Thursday, June 26, 2008


I was going to use the following as a title, but it seemed too long, and you can't put hyperlinks in a title:

Young Thumper's Blossoming Verbal Skills, As Evidenced by the Deepening of His Understanding of Sandra Boynton's But Not the Hippopotamus

Too long, right?

It was nearing naptime this morning, and I suddenly realized it was very quiet. I found the boy in our bedroom. He had pulled from the dresser to the floor the clothes that his mama had laid out to exercise in later. He was laying on top of a bra, cuddling a sock against his face, and sucking his thumb. So I scooped him up, read him the tale of the self-ostracizing hippo, and put him to bed.

I love this book. When buying other books of hers, I told one Borders employee (I had a coupon!) and one Goodwill employee that we were fleshing out our Sandra Boynton collection because the boy's mama loved But Not the Hippopotamus. And while that's true, I'll admit that I kinda dig it too. And while What's Wrong, Little Pookie? is pretty damn cute, The Going to Bed Book, Horns to Tails, The Belly Button Book, and Doggies really cooled my ardor and slowed my acquisition of the entire Boynton catalog. But Not the Hippopotamus really does it for me, though.

I think it's because I am the hippopotamus, and I love that she overcomes her own social anxiety in the end, albeit with a great deal of help from her friends. Thumper loves it, too. As many times as we've read it, he always breaks out in a huge grin at her climactic moment of rebirth into the circle of friends. He spares barely a glance for that poor armadillo, though. Last week, while babysittin' at the cousins house, I had no book to read him before his nap, so I recited But Not the Hippopotamus in its entirety from memory, which was surprisingly easy after reading it two or three times a week for six months or more. As I recited, he stared off into the middle distance, picturing, I believe, the pages that correspond to the words. And he lit up with joy again at the hippo's triumph.

Since Thumper loves a good balloon, whenever we read it, I always point out the balloons that the bear and the hare, who've been to a fair, are carrying. He always repeats it, boo or bo or bo-bo or ball. Today, though, he pointed them out to me, without prompting. And though I've never emphasized the moose and the goose and the juice they're enjoying together, he reiterated the importance of the juice to me today. Since his throat ailment, and the doctor's suggestion that we give him plenty of fluids, he's had constant access to a sippy cup full of watered down Pedialyte that we call juice, so he has a new context for what we read, and demonstrates his understanding of what that moose and goose are doing: "Juuuuuuuuuuice!" He doesn't yet have a contextual understanding of what it means to cavort in a bog, but juice? That he gets. His "juice" and his "cheese" may sound remarkably alike, but still, I am quite sure that he understood that the moose and the goose were not sitting down to a lovely cheese board, with perhaps some artisan breads and fresh fruit.


Aerie (aka Mrs. Rodius) said...

I wish I'd been home for that...

The Going to Bed Book is pretty good, too.

The Nanny said...

I love Sandra Boynton. My personal favorite is "The Barnyard Dance" which, per its title, makes for a fun barnyard dance while reading. And "Philadelphia Chickens" is a lot of fun too--but especially for older kids.

The Nanny said...

OH--if you haven't already read "Barnyard Dance," it's not a very good wind-down-to-naptime book :-)

anne said...

I second The Going to Bed Book.

When my son was having a hard time relaxing for an MRI (at the tender age of 3 1/2), I sat next to him in the hospital as he snuggled with his favorite blanket and stuffed animal, and recited The Going to Bed Book for him. The nursing staff eventually got some "going to sleep medicine" into his IV tube, and he finally settled down.

The familiar words and rhythms must work like prayers did for my Catholic parents...

And make sure you get the Philedelphia Chickens edition with the CD of songs and the songbook. It is hysterical, and my kids love it.

Sandra Boynton is a marketing genius. I remember buying every greeting card she ever made and sending it to my long-distance college boyfriend, 400 years ago. How surprised I was to discover her art and humor again 25 years later when I had babies...

anniemcq said...

This made me cry, unexpectedly. I loved that bedtime snuggle time so much. I still get to snuggle at night, but can see the future, not so distant, when my presence will not be required. Or at least not AS required.

Snoozers was our favorite of the Boynton collection. short little poems and a lullabye at the end. We made up our own tune and still sing it. And while Goodnight Moon is a classic, I think our very favorite Margaret Wise Brown story is My World. Such a sweet, lulling, lilting story, and JH had so much fun finding things in the pictures.

I love that you read to Thumper so much. You'll have those memories always.

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