowd. I love a book that can convey multitudes in a few choice words: "Gossie and Gertie are friends. Best friends."

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Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein

Celebrates love of family and friends and the momentous occasion of a little one turning (slightly) older. Preschoolers love watching Little Gorilla grow big and still bask in that same love.

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No More Diapers for Ducky by Bernette Ford and Sam Williams

I was a lazy potty training mother. By my third, I didn't do much at all. This book's subtle storyline features Ducky wondering why his friend Piggy won't come out of the bathroom to play. Is Piggy having fun in there? Maybe Ducky should try it? And the diaper is touch-and-feel fuzzy. Absolutely endearing and low pressure.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The finest example of a die-cut book in the known world. A lovely paean to healthy eating and metamorphosis, to boot. This is my favorite felt board story to tell. Kids always exhale triumphantly when the caterpillar becomes a "beautiful butterfly."

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Freight Train by Donald Crews

Every time I open this nearly wordless book I am stunned by the artist's ability to convey movement on a static page. And you can't help but hear the chugga-chugga in the background.


Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

Yes, it is possible to find a book about mother love without sinking into saccharine story lines. And the owlets are absolutely adorable as they try not to scare themselves to death while mama's out hunting. Their relief when she returns is reassuring and palpably cute.  A wonderful way to share the concept that mamas always come back.


The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd

If you run away," said his mother, "I will run after you. For you are my little bunny." With all the board books out there in the world it seems like I could come up with fifteen different author/artist duos. But this book cannot be left out, despite the inclusion of Goodnight, Moon. A flight of imagination and a story of steadfast love. Oh, and the best last line ever: “Shucks,” said the bunny, “I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” And so he did. "Have a carrot," said the mother bunny.

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What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell and Ingrid Godon

The dog, the cat, the cow, and the duck just cannot figure out how to make the baby happy. They try food, a bath, even fun and games. It turns out baby just needs to go to bed. And when he wakes up, refreshed and happy? He sees a pile of exhausted animal-slash-caretakers snoozing away nearby. A fabulous read aloud, as you can exaggerate the cries of the boo-hoo baby and the bewilderment of his sitters.

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Where is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz

Three things young toddlers love: babies, a good game of peek-a-boo, and pointing out their heads, hands, and feet as they learn to identify parts of their fascinating bodies on cue. This sturdy lift-the-flap combines all three delights.


Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont and Jennifer Plecas

This isn't actually a board book, but its full-page flaps put it in the same genre. Mama and Papa try to get baby to go to sleep, but he's too busy dancing the cha cha with the chocolate-colored cow and the polka with the polka-dotted pig. The energy is exuberant, the alliteration begs to be read aloud, and the rhymes are super fun. If you only pick up one book from this list, please make it this one!


Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

This title is also available as a paperback, but I found that my kids most enjoyed it at age three, when board books are easier to handle, and we got many miles out of our board book version. The monkeys mock and frustrate the peddler, whose caps they've stolen as he takes a nap under their tree. But in the end, the peddler puts his anger aside and cleverly manages to outwit his opponents. A rhythmic read with just the right amount of repetition. 

I'm eager to hear your favorites. What board books have I left off my list that you think little ones can't live without? Let's compare notes.

Diggers, Dumpers, and Demolition

Note: Since I wrote this in early 2013, several new books on the topic were published that my son has come to love! I've added more to the list here, if you'd like further suggestions on construction equipment and giant trucks! 

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e have an obsession at our house and it is called bulldozers. Or front-end loaders. Or forklifts. I have no idea, really. I am constantly being corrected by a particular almost-four-year old who in moments of complete consternation reminds me that "digger" is far too nebulous a word. (He's not writing this though; thus the title.) And I am fairly certain parents of dinosaur-expert-slash-smarty-pants children know that of which I speak.

ere are our favorite construction books:


Demolition by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock

This one is my favorite. The illustrations are detailed enough that you can actually learn about the equipment from looking at them. The construction workers are not all white guys. And they build something new and beautiful out of what was old and ugly. Yeah! This book is also rockin' with rhythm, which makes it an excellent read aloud. (I hate when children's book authors cut school the day of the iambic pentameter lesson.) The author-illustrator duo also wrote Roadwork, which is equally cool.

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Machines Go to Work in the City by William Low

This one is an American Library Association top pick for 2012 and garnered starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Horn Book. (We library types get excited about starred reviews.) It's got flaps inside, and its companion is Machines Go to Work.


Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

Caveat: I don't really love this book. However, my son does. I know this because he has made me read it a million and four times. I like the artwork, but the rhymes are kind of cheesy and I'm always biased against books that are heavily pre-marketed. Anyway, who cares what I think, because apparently most all of the construction-loving preschoolers in the known world adore this book. And it is kind of cute how the machines have blankies and such when they tuck in at night.


Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

Some picture books are wonderfully illustrated. Some picture books are well written. And some, like this one, are pure genius, and so withstand the test of time and the onslaught of bazillions of mediocre children's books that are published each year. Mike Mulligan may be nearing 80, but Virginia Lee Burton's crayon drawings still tell the story with unmatched energy.  There is no way not to get caught up in Mike and Mary Ann's race to outmatch gas, diesel, and electric machines, and the ending, in which Mary Ann becomes a permanent part of the basement she digs, is purely lovely.

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I'm Dirty by Kate and Jim McMullan

This counterpart to the earlier I'm Mighty and I Stink, garnered starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist when it was published in 2006. These titles are energetic, full of fun sounds, and really resonate because the machines in the books have as much energy as the preschoolers enjoying them. All-around fun.

Now, I bet you don't know what a feller-buncher is.