Do give the dog a bath.
Don’t take one with him.
Do wear clean underwear.
Don’t wear it on your head.
With rare exceptions such as the incomparable Sandra Boynton’s small works of genius, or the endlessly entertaining board book versions of some Dr. Seuss favourites, it’s pretty unusual for me to find a board book that I really like. While I love the idea of books sturdy enough for infants and toddlers to handle by themselves, most board books are thoroughly uninspired. Far too many of them are written in the sort of sickly-sweet, patronizing tone that suggests that our youngest children cannot appreciate or benefit from a sense of humour, a bit of interesting word play, or an idea more complex than “Cow says, ‘Moo.’”
Given all of the above, it was with great glee that I first encountered the works of author/illustrator Todd Parr. Some parents may already be familiar with Parr and his quirky, colourful style from the children’s cartoon television show “Toddworld”. His board books reflect a similarly offbeat, cheery sensibility, with bold, primary-coloured, childlike illustrations, and themes which manage to be simultaneously irreverent and heart-warming.
Do’s and Don’ts is a great example of what makes Parr’s books stand out from the crowd. In an “advice” book for the diapered set, the author puts forth a set of suggestions that are both silly and surprisingly sensible. From “Do smile at people. Don’t stick your tongue out at them,” to “Do eat lunch with a monkey. Don’t eat his bananas,” Do’s and Don’ts is full of a gentle humour that even the smallest children can enjoy, in a format that both babies and parents can appreciate.
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