Boynton, Sandra (Keith) 1953-
BOYNTON, Sandra (Keith) 1953-
Born April 3, 1953, in Orange, NJ; daughter of Robert Whitney (an English teacher) and Jeanne Carolyn (a school secretary; maiden name Ragsdale) Boynton; married James Patrick McEwan (a writer), October 28, 1978; children: Caitlin, Keith, Devin, Darcy. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1974; graduate study at University of California-Berkeley Drama School, 1974-75, and Yale University School of Drama, 1976-77. Religion: Quaker.
Author, illustrator, and cartoonist. Recycled Paper Products, Inc., Chicago, IL, designer of greeting cards, 1974-95, and calendars.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America, National Cartoonist's Society.
Irma Simonton Black Award, Bank Street College of Education, 1985, for Chloe and Maude; Children's Choice Award, Children's Book Council/International Reading Association, for Hester in the Wild; National Cartoonists Society Award, 1993; National Parenting Publications Awards Gold Medal, 1994, for Barnyard Dance!
for children; self-illustrated
Hippos Go Berserk, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1977, revised and redrawn, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Hester in the Wild, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
If at First …, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1980.
But Not the Hippopotamus, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982, revised, 1995.
The Going to Bed Book, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982, revised, Little Simon (New York, NY), 1995.
Opposites, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982, revised, 1995.
Moo, Baa, La La La, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982, revised, 1995.
A Is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet, Workman (New York, NY), 1983.
A to Z, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984, revised, 1995.
Blue Hat, Green Hat, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984, revised, 1995.
Doggies, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984, revised, 1995.
Horns to Toes and in Between, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984, revised, 1995.
Chloe and Maude, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 1985.
Good Night, Good Night, Random House (New York, NY), 1985.
Hey! What's That?, Random House (New York, NY), 1985.
Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs!, Workman (New York, NY), 1993.
Birthday Monsters!, Workman (New York, NY), 1993.
One, Two, Three!, Workman (New York, NY), 1993.
Barnyard Dance!, Workman (New York, NY), 1993.
Rhinoceros Tap and Fourteen Other Seriously Silly Songs (book and CD), music by Boynton and Michael Ford, Workman (New York, NY), 1996.
Snoozers: Seven Short Short Bedtime Stories for Lively Little Kids, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Dinosaur's Binkit, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Boynton's Greatest Hits: Volume One, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
Bob: And Six More Christmas Stories, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Dinos to Go, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Hey! Wake Up!, Workman (New York, NY), 2000.
Pajama Time, Workman (New York, NY), 2000.
Philadelphia Chickens: A Too-illogical Zoological Musical Revue (book and CD), music by Boynton and Michael Ford, Workman (New York, NY), 2002.
Snuggle Puppy: A Little Love Song, Workman (New York, NY), 2003.
Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Fuzzy! A Touch, Skritch, and Tickle Book, Little Simon (New York, NY), 2003.
Gopher Baroque and Other Beastly Conceits (cartoons), Dutton (New York, NY), 1979.
The Compleat Turkey, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1980.
Chocolate: The Consuming Passion, Workman (New York, NY), 1982.
Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down, Workman (New York, NY), 1986.
Christmastime, Workman (New York, NY), 1987.
Grunt: Pigorian Chant from Snouto Domoinko de Silo (book and CD), Workman (New York, NY), 1996.
Yay, You!: Moving out, Moving up, Moving On, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Consider Love: Its Moods and Many Ways, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Jamie McEwan, The Story of Grump and Pout, Crown (New York, NY), 1988.
Jamie McEwan, The Heart of Cool, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Sandra Boynton's whimsical animals seem like old friends. In award-winning titles for children such as Hester in the Wild and Chloe and Maude, this author-illustrator has created a cast of creatures which are immediately familiar. A trip to any drugstore or market which sells greeting cards will explain such familiarity: Boynton has created a line of cards that began tickling funny bones in the 1970s and have sent mainstream manufacturers scrambling back to the drawing boards in the most literal fashion. As an example of the author/artist's quirky humor, Boynton's most famous card is the legendary "Hippo Birdie Two Ewes," printed by Recycled Paper Greetings in 1975.
Whether working on adult cartoon and picture books or children's books, Boynton imbues in her art the same sense of silliness and tongue-in-cheek humor she brought so successfully to greeting cards. "My animals are not people," Boynton commented to Victoria Irwin in an interview for Christian Science Monitor. "But they are not really animals, either. They are philosophers."
Born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1953, Boynton grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended the Germantown Friends School there and then went on to Yale University, where she earned her undergraduate degree. While at Yale, Boynton took a course in illustrating children's books from Maurice Sendak, who told her that her illustrations looked like they belonged on greeting cards. ("He didn't mean it as a compliment," Boynton once told SATA. ) While attending drama school as a post-graduate, Boynton began creating greeting cards, ultimately selling 10,000 of them, which she had independently printed, to craft shops on the East Coast. This mini-success encouraged her to seek out greeting-card companies directly, and she soon made contact with a start-up company called Recycled Paper Products.
The rest is industry history: Boynton's off-the-wall humor charmed purchasers and receivers alike, and brought men into the market for the first time as major purchasers of such cards. Soon her furry friends were appearing on calendars, posters, stationery, and T-shirts.
Boynton's first book for children, Hippos Go Berserk, is a visually vibrant counting book in which Boynton exhibits a talent for rhyme. A contributor to Wilson Library Bulletin dubbed this "a small, unpretentious book, but a special one in terms of overall unity, not to mention its warmth and whimsicality…The total effect is light, airy, and tender." Her picture book If at First … hinges on the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Serving as an example of this adage is a little mouse who tries desperately to push a rather large purple elephant up a hill. The mouse tries leading the disinterested elephant, tempting it with a peanut, screaming at it, and other methods of coaxing. Finally, when the pachyderm falls asleep, the clever rodent startles it awake with a trumpet blast that sends the elephant scurrying up the hill. Like the mythological Sisyphus, the brown mouse's work is not yet done: eight more purple beasts wait at the bottom of the hill. In a review for Booklist, Denise M. Wilms approved of Boynton's subject matter, promising that children "will chuckle at the absurdity of elephant versus mouse." Also noted by Wilms were "the expressions Boynton manages to get into her characters with the fewest possible lines." Gemma DeVinney concluded in School Library Journal that the "practically perfect pace of the cartoonlike illustrations make this a universally appealing chuckle."
With Hester in the Wild Boynton set the tone for her future picture book productions. Zena Sutherland, in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, summarized the story's plot: "A bouncy little blunt-snouted pig, Hester, runs into a series of problems when she goes on a canoe trip." The trip turns into an adventure as the canoe begins to leak and then the tent takes up the same soggy refrain. The last straw, an invasion of gophers who turn Hester's tent into a crowded train station, sends Hester paddling away from her zany adventure. "The illustrations are cartoon-like but uncluttered, clean in line and softly pastel," observed Sutherland. Booklist reviewer Denise M. Wilms admired "this solitary pig's pluck as she meets with one bit of bad luck after another." Wilms went on to laud the "comical illustrations in bright, spring colors" as well as the story's "ingenuous telling."
In A Is for Angry, Boynton takes on the alphabet—with a twist: She pairs an adjective with each letter rather than a noun, avoiding the traditional A-is-for-apple configuration. A reviewer for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books marveled that the book "should not work, but it does—con brio!" Large clear letters are provided, and humorous, cartoon animal characters act out the meaning of the adjectives. Readers will meet an array of emoting animals, including an angry anteater, a bashful bear, and an ill iguana. A Publishers Weekly contributor reviewing A Is for Angry called Boynton "the Duchess of Daft" and noted that the author had created a book "that grownups won't mind a bit going over and over again as their little ones will certainly demand."
One of Boynton's most popular publications for young readers is the chapter book Chloe and Maude, which features watercolor cats as the title characters. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the escapades of this feline duo "endearing and familiar," as kitties romp through three short tales that highlight some delightfully juvenile antics. In the first story, Chloe's talent with a drawing pen upsets Maude, who stomps away in a jealous snit, overturning a paint pot in the process. Chloe admires the resulting accidental picture and encourages Maude to take up abstract art. Maude adopts a stuck-up alter ego named Sophia in the second story, and it takes good friend Chloe to return Maude to her former self. An overnight at Maude's house provides plenty of adventure for the final tale of the two companions. Noises in halls and cracks in walls threaten to scare away Chloe and Maude's fun, but the creative cats use their imaginations to invent much safer surroundings. In Booklist Denise M. Wilms called Boynton's stories "amusing," while a writer for Kirkus Reviews found them "enjoyable … with happy conclusions, and very lively illustrations." Janet French, writing in School Library Journal, concluded that Boynton's illustrations "have made the leap from card to book with considerable success."
In 1996 Boynton took her work in a different direction by producing two titles accompanied by CDs. Rhinoceros Tap and Fourteen Other Seriously Silly Songs, a songbook for children, and Grunt: Pigorian Chant from Snouto Domoinko de Silo, which she wrote for adults, were Boynton's first attempts at producing music as well as illustrations and written texts. Boynton is no stranger to the world of music and theater, however; as a college undergraduate she sang with the Yale Glee Club and was active in Yale's Drama School. Tapping these decades-old connections, the CD for Grunt features members of the Yale Glee Club singing Latin and Pig-Latin versions of such favorites as "Old McDonald Had a Farm" in the style of Gregorian chant. For Rhinoceros Tap, Boynton invented lyrics for all-new songs, such as "Tickle Time," "O Lonely Peas," "Barnyard Dance," and the title song, "Rhinoceros Tap," and arranged the music with Michael Ford. "Kids deserve real music with variety and unpredictable lyrics," Boynton told an online interviewer for BookPage.com. "I've always enjoyed the rhythm of writing, so creating kids' music seemed like a logical next step." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "Calypso, doo-wop, traditional rounds and even the blues all have a place in this chipper assortment." BookPage.com critic Alice Cary praised the fact that Boynton makes the lyric book "come alive with illustrations and clever variations in type styles, size and color."
Boynton and Ford produced a second songbook and CD for children in their 2002 work Philadelphia Chickens: A Too-illogical Zoological Musical Revue. With more new songs sung by such celebrities as Boynton's neighbor Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, the Bacon Brothers, Laura Linney, and Scott Bakula, Philadelphia Chickens features a chorus line of cows, an ode to belly buttons, and the singing and dancing chickens of the title. "This is a revue without rival," wrote Jane Marino in School Library Journal. A writer for Kirkus Reviews added that listeners will "happily cut the rug" to the nineteen "toetapping tracks" included. Boynton planned to contribute a portion of the proceeds of Philadelphia Chickens to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Three of Boynton's books—The Going to Bed Book, its expanded picture-book version Good Night, Good Night, and Snoozers: Seven Short Short Bedtime Stories for Lively Little Kids —address the toddler-troubling issue of bedtime. One of Snoozers' seven rhymes, "Silly Lullaby," looks at bedtime for a host of wacky characters, from chickens in the bathtub to sneakers in the freezer. Lauding Snoozers in the Bulletin of the Center
for Children's Books, Pat Mathews wrote that the book's "Textual humor, enhanced by droll illustrations … will turn the bedtime ritual into a giggle fest."
Boynton covers the concepts of counting, opposites, music, and social skills with a series of board books called "Boynton on Board." One of these books, Barnyard Dance!, boasts farm animals dancing a rollicking reel. Reviewing Barnyard Dance!, a Publishers Weekly contributor hailed the entire "Boynton on Board" series as a "fresh and buoyant" source of "good clean fun." Also in a format perfect for smaller hands is the 2003 book Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Fuzzy! A Touch, Skritch, and Tickle Book, in which Boynton's animal creations teach about textures from soft and smooth to rough and furry.
In addition to Boynton's many self-illustrated books, the author-artist has also provided illustrations for her husband's children's book, The Story of Grump and Pout. A Publishers Weekly contributor described this joint effort as "a deliciously silly story," with "hairy, ornery protagonists." The protagonists, a husband-and-wife team, are grouchy Grump and her beloved spouse, Pout. Slightly less cranky than Grump, Pout obtains an extremely comfortable pair of shoes which improves his mood so that he shares his good fortune with his wife. The couple dances with happiness at Pout's generosity and Grump's new shoes. With more praise for The Story of Grump and Pout, a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "McEwan's text and Boynton's cartoony illustrations are packed with droll expressions and witty details."
It is Boynton's droll humor combined with witty cartoons that readers have come to expect from the author/illustrator, making her as popular with adults as she is with the younger set. Her book Consider Love: Its Moods and Many Ways is a perfect example. Boynton's menagerie of characters dance through the pages, illustrating such phenomena as "love extravagant"—an elephant giving his lady not just an apple but the whole tree, including the roots—and "love problematic"—two perplexed porcupines gazing into each other's eyes. Although the book is "clearly intended as pop candy for the grown-up soul," maintained a Kirkus reviewer, Consider Love is also one of the few books about love designed to portray love in a way that is easily understandable to children. Yay, You!: Moving out, Moving up, Moving On, a book deemed equally appropriate for a grown-up grad or a preschooler moving on to kindergarten, is another good example. Boynton wrote the book for her son when he graduated from high school. In the words of one Publishers Weekly contributor, Boynton's "trademark bestiary of droll, quizzical characters," including a navel-gazing cow and a frog with a souped-up lily pad, "will prod laughter from young and old alike." More directed at an adult audience is Chocolate: The Consuming Passion, which spent over five months on the best-seller list when it was published in 1982.
In an interview for Barnes & Noble.com, Boynton explained that, "Growing up, I never had any particular talent for art; I just always loved to draw and make things up." The inventive stories and drawings are exactly why Boynton's books have gained so many fans. "They are simply great books," said Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing vice president Robin Corey in an interview for Publishers Weekly. "There is something about Boynton books," Corey continued, "the look and sound of them, the topic and word play. It all comes together with a distinctive, simple look."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1979, Denise M. Wilms, review of Hester in the Wild, p. 1488; March 1, 1980, Denise M. Wilms, review of If at First …, p. 938; March 1, 1986, Denise M. Wilms, review of Chloe and Maude, p. 1014.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1979, Zena Sutherland, review of Hester in the Wild, p. 22; March, 1984, review of A Is for Angry, p. 122; March, 1998, Pat Mathews, review of Snoozers, p. 237; December, 1999, review of Bob, p. 124; May, 2001, review of Yay, You!, p. 332.
Christian Science Monitor, December 30, 1980, Victoria Irwin, "Sandra Boynton Takes the Cake with 'Hippo Birdy, Two Ewes.'"
Family Life, September 1, 2001, review of Yay, You!, p. 99.
Good Housekeeping, November, 2002, Abigail Pogrebin, "Hippos and Chickens and Pigs—Oh My!," p. 101.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1985, review of Chloe and Maude, p. 1396; September 15, 1996, p. 1410; November 15, 2001, review of Consider Love, p. 1610; October 15, 2002, review of Philadelphia Chickens, p. 1527.
New York Times Book Review, March 13, 1994, p. 20.
People, November 11, 2002, "Animal Instinct," p. 96.
Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1984, review of AIsfor Angry, p. 88; March 11, 1988, review of The Story of Grump and Pout, p. 101; January 31, 1994, review of Barnyard Dance!, p. 88; November 4, 1996, review of Boynton's Greatest Hits, Volume Two, p. 105; January 13, 1997, review of Rhinoceros Tap: And Fourteen Other Seriously Silly Songs, p. 37; September 27, 1999, review of Bob, p. 53; October 23, 2000, review of Dinos to Go, p. 78; February 26, 2001, review of Yay, You!, p. 84; December 3, 2001, review of Consider Love, p. 58; October 20, 2003, "Oh So Touchable," p. 56; November 24, 2003, Joy Bean, "Sandra Boynton Books," p. 22.
School Library Journal, April, 1980, Gemma DeVinney, review of If at First …, p. 90; March, 1986, Janet French, review of Chloe and Maude, p. 144; July, 1997, Beverly Bixler, review of Rhinoceros Tap, p. 57; October, 1999, Susan Patron, review of Bob, p. 65; February, 2001, Olga R. Barnes, review of Hey! Wake Up!, p. 92; September 9, 2002, "New Zoo Revue," p. 69; March, 2003, Jane Marino, review of Philadelphia Chickens, p. 214.
Wilson Library Bulletin, January, 1980, review of Hippos Go Berserk, p. 325.
Barnes & Noble.com, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (April 6, 2004), interview with Boynton.
BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (February, 1997), Alice Cary, review of Rhinoceros Tap; (May, 2000) "Meet the Author: Sandra Boynton."
Sandra Boynton Home Page, http://www.sandraboynton.com/ (June 15, 2005).