The thing about Karen Katz is that either you like her balloon-headed babies or you don’t. I have a complicated relationship with them myself. Aesthetically, this is not something I want to tear out of a book and hang on my wall (a thought that crosses my mind more often than it should considering I’m a librarian), but I think Katz’s books are just right for her very young audience. Let’s take three entries from her Brand-New Baby series, Baby’s Colors, Baby’s Shapes, and Baby’s Numbers. On the covers, babies frolic in their fun footie pajamas, their big, round heads the most prominent thing going on, as is typically true of babies in real life. What is also true is that real-life babies are interested in faces, and the faces here are prominent, on the cover and on each following spread. I think a lot of babies will respond to that.
The books also provide some guidance on the concepts in question in a mostly serviceable fashion (although, for example, I question the wisdom of combining the colors pink and orange on one page in Baby’s Colors–that seems more confusing than anything). What elevates this series is design, which matters a lot with board books. The pages are made out of a cardboard I cannot bend, thicker than a typical board book and also smoother. Between that, the square shape, and the nicely rounded corners, I think they’re books babies will be tempted to handle, even to stack up and play with. I’m going to be very interested to see how the books stand up to tough library use, but right now this format is winning me over. If they’re still in good shape in a couple months, I’m buying more.