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Clap Hands, by Helen Oxenbury

Board Books, Clap Hands Helen Oxenbury
Title: Clap Hands
Author: Helen Oxenbury
Age Category: Infant to 2 years
Genre: Baby Board Books

Helen Oxenbury: Clap Hands

Clap Hands—one of Helen Oxenbury’s beloved board books—is a simple tribute to activities that young children delight in.  The words of the board book are as follows:

“Clap hands, dance and spin;
Open wide, pop it in;
Blow a trumpet, bang a drum;
Wave to daddy, wave to mum.”

Subjective Appeal of the Board Book

This board book has tremendous subjective appeal for children in the infant-to-2-years age range.  One reason for this appeal is the themes the book engages.  Young children relate happily to the familiar activities of clapping, dancing, eating, making noise (music!), waving, and looking to mom and dad for affirmation; these are highlights in a toddler’s everyday experience.  Indeed, this board book often functioned for our children as a call to joyful imitation of the activities.  The toddler will also recognize familiar objects such as apple slices, high chairs, drums, and babies (!), which will draw him or her to the book.

The illustrations in Clap Hands also make the board book appealing to young children.  The illustrations are prominent, covering all of every page, and make use of bold, though not glaring, colors.  Moreover, the illustrations portray the book’s themes in a simple, clear way that somehow captures both the delight and the refreshingly slow pace of a toddler’s life.

There is also no small amount of humor in the illustrations.  The disheveled hair, the drooping diapers, the missing shoes, the undone buttons, the sheer delight in noise-making, the oblivious mess-making, and the comically accurate expressions on the children’s faces all testify to the everyday hilarity of life with a toddler.  While this implicit humor will mostly be a reward for adults reading this board book to children, older toddlers may also pick up on it, and enjoy it.  Finally, young children will also enjoy the simple rhyming poetry of the words.

Developmental Value of the Board Book

In addition to its subjective appeal, Clap Hands has considerable developmental value.  First, the simplicity of the board book’s language, and its focus on familiar activities and objects, are edifying for children in the early stages of language and concept acquisition.  The adult reader can point to the clear illustrations as examples of what the words refer to, thereby reinforcing the meanings of the words for the child.

Moreover, even in their simplicity the rhymes are creative, and so they begin to expose the child to one of the characteristics of good books, namely creativity.

Finally, this board book subtly reinforces the toddler’s primary relational connection with mom and dad: after their joyful activity, the children portrayed in the book turn to mom and dad for approval; seeing this in the book has the effect of settling the young reader in these developmentally crucial relationships.  Put another way, this board book gently affirms to the child the beneficial truth that her connection with her parents is important and good.

In sum, I give Helen Oxenbury’s board book Clap Hands my highest recommendation, and encourage you to find it in your local library, or to support our work by purchasing it through the links in this post.  You will also find similar recommended board books by Helen Oxenbury and other authors in the “Infant to 2 years” section of the Children’s Books and Reviews online bookstore.  The About.com children’s books site has additional recommendations for board books.

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5 Comments

  1. […] Book), the alphabet (e.g., Dr. Seuss’s ABC), making noise (e.g., Clap Hands; see our review “Board Books: Clap Hands, by Helen Oxenbury”), dogs (e.g., Follow Carl!), potty training (e.g., Once Upon a Potty), and bedtime (e.g., […]

  2. […] are also often especially attractive to toddlers.  Helen Oxenbury’s Clap Hands (see our review “Board Books: Clap Hands, by Helen Oxenbury”) is a children’s book with illustrations that embody these characteristics of simplicity, […]

  3. […] (and for adults reading it to them!) is Helen Oxenbury’s Clap Hands (for my review of Clap Hands click here). Here it just seems to be babies doing baby things—wearing droopy diapers, having funny looks on […]

  4. […] Clap Hands is a nice example of a board book with language that edifies in this way (for our baby board book review of Clap Hands, click here).  She uses simple words signifying concrete objects and activities that very young children can […]

  5. […] In my view, Helen Oxenbury’s old-school baby board books set the gold standard for children’s books in the infant-to-2-years age category.  Here I review a board book from her delightful series about Tom and Pippo.  For my review of Oxenbury’s equally delightful baby board book Clap Hands, click here. […]

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