What's the Difference Between a Board Book and a Picture Book?

March 11, 2021

Board books, picture books, hardcover, easy reader, beginning reader . . . are there really that many differences when it comes to children’s books?

In fact, there are quite a handful of different types of books available for children. Let’s walk through the differences between two of the options geared for younger children: board books and picture books.

While there are almost always exceptions, here’s an overview of what these formats look like.

A quick guide:

Board Books

The Build:

Board books are made out of a sturdy cardboard (known as paperboard) instead of the typical thin sheets of paper. Some are thicker than others, some are glossy while others are matte, and they’re usually a smaller square shape between 6x6 inches or 7x7 inches. They generally have around 24 pages (give or take a few!), or 12 spreads (an open page including the right and left side).

Because of their more durable build, board books are well suited for little hands ages zero to three, though some board books are for older readers (up to age six to eight).

The Content:

Since they’re made for younger readers, board books have simpler content. They might have just one word per page to a few sentences of a simple story. Interactive board books are also very popular: examples include lift-the-flap books, sliding tabs, touch-and-feel elements, die-cut pages, or uniquely-shaped pages.

Board books often focus on identifying objects and learning basic concepts, such as colors, numbers, and animals.

The Creatives:

Board books are often created by one creative who does both the text and illustrations. Publishers also write board books and bring an illustrator on to complete it.

Another fairly common board book offering is a picture book reformatted to be a board book, like my board book copy of The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, when publishers have more confidence that it will sell well since it has done well as a picture book.

The Cost:

Board books usually cost between $6.99 and $9.99.

Popular Board Book Examples:

  • board • 24 Pages
    Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
    #1 in Series
    Bill Martin Jr, Eric Carle
  • board • 30 Pages
    Goodnight Moon
    Clement Hurd, Margaret Wise Brown
  • board • 34 Pages
    If Animals Kissed Good Night
    #1 in Series
    Ann Whitford Paul, David Walker

A Few Bookroo Favorite Board Books:

  • board • 26 Pages
    This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer
    Joan Holub, Daniel Roode
  • board • 26 Pages
    More Than Balloons
    Lorna Crozier , Rachelle Anne Miller
  • board • 28 Pages
    Mrs. Peanuckle's Fruit Alphabet
    Mrs. Peanuckle, Jessie Ford

Picture Books

The Build:

Picture books can be either hardcover or softcover (also known as paperback). They have typical paper pages, though some lean more toward glossy and some are more matte. Hardcover picture books are bound in a sturdy cardboard cover while softcover picture books have a bendable cover. Picture books are usually around 32 pages, though it can range from shorter (around 24 pages) to longer (50+ pages), and are around 10 x 8 inches (though size varies a bit as well).

Picture books are usually geared toward toddlers and above—generally ages two to eight—as the pages are more prone to tears. But if we’re being honest, we’re big believers you’re never too old for a picture book.

The Content:

Picture books often tell short stories, sometimes introducing lessons or morals.There’s a wide range in word count, with some picture books being very light on text while others are more dense. If you were to randomly pick up a couple, one might be 200 words while the other was 1100 words. Five hundred to 700 words is a general word count, though non-fiction picture books tend to have a higher word count.

The Creatives:

Picture books are often created by an author paired with an illustrator, though some creatives write and illustrate their books.

The Cost:

Picture books usually cost around $17.99 for a hardcover.

Popular Picture Book Examples:

  • picture • 32 Pages
    If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
    #1 in Series
    Laura Numeroff, Felicia Bond
  • picture • 48 Pages
    Where the Wild Things Are
    Maurice Sendak
  • picture • 40 Pages
    Dragons Love Tacos
    #1 in Series
    Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri

A Few Bookroo Favorite Picture Books:

  • picture • 40 Pages
    Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
    Marcy Campbell, Corinna Luyken
  • picture • 32 Pages
    Wherever You Go
    Pat Zietlow Miller, Eliza Wheeler
  • picture • 40 Pages
    The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR!
    Rob Biddulph

Top 5 on Bookroo

    A New Parent's Guide to Reading
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