Book Reviews / KidLit / Picture Books

Gift Idea: Hello World Books for Toddlers

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Looking for a gift for your favorite niece/nephew, son/daughter, friend, or neighbor? Look no further.

While most agents and publishing houses strongly caution against submitting tales that are didactic – as the word is understood for teaching moral lessons – there is no shortage of opportunities and support for books involving instruction in numbers, colors, shapes and other basic math skills. Not all of these are created equal.

When I found the books I’m going to recommend in this post I was cautiously giddy. They books are based in a few “big cities” and highlight math elements while introducing iconic city structures and traditions. My two-year-old is, for the most part, “out” of board books, but I couldn’t help getting excited to add an element of geography in our reading as well. Would the city/concept pairing be engaging? Opposites in London? Shapes in Paris? Numbers in San Francisco? Giddy turned to optimistic and I bought 3 of the 4 Hello World books by Ashley Evanson. My two-year-old is solid with her colors so I opted out of New York: Colors, but I bet it would be just as good.

I love them. The illustrations are vibrant and each concept is presented in a different – and appropriate – manner. So instead of three books that say “Can you find the number/shape/opposite on this page?” for every picture we have three books that connect the city and the concept using different tried-and-true methods with contemporary illustrations.

Paris: A Book of Shapes puts a large example of the shape on the left page and then a beautiful illustration on the right and asks children to find the shape in the picture. Triangles at the Louvre, rectangles at Notre Dame, Ovals at Versailles, etc. I love that this takes the shape concept and asks children to extrapolate them from within a broader picture rather than just as an isolated element. It’s a shape “seek-and-find” approach.

San Francisco: A Book of Numbers shows different people engaging with the city at different focal points. Five clouds hide the Golden Gate Bridge, Eight seals bark at Pier 39 (Bonus: you can learn number 39!), One cable car, etc. Children can find the number “hidden” in the illustrations and can also be encouraged to count the objects.

London: A Book of Opposites hits most of the city’s highlights, including Tea Time and the Palace Guards, while using Big/Small, Empty/Full, Old/New, and other opposites. If my four-year-old listens in on this reading, I suspect she’ll have questions about the phone box (and it wasn’t in the Old/New pairing either).

I hope more books in this series are to come – even if they use shapes/opposites/numbers again – but in more geographically diverse regions. Good thing I’ve got nephews at the right ages for these books for the next few years.

Who am I kidding, I might add them to my collection.

So, go ahead and put them on your Black Friday/Black Monday/never-a-bad-time-to-buy-a-book shopping lists.

8 thoughts on “Gift Idea: Hello World Books for Toddlers

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