Black and White Board Books: An Essential for a Newborn’s Library

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Margaret Kingsbury

Contributing Editor

Margaret Kingsbury grew up in a house so crammed with books she couldn’t open a closet door without a book stack tumbling, and she’s brought that same decorative energy to her adult life. Margaret has an MA in English with a concentration in writing and has worked as a bookseller and adjunct English professor. She’s currently a freelance writer and editor, and in addition to Book Riot, her pieces have appeared in School Library Journal, BuzzFeed News, The Lily, Parents,, and more. She particularly loves children’s books, fantasy, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, and any books with disabled characters. You can read more about her bookish and parenting shenanigans in Book Riot’s twice-weekly The Kids Are All Right newsletter. You can also follow her kidlit bookstagram account @BabyLibrarians, or on Twitter @AReaderlyMom.

The first item I bought for my little one was a book. That should surprise absolutely no one reading this.

Because I work at a used bookstore, almost every week of my pregnancy resulted in more and more books brought home. Like many parents, I made sure to stock Marian’s shelves with some of my own favorites: all of Maurice Sendak’s books, Dr. Seuss, lots of feminist picture books—like Rosie Revere, Engineer—and random gorgeous ones—like Pool by JiHyeon Lee. At this point, my now 8-week-old little one has two full bookshelves filled with children’s books.

Is Marian interested in these books? Not in the least. In fact, she often sleeps right through story time. So ungrateful, and not even a teenager yet.

But that’s not to say she finds all books a snooze-fest. There’s one type of book that she can stare at for, well, several intense minutes, which in baby time is a long, long time. Those books are black and white board books.

Research shows that newborns prefer black and white. They’re still developing their eye sight, and the high contrast between black and white captivates their attention. That’s certainly true for Marian. In fact, after seeing a picture of fellow Rioter Jen Sherman‘s little one with a book by her changing table, I’ve placed a black and white board book by Marian’s changing table so she has something engaging to look at during diaper changes! And she does like looking at it, in between kicks and sticking her tongue out at Mommy!

I now wish I’d bought more black and white board books instead of the pretty illustrated picture books, but she’s sure to enjoy those later.

I’ve gathered a list of Marian’s and my favorite black and white board books. Whether buying for your own newborn or someone else’s, I highly recommend them.

Spots and DotsBlack and white board books: Book cover of Spots and Dots by Art Baby from Art Baby

This is the one I have at Marian’s changing table. It’s perhaps the most popular black and white board book, featuring artsy images of…spots and dots. Except one page has squares, which bothers me. It doesn’t bother Marian, however. You can also check out Hearts and Stars by the same publisher.

I Kissed the Baby by Mary Murphy

This is my favorite. In addition to the cute black and white illustrations (with some color mixed in), I love the interaction between baby and parent on each page. I make sure to kiss and sing to my baby as I read it to her!

Look Look! by Peter Linenthal

A cute and simple book with large black and white illustrations. Marian particular likes the pages with children smiling, probably because it features faces, which babies love! I find these pages creepy, but whatever pleases Marian pleases Mommy too. The author has several other black and white board books too.

Baby Animals: Black and WhiteBlack and white board books: Book cover of Baby Animals: Black and White by Tildes by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

Because animals are fantastic and cute! Make sure to make animal noises as you read to your little one. I know Marian loves it when I make funny noises.

Checkers and Dot by J. Torres

There are four Checkers and Dot books, and this is the first, where you’re introduced to all the characters. This one actually has a storyline for the adults, if a simple one. So both baby and parent can enjoy it!

Does your baby have a favorite black and white board book?

Looking for more baby book recommendations? From more board books to bookish hits, Book Riot has some options for you.