October 21, 2015

Overthinking Sandra Boynton

Ian Bogost goes deep for The New Yorker on, of all board book authors, Sandra Boynton:

boynton_going_to_bed_book.jpgTake "The Going to Bed Book": what appears to be an innocuous precursor to the activity that its reading facilitates turns out, on closer inspection, to be rather strange. On a boat far out at sea, the usual Boyntonian menagerie--lion and pig and rhino and hippo and elephant and more--heads below "to take a bath in one big tub / with soap all over--scrub scrub scrub." After donning pajamas and brushing their teeth, the animals pursue an unusual bedtime ritual: "And when the moon is on the rise, they all go up to exercise." They work out! On deck! Right before bed!

No manner of earthly logic explains the post-bath and toothbrush exercise ritual. Parents who notice it might appreciate the opportunity for a head scratch during the fevered tedium of bedtime. (Oh, that Boynton, she's a stinker.) But other interpretations are possible, readings that afford Boynton's work the same layered meaning that, say, "The Simpsons" provokes, but in the far more formally challenging genre of the board book.


Bogost has written history's smartest, most mind-blowing analysis of the McRib, but he completely loses me on Boynton. I just do not see anything more at work here than an expert in filling an industry-standard 24 pages with slightly wry rhymes.

If anyone knows a good dissertation on Goodnight Moon and nothing, however, I will stay up late.

The Hidden Depths of Sandra Boynton's Board Books [newyorker.com]
Buy The Going-To-Bed Book or any one of hundreds of other Sandra Boynton books [amazon]

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