It’s Hippos Go Berserk! For World Read Aloud Day 2018

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This little hippo was all alone until …


Cover image for Hippos Go Berserk!







Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton


I know, I know, there are SO many Sandra Boynton books that beg to be read aloud including Moo, Baa, La La La!The Going to Bed Book, Barnyard Dance! and Blue Hat, Green Hatin fact I still can recite many of them after first reading them over 20 years ago. But Hippos Go Berserk!  has a special place in my heart because both my children adored it and would not let me donate it when they grew too old for picture books. My copy is from 1996 although the book was first published in 1977.

When I think about what makes a story great to read aloud, I think about readability. Is the story easy for a parent, teacher, caregiver or child to read or do words slow them down? Can people take turns reading or pretending to be the characters? Are the pictures depicting some readily understood interpretation of the text? Does the book make you feel good when reading it? Is there fun repetition or engaging language? Can kids anticipate what comes next? Anyone looking at me reading Hippos Go Berserk!, even as an adult, will see a huge grin appear on my face after turning from page one to page two.

“One hippo, all alone, (page one)
calls two hippos (page two)
on the phone.” (page three)

So simple you may think, but the artwork Boynton’s created speaks volumes. First there’s a sad, lonely hippo on page one who decides to make a phone call to two friends. The mood of the story changes with just a flip of the page! Things are looking up.
The bonus is that it’s also a counting story which will hook kids who are eager to see where Boynton is taking the tale. Her hippos’ eyes and posture convey such a range of emotion that youngsters will want to linger on every page to make their assessment of everyone the hippo has invited and NOT invited over. The illustration of five hippos that arrive overdressed cracks me up every time I see it. Will they be invited in to join the other guests? Are they too posh for the crowd or will they fit right in? Help kids count how many hippos have come over, and they’ll be amazed how quickly the initial two friends who were called have now multiplied. Soon word is getting out that a cool party is underway and a big reason why eight hippos sneak in the back. Seeing them tiptoe softly, with one trying not to giggle too loudly, is part of Boynton’s brilliance. Until at last …


The letters are deliberately in all caps, and the bold type invites readers to use an outside voice. The scene is wild. The joint is jumping and hippos everywhere are having a blast, except maybe the ones hired to serve the hors d’oeuvres. With so much zaniness going on, Hippos Go Berserk! will be read over and over again, each time with some new discovery being made in the party spread. Soon kids will know the story by heart, helped by the rollicking rhyme and whimsical artwork. The all-night party must come to an end and before you know it even “The last two hippos go their way.” Somehow though, readers aren’t disappointed because there’s hope that the lone hippo, sitting by the phone just like when the book began, will inevitably pick up the receiver and make another call.

I don’t know if, all those years ago when I first read Hippos Go Berserk!  to my children, I knew that Boynton wrote this delightful story when she was a student at the Yale School of Drama, but now I completely understand why her hippos are so darn dramatic not to mention adorable!


  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel




Best Kids Books for Halloween 2015

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A Round Up of Wickedly Wonderful Halloween Books for Boos & Ghouls
{Part 1}


Peek_a_BooPeek-a-Boo! – By Nina Laden (Chronicle Books; $6.99, Ages 0-2)
Presenting the third in Nina Laden’s popular Peek-a board book series. Youngsters will delight in 22 pages of adorable Halloween sights and sounds, infectious rhyme and best of all, a mirror at the end for Peek a WHO ARE YOU? Laden’s adorable artwork is complemented by the many die-cuts that will have kids exploring and eager to turn every page.



Boo!cvrBoo! – By Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick Press; $6.99, Ages 0-3)
A bigger board book than Peek-a-Boo!, (this one measures 7″ x 7″) and with more pages and text, Boo! addresses a lot of what a first Halloween is like for youngsters. The diaper clad little laddie from Toot, Tickle, Tubby, Binkie and Blankie is back to share all the excitement of Halloween with readers. He picks out a pumpkin, then carves it (with his dad’s assistance of course!), decides what costume he should wear as Mom helps narrow down the choices, and then heads out to trick-or-treat with his dad. It may seem dark and scary at first, but the rewards from lots of ding, dong doorbell ringing add up to a bunch of yummy candy treats and a great time had by all!


FrightClubcvrFright Club – Written and illustrated by Ethan Long (Bloomsbury Children’s Books; $16.99, Ages 0-5)
I gravitated towards this book because of the fab title and cover art, and then the original story idea kept me interested to see where Long would take it. Vladimir calls a meeting of the Fright Club in preparation for OPERATION KIDDIE SCARE, but as the creatures are reviewing the rules, a bunny interrupts the meeting. Hilarious antics ensue as the cute little rabbit is determined to be admitted to the exclusive club. Once Frances Foxx, Public Attorney enters the picture, it’s laugh after laugh as a bunch of determined critters prove their worth and gain entry into Fright Club because “… when it comes to scaring, the more the merrier.”

Halloween_Hide-And_SeekA Moonlight Book: Halloween Hide-And-Seek Written by Elizabeth Golding & Moira Butterfield and illustrated by Dean Gray (Running Press Kids; $12.95, Ages 4-8)
This clever and engaging book includes over 200 scary, halloween related things to find and as the subtitle instructs, all readers have to do is move the magic flashlight to find the hidden objects. And was that ever fun!! There are 12 pages of spooky entertainment in this haunted house, enough to keep your child happily occupied as they search for items listed on each page. There are extra SPOOKTASTIC challenges to be found on every spread from bedroom to ballroom. From chattering teeth in a glass to crazy zombies, A Moonlight Book: Halloween Hide-And-Seek has ’em all! NOTE: Even my teenager got in on the action because he liked how the flashlight worked!

Other fun books we also recommend buying this Halloween:

TrickarrrTreatTrick Arrr Treat: A Pirate Halloween –
Written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Jorge Monlongo
(Albert Whitman & Company.; $16.99, Ages 4-8)



SpookyPookieSpooky Pookie 
Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
(Robin Corey Books; $5.99, Ages 0-3)




  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

The Bunny Rabbit Show! by Sandra Boynton

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The-Bunny-Rabbit-Show-cvr.jpgMy kids grew up with Margaret Wise Brown for quiet, go-to-sleep, soothing bedtime stories. But when they wanted belly laughs, tales to memorize and repeat (and not necessarily go to sleep), they chose Sandra Boynton hands down. Her books are a constant in every baby book collection I give to new mom friends and relatives. In fact, I cannot imagine any starter book set without Moo, Baa, La La La!, The Going To Bed Book, Barnyard Dance!, Tickle Time! and Hippos Go Berserk! Now I’m delighted I can add a new fave, one of the Boynton on Board book series, to my gift list. The Bunny Rabbit Show! board book (Workman, $6.95, Ages 0-4), featuring an oval die cut cover revealing dancing rabbits, is as cute as can be.

Boynton’s in top form here with a catchy rhyming refrain and a feel-good, entertaining performance by the happy hoppers. What Boynton does best is create her books at two levels; the first appealing to the youngest child being read to, and the the second appealing to the parents and care-givers who will surely be sharing the story over and over again. And why not? What’s not to love about a bunny board book featuring a bunch of bunnies (ten terrific rabbits to be precise) in a Rockettes-like line on stage singing, dancing and strutting their stuff.

Add more to their listening and looking pleasure by asking, as you read, if your little ones can spot the cow, pig, duck and sheep in the audience for some guaranteed giggles.  Maybe even pull out a pair of bunny ears so your child can join in the show! That’s a big part of what makes a Boynton book so very, very fun to read. It’s hard to keep them on the bookshelves. Enjoy!


– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


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amazing-cows-820x1024This month we’re giving away one autographed copy of Sandra Boynton’s Amazing Cows (Workman Publishing, $10.95, all ages up to a hundred and moo). Read below for a review, but enter now for your chance to win by clicking here. Remember to write AMAZING COW in the subject line. The contest ends on Jan. 31 so don’t wait. For rules, please click here now.

Make room next to your kids’ well-read copies of Hippos Go Berserk, The Going to Bed Book, Moo Baa, La! La! La! and Let’s Dance, Pookie, because Amazing Cows is mooooving in!

You want edgy cows, sensitive cows, heroic cows and “mystified chickens”? Keep reading. With her special brand of Sandra silliness, Boynton finds new ways to make cow humor fresh and full of “udder absurdity,” with or without words. When my 9-year-old son read it from cover to cover, laughing non-stop, I positioned myself over his shoulder to find out what was so funny. Was it the artwork, stories, poems, jokes, riddles, cow myth or cow comic book that tickled his fancy? It was all that and more, including the Four Stages of Metamoophosis and a cow limerick. An added bovine bonus: a free download of “Bolero Completely Unraveled.” If you buy (or win) one cow book this year, it’s got to be Amazing Cows.

Little Pookie Has a Happy Birthday!

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9780375865398Are you a big Sandra Boynton fan like me? Are your kids? Can you recite several of her classics by heart? Does a gigantic grin spread across your face as you recall the hilarious artwork in Hippos Go Berserk?

Then I think it’s time to introduce you to the “Pookie” series of Boynton books. In Happy Birthday, Little Pookie, (Robin Corey Books/Random House, $5.99, ages 0-3), the titular Pookie is a precious little pig and today it’s her birthday. Only thing is, the excitement and anticipation have got her up before the break of dawn. This board book is bound to please both parent and child as together they discover the delights a birthday can bring, but not without a nap somewhere inbetween!

Look out for these other three titles in the series:

What’s Wrong, Little Pookie?

Let’s Dance, Little Pookie

Night-Night, Little Pookie