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Sandra Boynton's whimsical animals have been delighting kids for 40 years (washingtonpost.com)
125 points by kposehn 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

I didn't have these books growing up, but they've been a treasure to read to my kiddos. When a kid picks a book for storytime, there are some that I inwardly roll my eyes at, and there are others that are a joy. These books fall in the latter category.

People without kids, are you looking to give a book to folks with a new arrival? A Boynton board book is always a good choice.

It was fun to read this article and get to know the author a little better.

Thank you Sandra!

Same experience here! I had never seen them, but when we had our daughter my aunt wisely gave us barnyard dance. I was skeptical at first, but the collection of boynton has grown and is still very popular at 18 months.

Doggies is a fun read for onlookers, since it's basically dad or mom making dog noises for 15 minutes straight.

If you have a little one that you read these to now, save them, because as they get a little older these are good books for them to read back to you. I have a 5 year old who reads her old board books to me now. They're really good for beginning readers - some more difficult than others of course.

Any standouts that you recommend? I ask because the two we were given are a bit ordinary. Perhaps there's a wide variance in quality of her books?

We really enjoy "But not the Hippopotamus" and "The Going to Bed Book". If you don't like those, I think you're probably not going to enjoy others.

For younger kids, Blue Hat, Green Hat, and it's quite adorable when little kids complete the "Three singing pigs say..." "La la la!" (Moo, Baa, Lalala).

My younger kids had several Boynton books memorized, and I agree with the grandparent - I enjoyed the interaction with the children while reading them.

Moo Bah La La La is a favorite. I also like The Going to Bed Book.

My kids love the Belly Button Book and I do, too.

There's lots of great sentimental comments in here, but not much about her innate sense of business and value of her craft.

>Then she was introduced to the founders of a Chicago upstart called Recycled Paper Greetings. Mike Keiser and Phil Friedmann liked her animals and offered to pay her $50 a design. “I want a royalty,” she remembers saying. “They said, ‘It’s just never done.’ ” But in the end, they agreed.

>Keiser recalls that when Boynton signed on, the company was doing about $1 million a year in sales. Within five years their annual revenue topped $100 million, almost all because of Sandra Boynton.

To be a young upstart making cards by hands and say that to card company takes a lot of strength and foresight.

An Ivy League education and a parent in publishing helps. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandra_Boynton

I'm wondering how much of a role that played in the demand for a royalty. I'm guessing quite a bit, and that the total outcome might have been very different otherwise.

Interestingly enough, the fact her father was in publishing wasn't included in the linked article.

Belly buttons will always be "belly b's" in my house and even when our little boys are grown and gone, I'm quite sure we will always remember Belly Button Beach, "where tons of hippos stand around in bathing suits too little, in hopes that you will admire the button on their middle".

My little sister has been telling me "Hippo birdee!" on every birthday since we were in elementary school and even in our forties, she still posts it to my Facebook wall reliably every year.

These cartoon friends are a treasured piece of my childhood and now part of my kids', too. It's fitting that Ms. Boynton stayed true to her creations and that we don't see Boynton moose and chickens on McDonalds cups and other low-grade junk.


Her books are wonderful for small children-cute without being cloying, clever without being obvious about it. It's a shame to hear that she hasn't won any major awards for her works; probably, she'll be another of those artists who aren't recognized until they're gone.

She just had a full article about her in the Washington Post which many award winners have not. I wouldn't call her unrecognized.

Buying her books for your kids or the kids of someone you know is the right way to recognize her.

Awards are circle jerks that add no new value on their own.

> Buying her books for your kids or the kids of someone you know is the right way to recognize her.

Then we've recognized her a lot in my house :-)

> Awards are circle jerks that add no new value on their own.

There's nothing wrong with valuing respect from your peers.

Don't need awards to give and receive respect from ones peers.

A cow says moo, a sheep says baaa, 3 singing pigs say...

I read that to my 5yo last night... I think I'll remember the words until my last day. :-)

I read that one so much I had it memorized at one time.

No no, you say, that's not right, pigs say Oink all day and night.

It's quiet now, what do you say?


This reminds me that I should dig out the CDs I have of several of those albums.... Maybe it's time to switch back to a Philadelphia Chickens ring tone again.

My two year old will not fall asleep without at least 1 sometimes 3 readings of "snuggle puppy".

I definitely recommend any of these books to parents of toddlers.

Yep! My daughter (16 months), loves Snuggle Puppy and Going to Bed Book. She makes me sing it to Eric Stoltz[1] tune.

[1] https://open.spotify.com/track/0DtUUNXVc0768qe6ADtaas

Oooooh, snuggle puppy of mine! I literally just read this book twenty minutes ago before sending my kiddo off to school. They are pretty great, if a bit different than the rhyming books I remember from my childhood.

I've been wishing people "Hippo Birdie Two Ewes" to people celebrating their trip around the sun for many years now, all because of Sandra.

I always found her animal cartoons to be wonderfully balanced. Not too cutesy and cloying and quite lovable.

Aside from her books, "Dog Train" is one of the more listenable kids albums (book+CD for about $12 on Amazon).

She has definitely done young children's book marketing well!

"The train goes nowhere, but it goes there fast..."

That CD is just full of gems...

Seconded. Dog Train in particular was on the hot list for my kid for about 6 months, and it was largely cringe-free, with some real gems among the songs.

Our family adores "Blue Moo", as well -- the Personal Penguin song is our favorite, but many others on that album are adorable.

My kids and I have Barnyard Dance memorized. We will often recite it as we dance around the room. I think Mrs. Boynton's work will be treasured for years to come and I hope she receives the credit for the amazing work she has done.

I almost _never_ write comments, but I had to write here and say that despite having almost all the Boynton's books we own memorized that I still enjoy reading them for my 18 mon old.

edit: clarify I don't have ALL Boynton books.

We love these books for our two toddler girls! They are a treasure. Our personal favorite is 'Doggies' which is so simple but is amazing for everyone to bark along to (including the dogs in the house)

Interesting - from the comments here, it sounds like she is really well known in the US, but I haven't come across her work in the UK at all.

You would think this type of work would travel well.

She was well known here in Australia about 20+ years ago. Virtually every greeting card I used to receive back then was a Boynton one.

Of late, she seems to have disappeared off the shelves in newsagents etc. I was actually quite surprised to hear a couple of years back that she was still creating new work. Followed her on Twitter for a dose of nostalgia every now and then on my timeline.

It’s tight poetry, reliant on meter for memorability and often with tricky internal meter, puns, and rhyme. It doesn’t depend on overt culture, but prying it out of its native language works as well as Seuss or Joyce.

I agree it's tightly tied to the native language, but I don't think it's particularly tied to its original dialect. It should work well enough in British or Australian English.

Just last night I read our 2yo daughter "Dinosaur Dance" and she "read" it back to me afterwards (complete with my added animations)!

The words per page aren't enough that she gets bored, the illustrations are colorful and silly, and each book lasts "just long enough". We've got a small collection going now that she loves to have read to her. When I see one of the books in a store, I know it's an easy buy.

Initially, I didn't care for the few books of hers that we received as baby shower gifts. But after multiple readings, I've started to see them as not trying for Seuss-like verbal gymnastics, but instead acting as creative prompts for parents to act as silly as possible. Hamming it up while reading is highly encouraged.

I like Dinosaur Dance a lot as well for my 17 month old but I found the writing in the rest of the books bland or a bit annoying. The illustrations are all cute.

Try The Going to Bed Book, or Pajama Time (I actually watched a youtube vid on how to "sing" that one because I couldn't work out the metering myself, but it's now another of her favorites). She also likes Dinosaur's Binkit for the interactivity. I admit I haven't read all of them, but the ones I have are a hit so far.

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