Early one morning, my little 3-year-old eyes popped open. Somehow, I was up before anyone else, and for some reason, I decided it was time to get into trouble. I checked to see that my sister was asleep in her bed, then sneaked a peek into my parents’ room to make sure they were fast asleep. Then I made my way down the hall to the kitchen and the junk drawer. I pulled open the drawer and there it was: the giant, red, permanent marker.
I went back down the hallway, joyfully dragging the marker down the walls, stopping to color a dark circle, before I made my way to my goal: the bookshelves in the playroom. I sat down and started pulling the books off, one by one, coloring a deep red all over our favorites. I even made sure to lift the flaps and color underneath. (My mom call this my first editing job.)
I am still not sure what possessed me that morning: I never did it before or again. It’s a very clear, very early memory. For whatever reason, I got it in my head that I needed to make some permanent additions to a stack of board books.
I think about this story often at the bookstore where I work as I recommend board books to people shopping for the little ones in their lives. People are often drawn to the little spinner of Indestructables books, and why wouldn’t they be, with a name like that? Kids love books, but sometimes they love to destroy books, and it’s nice to have a promise that your baby shower or birthday gift will live to see your little person go off to kindergarten.
Indestructables have the bookish equivalent backstory of a Hollywood starlet being discovered at a soda fountain. Amy Pixton had a set of infant triplets at home, and was getting frustrated that the traditional board books in her kids’ library weren’t able to stand up to three little mouths. Her mother-in-law, an artist, had been creating outdoor murals on Tyvek, a synthetic polyethylene fabric. Pixton put the pieces together and created her first Indestructables book, then called a TyBook. Her mother-in-law did the first illustrations and Pixton had them manufactured and brought them to her local bookstore. The local bookstore called Workman Publishing and said “I think we’ve got something,” and Indestructables were born. (To be clear: that is not how book deals usually happen!)
Clearly, Amy Pixton found a hole in the baby book market that needed to be filled. But who else is making kids books that can stand the test of time…and teeth? I pulled together a few different indestructible book product lines that even the most curious fingers can’t tear.
Indestructables Books by Workman Publishing
I had to start with the classic. These short books (usually around 12 pages) range from wordless books to very simple stories. The durable Tyvek (it’s similar to — or the same as — the material that those blue Ikea Frakta bags are made of) can’t be ripped or torn, and is smyth sewn for durability. You can even put the books in the dishwasher! The illustrations on the older books all have a collage-y feel inspired by Kaaron Pixton’s art style, but the newer books have a cartoonier style. Standout titles include Wiggle! March!, the first title and a wordless book, and Love You, Baby, a sweet about how babies love snuggles and hugs, just like the various animals included.
Tuffy Books by Cottage Door Press
Cottage Door Press, a relatively young publisher that makes marvelous and innovative board books (more on that later), took the idea of a Tyvek book and plussed it up. They added a chewable silicone spine with a loop that allows you to attach the book to a stroller or diaper bag. Not only can your baby chew on this book, but they’re invited to. The back of the book also encourages caregivers to wash the books before giving them to their babies, a note that I especially appreciate in a post-pandemic world. The line is all illustrated in soft pastels and sweet rounded shapes that have a vintage ’80s/’90s feel. (The illustrations for Unicorns Love Colors take me back so directly that I’m almost reaching for the red sharpie. Almost.)
Standout titles include Farm Babies, which asks questions like “who is in the field?” that you can answer with your own baby, and Mermaid’s First Words which brings you under the sea to learn about fish, shells, and more.
Silicone Sensory Books by Little Hippo Books
Is there anything more disappointing in the picture book world than a touch-and-feel book that’s lost it’s, well, it’s feel? Balding fur patches, foggy mirrors, sandpaper that has lost it’s grit: these are just a few of the ways that a traditional touch-and-feel can fail. But Little Hippo’s silicone sensory books have found a way around those troubles with their silicone sensory patches: different textures molded into silicone to simulate scales, leaves, circuits and gears and more. Instead of other materials that may wear a way, these colorful silicone patches will likely outlast the board they’re attached to. Standout titles from this line include Moody Monsters, a touch-and-feel book about monsters who have a lot of feelings, and Hello, Ocean Friends, a rhyming story about a young whale out to visit his friends!
Babies Love… by Cottage Door Press
These may seem like your typical board books, but something about the way Cottage Door constructs their little boards makes them super durable. These ultra-chunky books can take a beating. (One friend sent me a photo of her one-year-old stepping on an open lift-a-flap and said “this is typical daily use” for the last three months straight. These little books are thick that you can use them as a foundation for your block tower, then knock the tower down for story time. I don’t have exact numbers on this, but I believe these board book pages are the thickest on the market. Your babies can love these books as hard as they like. The books can take a beating! Standout titles from the series include Babies Love Hugs, a lift-the-flap featuring various animal hugs, and Babies Love Things that Go, a beginners primer about everything with an engine.
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