I tend to avoid books with flaps, pop up designs, or fold-out pages. They can be really fantastic, of course, but I live in a house with three actual children. The number of children’s books I want to keep out of their reach and save for special occasions is very, very small. Add to that the fact that we get a large portion of our reading material at the library, and lift-the-flap books are low on my reading list. (Have you ever seen a pop up book that’s been in circulation for a while? They remind me of the toys in the pre-school room in Toy Story 3.) We have enjoyed a our share of lift-the-flap books through the years, however, because grandmas and friends often send them as gifts. Here are 4 charming books that have held up better than most.
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell was a gift for my animal-obsessed daughter. I knew she would love the book (she does), but I was worried about how the flaps would hold up under the intense devotion only a toddler can give. The book itself tells a sweet story about the zoo sending a child animals as pets. Each animal, hidden under a flap, gets sent back for one reason or another (the camel is too grumpy and the giraffe is too tall). We are four years in now, and only one flap has any noticeable wear.
Zelda the Varigoose by Sebastian Loth was a “oh this looks cool” grab at the library that turned out to be as great as we’d hoped. Zelda is a goose that likes to pretend to be other animals. Each two-page spread features a short poem and a transparent overlay that transforms the illustration of Zelda into a new creature, like a gooselephant. (I posted a picture of one of the overlays on Instagram here.) The illustrations are simple, but adorable, and the overlay is a cool technique without there being anything for an over-eager toddler to rip. Also, my computer keeps trying to correct Varigoose to Varicose. That would be a different sort of book altogether, I think.
The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Alphabet Book by Robert Crowther was a favorite of mine as a child. After I read (and read, and read) it, a whole host of nieces and nephews took turns reading it with Grandma when they came to visit. The very same copy now sits on the shelf in my daughters’ room. Surprise to no one: they love it. (And they’re not alone; the book has been reprinted at least 9 times since it was originally published in 1977.) Each letter in the alphabet opens or slides to reveal an animal underneath (H is for hen, etc.) The tabs on our copy are looking well-loved, but only one is missing after all these years. I’d say it qualifies as both a great book and one meant for actual children to read.
Where is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Kratz is a best-seller. It’s a classic. It has over 1,000 reviews on Amazon, most of them positive. But I don’t love it. The illustrations and the text bore me, frankly. That said, this has been a favorite of each of my children at around the 9-18 month window. Considering that’s also when my children have gotten mobile and impatient, any book that can entice them to sit still and read a book with me is a keeper. This was a gift when our son was born almost 8 years ago and is still in perfect condition. Since the only people in the house who read this book repeatedly have been under 2 (which is, of course, not the gentlest age group when it comes to books), I should buy these in bulk for baby shower gifts.
Honorable mention goes to Fire Truck by Peter Sis. We love this book. Something about it is so compelling to the four-year-old set. The illustrations are simple, but darling. It features one page that folds out to reveal a long fire truck. I almost feel like that is unnecessary, honestly, and the page is not reinforced in any way in my copy. So while it doesn’t exactly fit the bill for this list, we do love it. If someone you know is a little gentler with books and/or has a love of fire trucks, I’d heartily recommend it. (Edited to add: There is a board book version, which is just as great as the original. It even includes a heavy-duty fold-out page.)