You’ve probably read a couple of Sandra Boynton’s books growing up, or have read them to your children. She is kind of a big deal in the literary world, recognized as an extraordinary talent. What you may not know about Boynton is that she has her very own Zazzle store! This amazing artist and entrepreneur has lead an interesting life, and her works speak to both children and adults. Read on and learn more about Boynton, her books, music, and her designs!
Since 1974 Boynton has written over fifty children’s books. You may recognize some of the titles from your childhood, or from purchases you’ve made for children in your family: “The Going-To-Bed Book,” “Doggies,” “Happy Hippo, Angry Duck,” “But Not The Hippopotamus,” “Pajama Time, “Barnyard Dance.” These books are accompanied by simple illustrations and language.
The simple illustrations and language hide a deeper context according to Ian Bogost. Writing in The New Yorker, Bogost uses “The Going-To-Bed Book” as an example of Boynton’s subliminal writing style. On one page of the book, once the animals have gone through their pre-sleep rituals, they do something unexpected: they head to the deck of the ship and exercise! Seems out of place, right? Bogost breaks it down thusly:
“…the boat isn’t just a boat. It bears the unmistakable silhouette of Noah’s ark, host to the animals saved from the flood in Genesis…[i]magine the terror of repetition without relief among the flood-bound Boynton hippos. This is also the terror of new parenting: the sameness of every day—the same rituals, the same books, the same diapers and tears and wails and suckles, joy and pride all bound up with the dread and exhaustion of infancy.”
The success of a children’s book is not just tied into how much kid’s like them. Adults need to like them as well, since they will be reading them every night. Adding in elements that entertain the parents reading these books without changing the meaning for children is a high-wire act, and Boynton manages it beautifully. Books, however, aren’t her only artistic pursuit.
Boynton has also released 5 albums of music with collaborator Michael Ford: Rhinoceros Tap (1996), Philadelphia Chickens (2002), Dog Train (2005), Blue Moo (2007), and Frog Trouble (2013). Each album is a send-up of a different musical genre. For instance, Philadelphia Chickens is an imaginary musical, while Frog Trouble is a country album. Boynton has teamed with some legendary musicians, including Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, Blues Traveler, Neil Sedaka, B.B. King, Hootie & the Blowfish, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, and many more. Her first three albums were certified gold, and Philadelphia Chickens was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2003.
As Boynton told the Harvard Gazzette her process for getting these huge artists to work on a track with her is pretty simple: “I tend to write each song with a particular performer in mind. With my music production partner, Mike Ford, I create a tight demo, and then I send it off to the artist’s manager. When artists like a song, they say yes.” Judging from the list of people she has worked with, more and more artists are saying yes!
Working for Recycled Paper Greetings, Boynton’s illustrated card have sold over 500 million copies from 1973 through 2003. One single card featuring a hippopotamus, a bird, and two ewes, and punning on the traditional “Happy Birthday to You” card (Hippo Birdie Two Ewes), has sold over 10 million copies on its own.
A prolific career that has spanned decades, Boynton has extended her reach into producing designs for her own personal Zazzle store. You can check out all of her artistic endeavors and enjoy the talent, passion, and drive she brings to each.
Which are your kids’ favorite Boynton books or songs? Do you have a favorite? Please share with us in the comments section below!