Making a board book inspired by the Hobbit

(For pictures of all of the pages, click here.)

Shortly after my son was born I found that I was spending large amounts of time singing tunes and reading poems out of "board books" for children.  For the uninitiated, a board book is a book for babies printed on thick paperboard.  This makes it easy for little fingers to turn, but also hard for them to tear.  In addition to reading many old classics (such as Goodnight Moon and Sandra Boynton's The Going-To-Bed Book), I also looked for other types of "classics" to introduce.  I ordered a copy of Poems from The Hobbit, a wonderful collection of Tolkein's poems from The Hobbit.  However, its 3" square form factor with thin pages made it not the best book for a small baby.  While local stores such as Magpie Kids had board books like the Cozy Classics version of Pride and Prejudice, they had little to no sci-fi or fantasy for babies.  This inspired me to make a board book of Bilbo's Old Walking Song ("Roads Go Ever On") out of the Hobbit.

After working on it off-and-on for a few months, the finished copy finally arrived in the mail:

[finished board book of Roads Go Ever On][]

Each page has a few lines from the poem over an (often heavily touched-up) photo, generally of a road going somewhere.  All of the photos are from my various travels and are of places including from Maine, Portugal, Croatia, Washington State, Hawaii, Russia, New Hampshire, and finally near my own childhood home in California.  I'd considered doing some other form of artwork such as watercolor, but this seemed like a good use of photos that I've taken over the years and also means that I can tell a story with each one as my son gets older.  I edited some of the photos to look a little more like illustrations, but I also didn't want to go over-the-top here.  The cover is actually a composite of three separate photos.  The full set of images on each of the pages is here if you'd like to see the full book. Here is a sample page spread:

page five

I used Inkscape to do composition of the pages, gimp to do photo editing, the Ringerbearer font, and then exported them to pdf files for printing.  I did change one word in the poem ("horror" to "darkness") as this seemed a little more appropriate for a young child's book. Pint Size Productions did the printing and did a great job.  If you would like to print your own copy for private and non-commercial use, you can download this zip file of the PDFs and upload it to Pint Size Productions.

[finished board book of Roads Go Ever On]: http://nygren.org/projects/hobbit-board-book/finished-book.jpg

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