The Best of Boynton

I feel very remiss not getting some Sandra Boynton recommendations up here sooner. She has earned herself a very respectable share of the real estate in the board book section at the bookstore. In fact, there are so many Boyntons, which ones should you choose?

In my opinion, every board book library should include at least these two:

The rhythm and rhyme work great in these two (some of the others are a little rougher, though still funny). Barnyard Dance sounds like a Square Dance caller, so you might find yourself adding a bit of Southern twang to it. It is really catchy. In fact, I think both Eliza and I have memorized it at this point.

We have also memorized Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs. It's got colors, feelings, opposites in it... Lots of fun. Now that Eliza is talking more I will often leave off words in the rhyme, and she will fill them in. It starts off like this:
Dinosaurs happy.
Dinosaurs sad.
Dinosaurs good.
Dinosaurs bad.

And, later on, it gets funnier:

Dinosaurs early.
Dinosaurs later.
Dinosaurs crammed in an elevator.

There a few other Boyntons I particularly like, namely Moo Ba La La La and But Not the Hippopotamus:

So, anyway, those are our faves!

Parrots Squawk . . . But I Talk!

Mice Squeak, We Speak by Tomie dePaola

Do you remember Strega Nona? This is by the same author/illustrator. It was recommended to me by a fellow editor who also works at a bookstore. Back when I first went back to work and was too exhausted to shop (and did not want to buy all my books on Amazon), I gave her $30 and asked her to buy me some good board books with simple rhyming text and bright colors. This is one of the books she got me. Good pick!

It's colorful, and the text is short and simple to read... just two or three words per page. It's all about animal sounds, like so:

There is rhyme every other line....

Monkeys chatter
Cows moo
Ducks quack
Doves coo
Pigs squeal
Horses neigh
Chickens cluck
[turn page to find three kids, one of whom says...]
But I say!

I don't actually do the animal sounds . . . but later I can imagine Eliza wanting to do that as we read. So anyway, that's what I say about this one!

Front Feet, Back Feet... Feet, Feet, Feet!

The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss

This is another book that I salute for having a rhythm that is perfectly suited to its content. Like Chugga-Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis, which has the rhythm of a train, this book about feet has a "marching" rhythm.

Here is how it begins:

Left foot
Left foot
Right foot

Feet in the day
Feet in the night

Doesn't it sound like marching? I think so anyway.

It goes on:

Up feet
Down feet
Here come clown feet!

(My husband likes to say "Broken arm clown feet" for that last line because Seuss has taken some artistic liberties on one of the clown's elbows...)

I happen to like crazy elbows!

Anyway, bravo, Seuss! Another brilliant book.

Echo Calling... Whooooo! Whooooo!

Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk

This is a brilliant book. If Shakespeare were alive today and wanted to read a contemporary book to a baby, I would hand him this one. No kidding.

I say this because there is unusually clever and clean use of poetic meter in this book-- Kevin Lewis has taken the meter of "chugga chugga choo choo" and made a poem out of it.

"Chugga chugga choo choo" has a falling meter, made of two trochees and a spondee. The English major in me was dying to scan the text, so here it is:

As you can see, the final part of each line is not always a spondee-- in fact, Lewis usually has an unstressed syllable between the two stressed syllables. But you know, when you say "Choooo Choooo" with an extended "ooooo" sound, there is a tiny pause after the first oooo, (almost chew-uh-chew), so it works great that way.

Anyway, I love reading this book. Love love love it. My husband and I will often say lines in call-and-response fashion when we're playing with our daughter... He'll say "whistle blowing," and I'll say "whooo-whooo." Or I'll say "echo calling," and he'll say "whooo-whooo."

The art is vibrant and beautiful, too. The idea is that we're in a little boy's room with his toy train set. The toy train goes under the boy's bed when the text talks about going "into tunnels, underground," and the train goes across his fish tank when the text says "across the river, swift and wide, a bridge goes to the other side." So, there's visual cleverness, too.

And, finally, as you can see from the last spread (above), the book has a bedtime theme, so it fits in that "bedtime story" slot, if you are in need of another.

So, bravo, author and illustrator-- you both get high marks from this editor!

It's Very Good to Hear with Ears!

The Ear Book
by Al Perkins, illustrated by Henry Payne

This is such a good one! Eliza has lots of "Bright and Early Board Books," and this one is one of my favorites. The text has great rhythm and rhyme for reading aloud.

Here is an example:

The art style, the characters, and places feel like they are from a quieter time decades ago (this was published in 1968). I like that a lot.

The text has some Dick-and-Jane-esque repetition, with sentences like:

It's good. It's good to hear with ears!

And yet it's not dry to read.

Highly recommended.

It's very good to read the ear book!