The Washington Post

Boynton’s indelible hippos

- BY RON CHARLES

My grandmothe­r spent most of her life running a school bookstore in St. Louis. Working there in the summers, I was charmed by a new line of greeting cards by Sandra Boynton. One way or another, I’ve been reading her ever since.

This year marks the 45th anniversar­y of Boynton’s first book, “Hippos Go Berserk!” She wrote that irrepressi­ble children’s book while she was a student at the Yale Drama School. After getting rejected by a bunch of publishers, she turned to the folks selling her greeting cards, Recycled Paper Products, and they decided to take a chance on it. But after a couple of years, the book had sold “only” 50,000 copies, a pittance compared with the cards, so Recycled Paper Products gave the rights back to her.

Boynton has since sold more than 85 million copies of her books. And this year, she launched her own imprint at Simon & Schuster.

“All of this sounds completely implausibl­e and surreal,” she tells me. “Publishing stories is bizarre. There are so many near misses and lucky crosscurre­nts.”

To celebrate the 45th anniversar­y of her debut, Boynton has redrawn and redesigned “Hippos Go Berserk!” which this week is being reissued in a large, irresistib­le new edition. “It’s familiar and spiffed up,” she says.

Later this month, look for two new board books, “Pookie’s Thanksgivi­ng” and “Moo, Baa, Fa La La La La!”

Boynton credits “fear of having to get a real job” for keeping her creative. “It’s a great motivator,” she says. “I’m lucky to have found what I love to do, and it doesn’t diminish.” Especially now that she has three young grandchild­ren to write for.

When I mention how much I read her books to my daughters, she doesn’t miss a beat: “Your daughters turned out incredibly well, and I’d really like to take a lot of credit for that, so you’re welcome.”

This article was excerpted from our free Book Club newsletter. To subscribe, visit wapo.st/booknewsle­tter.

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