Sandra Boynton’s Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! is an opposites book, and I own the board book version. It is very well-worn because one of my children loved it as much as the Boy loved The Velveteen Rabbit. The book must have been a gift because I don’t remember purchasing a brief rhyme filled with silly-looking dinosaurs. I certainly never expected it to be one this child would be able to recite before learning to read. Neither of my kids even cared about dinosaurs.
But who can resist “Dinosaurs BIG and dinosaurs TINY,” followed by “Dinosaurs SMOOTH and dinosaurs SPINY” (written in a spiny font). When Dinosaurs COLD is contrasted with Dinosaurs HOT, the pink dinosaur with teal sunglasses flexes his muscles.
Do they look like real dinosaurs? Sorta. Some have horns, and some have spikes. Quite a few are a cute shade of purple. But this book is not meant to teach anything beyond opposites like “early” and “later,” which rhymes surprisingly well with “elevator.”
The midpoint of this book reads, “Dinosaurs singing a dinosaur song!” Six dinosaurs hold music and open their mouths wide to sing. Boynton has included musical notes, along with harmony for this brief tune, notes which I plunked out on my piano. This musical gem is from the same woman who composed Grunt: Pigorian Chant, which she has described as “plainchant and polyphony written in Latin and Pig Latin.” Her Philadelphia Chickens album went platinum.
Boynton has written more silly songs in a variety of styles, from blues to country to ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll. They’ve been recorded by B.B. King (“One Shoe Blues”), Kate Winslet (“I Need a Nap”), and Samuel L. Jackson (“Tyrannosaurus Funk.”) Friends, I found an entire Spotify playlist.
In this column we’ve covered a lot of award-winning books, and we will continue to do so. But not every book needs to be serious. Not every story needs to stir deep emotions and lead to late-night conversations over hot cocoa. It’s possible to simply enjoy something goofy by the creator of the birthday card that has sold over 10 million copies, “Hippo Birdie Two Ewes.”
Boynton has also sold more than 70 million books. Many, many a bookshelf has a well-worn, well-loved Sandra Boynton book, one that taught a child to read before they could actually handle phonics.
For a long time I’ve known I’m a sucker for silly dinosaur books, like Tea Rex and Brontorina, and I think that traces back to this book. It’s just one cardboard-backed example of the things I’ve gotten into for my kids, because they said, “Mom! Read this!”
Which they still say. And I still oblige.
1. Name a silly book you or your kids enjoyed.
2. You do know we’re big fans of chickens around here, right?
3. Do you have a song that consistently makes you smile? Is it possibly as good as Turkey Love Song, sung first to a chicken and then a duck?
The next Children’s Book Club will meet Friday, September 13. We will read Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul.
This YA book (with some YA language) is the novelization of Dear Evan Hansen, the Broadway musical, now touring nationwide. It’s a story about suicide, and September is Suicide Awareness Month. Sometimes the best way to talk about something difficult is to share a story, and this one is not only well-told but also has the added benefit of a dynamite soundtrack, available on your streaming platform of choice.
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“Megan Willome’s The Joy of Poetry is not a long book, but it took me longer to read than I expected, because I kept stopping to savor poems and passages, to make note of books mentioned, and to compare Willome’s journey into poetry to my own. The book is many things. An unpretentious, funny, and poignant memoir. A defense of poetry, a response to literature that has touched her life, and a manual on how to write poetry. It’s also the story of a daughter who loses her mother to cancer. The author links these things into a narrative much like that of a novel. I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro