Monthly Archives: April 2012

Themed Third Thursday: Sandra Boynton

I was first aware of reading Sandra Boynton when GirlChild received a welcome package from the local library when she was born. (I had previously admired her “Hippo Birdie Two Ewe” birthday card at some point…) The welcome package contained a musical storytime CD that they had created and a board book copy of The Going To Bed Book. The book was rhythmic and fun and cute and perfect for reading aloud to a baby who couldn’t yet focus her eyes, and it is still perfect (although all the edges are worn smooth) for reading to her now that she’s four and can quote half of Boynton’s books along with me. Since then, we have accumulated a vast collection of the works of Sandra Boynton, and I’ll share some of our favorites.

Moo, Baa, La La La! (1984): Like all of Boynton’s books, this book features a variety of animals, from barnyard to Serengeti. That makes it perfect, of course, for teaching animal sounds, but the presence of chorus line of singing pigs inserts some of that typical Boynton humor. (Don’t worry; your child won’t grow up thinking pigs sing since that is immediately followed with, “‘No, no!’ you say, ‘that isn’t right! The pigs say OINK all day and night.'”) Also, the atypical rhinoceros and two different dog sounds make this more than your average animal sounds book.


Philadelphia Chickens: A Too-Illogical Zoological Musical Revue (2002): From “Philadelphia Chickens” to “Belly Button,” each musical number is performed in a different style by performers ranging from Scott Bakula (“Pig Island”) to Meryl Streep (“Nobody Understands Me”). My favorites are the swing-style “Philadelphia Chickens” and the Boogie-Woogie-Bugle-Boy-esque “Dinosaur, Dinosaur.” Oh, and “Belly Button,” a round (ha!). The CD/book combo begins with a section called “Look As You Listen” with a full-page spread for each song that features an illustration and selected lyrics. The second section, “Sing and Play Along,” includes full lyrics and a (mostly complete) musical score. (Many of the songs are also stand-alone books by Sandra Boynton.) When GirlChild was a toddler, we listened to this CD over and over (which, in my mind, is a thousand-million times better than having to listen to KidzBop or Raffi (no offense intended) a billion times), and BoyChild loves dancing to it now, too! In the book credits at the end, there is a note stating: “On behalf of all the wonderful artists who performed on this album, a portion of the proceeds goes to: The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.” So, it’s great humor, great music, and a great cause.

What’s Wrong, Little Pookie? (2007): This is my favorite of the Little Pookie books (although GirlChild likes Night-Night, Little Pookie and Happy Birthday, Little Pookie a good deal, too). Pookie is crying, and his mommy tries to find out what’s wrong because he won’t just come out and tell her. The first several questions are standard (“Are you sick?” “Are you hungry?”), but as soon as Pookie starts answering with more than the pouty, monosyllabic, “No,” she starts getting silly with her questions, like, “Did a very large hippo try to borrow your shoes?” In the end, Pookie has forgotten what he was so upset about in the first place. GirlChild has always loved to hear us read this, even quoting Pookie’s lines from a very young age, and just asking, “What’s wrong, little Pookie?” when she’s crying has the power to make her giggle (unless there really is something wrong). 🙂

Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! (1993): This book is mostly a book of opposites, and, of course, dinosaurs are used to illustrate the concept. You have your basic childhood opposites–happy/sad, good/bad–but smooth/spiny and plump/lean taught GirlChild some new vocabulary words she still uses. Many of Sandra Boynton’s books slyly accomplish what many less subtle books try to pound into young children’s heads–knowledge of colors, rhythm, counting, rhyming, body parts, etc.–and parents and children alike can have fun reading them or listening to one of her several CDs (over and over as you most certainly will). As for this book, the ending line is useful also for ending this post: “Dinosaurs looking right at YOU to say GOODBYE because we’re through.”

(Sandra Boynton has written many, many more books and albums than I can feature here, and almost all of them are well-written and tons of slapstick fun. You can visit her webpage here.)

(UPDATE: Hester in the Wild! It has a plot! And GirlChild loves it! Just try to find it at your library because it’s out-of-print and pretty expensive to purchase!)

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The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds


The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds (2003, Candlewick, ISBN 0-7636-1961-2)

Vashti stubbornly refuses to participate in art class because she says she can’t draw. Her teacher asks her just to make a mark on the page, so Vashti angrily stabs at it with a marker, leaving a dot in the middle of the page, and her teacher tells her to sign her work. The next week, her signed dot is on display behind the teacher’s desk, and Vashti decides she can make a better dot than that one. As her creativity begins to flow, she starts making dots of all sorts and sizes, and her work is featured at the school art show where she challenges a young admirer who doubts his abilities to make his mark…and sign it.

On the book flap, the author says he’s seen artistic interest wane as children get older and lose confidence in their ability. This book provides a great, non-preachy commentary on the importance of individuality and expression in art, not just technical prowess. Although the text (hand-lettered by the author) is important in that it tells the story (in what seems to me to be more of an oral storytelling/read-aloud style than one simply meant for independent reading) of Vashti’s transformation from defeated non-participant to experimental artist, the art of the illustrations–simple and sketchy–tells the real story. Done in watercolor, ink, and tea, the illustrations are almost completely in grayscale…except for the dots. Sometimes the color is just in the dot that Vashti is painting, and sometimes it’s used (in dot form nearly every time as well) as an expression of the mood of the scene (such as the roughly splashed, orangy red dot with purplish splotches that frames Vashti’s angry stab at her paper). The text and illustrations explore many possible permutations within the theme of dots, demonstrating that creativity can be expressed even within seemingly tight limits.

GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild asked us to read this book multiple times, and when I suggested that she paint her birthday thank-you cards, she chose to copy some of the style from this book (in her just-turned-four-year-old way). She used her watercolors, a brush, and some Q-tips, and as she worked she kept repeating, “Her dots made quite a splash.” You can see an example of one of her cards below. (Don’t worry…I made her sign her art on the inside!)

Clearly this book could be used to encourage children to embrace their own style and give art (or anything, really) a fair try instead of just giving up and saying, “I can’t!” An excellent book to share with a child who might be discouraged!

Additional titles:

(illustrated by the author)

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