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Monday, August 15, 2011

Spotlight on Sandra Boynton: Illustrator, Author, Songwriter

In the late 1970's, when I was about ten or so, one of my favorite things to do (if I wasn't reading, writing, or climbing trees) was to walk down to the ISU Campus Book Store, which was only three blocks from our house at the time.  There were always new things to look at throughout the store, but the area I liked best was the second floor, where there were aisles of greeting cards for sale.  I loved browsing through the cards, and -- if I had money to spend -- picking out the perfect one to send to a friend.  (I actually wrote letters quite regularly back then!)

I especially liked all the wacky, humorous cards designed by Sandra Boynton.  (Chances are, you've probably seen her most famous card before, the "Hippo Birdie Two Ewe" one.  I know I bought that card on more than one occasion myself!)

Then, in the early 80's, buying and collecting stickers became THE thing to do -- for kids, teens, and even some adults.  I joined right in with all the other sticker-crazy people! :)  We had two stores in town with huge sticker selections.  One of them, Balloon Bouquet Boutique, was in campustown -- again, just a few blocks from my home.  I walked down there at least once a week, looking to see if any new designs had come in, and then buying one off of each roll to put in my scrapbook album.  I still have that book, and several of the stickers inside are Boynton's designs, with sayings like "Gofer Baroque" and "Sealed with a hog and a quiche".

In the mid 90's, I was a new mom.  I was delighted to find out that not only had Boynton continued creating over the years, but now she was the author and illustrator of several children's books.  Just as I had collected her cards and stickers in the past, I began collecting her books, as well.  Our whole family has enjoyed Boynton's zany sense of humor ever since!

We don't own all of Boynton's books (unfortunately), but we do have quite a few of them.  We've read each one more times than I can count, giggling over the pictures and the words!  Several of her works are board books, perfect for reading to little ones over and over again.

The entertaining board books A to Z, Opposites, and But Not the Hippopotamus were all published in 1982:

(from the book Opposites)

The book A is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet (1987) is, sadly, out of print -- though I did find copies available online.  This is one silly ABC book!

Boynton's board books One, Two, Three!, Birthday Monsters, Oh My Oh My Oh, Dinosaurs!,  and Barnyard Dance were all published in 1993.  They may be short and simple, but they will also make you smile! 

This is our family of five's favorite page in
 One, Two, Three!  That scene on the second page is
oh, so familiar!

And this is my favorite page from
Oh My Oh My Oh, Dinosaurs!

Dinos to Go (2000) is another amusing book.  Using fun illustrations of dinosaurs, Boynton describes various personality traits, sure to remind you of people you know:

As much as I appreciate all of the books above, I believe Boynton's best works are the ones that follow. 

In 1996, Rhinoceros Tap was published. Boynton tried something new for this book -- writing lyrics.  Collaborating with composer and pianist Michael Ford (along with singer Adam Bryant), Boynton created several "seriously silly songs". 

I remember my brother-in-law giving this book and the accompanying cassette tape to Emmalie for Christmas when she was almost two.  As soon as I played the very first song and watched her dancing as only toddlers can, I knew that tape was going to get a lot of use!  From the tender lullaby, "Little One",  to the very goofy "O, Lonely Peas" and "Turkey Love Song", Rhinoceros Tap is truly a treasure for the whole family.

Luckily, Boynton continued writing songs after that.  Her second collaboration with Ford, Philadelphia Chickens, came out in 2002.  This time, the songs were sung by various people (some famous), including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and The Bacon Brothers.  Once again, the wonderfully wacky songs were a big hit at our house!  (Unfortunately, I just realized that the book says right on the front cover: "For all ages, except 43."  Guess I'll have to wait till my next birthday to listen to them again!) Some of our family's favorites from this book and album are "Nobody Understands Me", "Far Away Cookies", and "BusyBusyBusy".

The Aaaardvarks' "Intermission Song" is great, too!

We were all excited to find out that Boynton and Ford had created another book and CD of songs, Dog Train, in 2005.  This one is billed as "a wild ride on the rock-and-roll side", and many rockers lent their famous voices to the album.  The entire CD (with accompanying book) is a treat!  Some of the songs we enjoy most are "Pots and Pans" (sung by The Bacon Brothers with Mickey Hart), "(Don't Give Me That) Broccoli" (sung by The Phenomenauts), and my absolute favorite "I Need a Nap" (sung by Kate Winslet and Weird Al Yankovic).

"I just can't take any more!"

The dynamic duo of Boynton and Ford teamed up again in 2007, creating the book and CD Blue Moo: Jukebox Hits from Way Back Never.  I do not own this one.  Yet.  (But I've already decided it will be going on my Christmas wish list!)  One of the songs, "One Shoe Blues" (sung by B.B. King),  has been made into a "Boynton-directed musical short film"... aka music video... which you can see here.  I highly recommend it! :)

To learn more about the amazing Sandra Boynton...  illustrator/author/songwriter/director...  and all the products she's created, please visit the official and very entertaining Boynton! "Trying to Think of a Motto Since 1973" website.  Don't forget to look for her work at the bookstore and your local library, too!


  1. I need a box,
    A really big box.
    It's got to be big and wide.
    I need a box,
    A really big box,
    To put your present inside.

    I need a box,
    A really big box,
    As big as I can wish.
    I need a box,
    A really big box,
    So the hippo's ears won't squish.

    Oh, here is a box!
    A really big box!
    The perfect shape and size!
    Now where can I find
    What I have in mind
    For your Christmas Day

  2. Love it, Ben! I'm not familiar with that one, though, and had to Google it. Looks like it's from the book "Bob"? I'm going to have to search for it at the library or bookstore, I guess, and maybe even add it to my Christmas wish list. :) Thanks for sharing it!

  3. It is from Bob. This is arguably my favorite SB piece ever.