We’re big fans of Sandra Boynton—Blue Hat, Green Hat; Barnyard Dance!; and Moo, Baa, La La La! are some of our favorite books. Boynton is also an accomplished songwriter. Her latest project is Frog Trouble, a country music CD for kids featuring Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, Dwight Yoakam, and other music stars. The accompanying songbook features Boynton’s delightful illustrations and original craft projects. We spoke with Boynton about the project and she agreed to share one of the crafts that didn’t make it into the book.
Q | Why country music?
A | My eagerness to try this direction came out of my last CD-with-songbook project, Blue Moo (2007), which was a jukebox-era rock-and-roll thing. If you love Buddy Holly, Brenda Lee, and the Everly Brothers as much as I do, you’ll find they lead you to the heart of country.
Q | Did you write all of the songs? And the music?
A | I wrote all the lyrics, and pretty much the melodies. Then I would drive over the hill to Mike Ford’s studio. Mike’s a superb classical pianist and progressive-rock musician. He and I refined the song structure, and worked on the arrangement, tempo, key, everything.
Q | How did you convince such big-name artists to perform the songs?
A | Good question! I’m not sure. I write most of my songs with a particular singer in mind, even if I think there’s not a prayer of actually getting that singer. It’s just been a good way for me to imagine the pulse and personality of a composition—to help the song unfold. So I think that may be why my dream singers sign on. Maybe they easily hear themselves in the songs I send them.
Q | Any funny or interesting stories you’d like to share?
A | For the longest time, I couldn’t make this project move forward. Nashville is a leisurely place. I woke up one morning, and said out loud to no one: “I should just write a song called ‘When Pigs Fly.’ ” And as soon as I said it, I realized I actually should. It took about an hour, which is unheard of for me. I took the song over to Mike’s, and he quickly came up with an exquisite guitar setting. So now, figuring, What the heck, I sent the song demo to the person I heard singing it in my head: Ryan Adams. A complete long shot. Three weeks later we were in his L.A. studio recording the track. And everything changed from there.
Q | Did any special teachers encourage or inspire you?
A | Many, many. But best of all was my ninth-grade English teacher, Bob Boynton. My incomparable dad. Who taught me so many wise and wondrous things, including that sentence fragments are acceptable if they’re rhetorically motivated. Which these are. I think.
Sandra Boynton’s Shoe-Print Pony
Kids will delight in tracing their own shoe prints to create this adorable pony.
What You'll Need:
Cardstock Paper (brown)
Round Stickers (white and black)
Yarn and String
Plain and Doublestick Tape
What to Do:
1 Head. Trace your shoe on cardstock paper. This will be the pony's head.
2 Neck. Use spare cardstock to make a rectangle. Then, trim one side of the rectange cutting a diagonal line so that the bottom is wider than the top. This will be the pony's neck.
3 Mane. Punch holes in the straight side of the rectangle (neck). Make sure holes are about an inch apart. In all holes: fold three strands of yarn and pull yarn partway through the holes to create small loops. Thread the ends of the yarn through the loops and pull tight. Finally, punch a hole in the top center of your shoe print (at the heel). Repeat with threading yarn through this hole.
4 Eyes and Nose. Place two smaller round, black stickers inside two larger round, white stickers to form eyes. Place these eyes on the narrower end of your shoe-print head. Next, cut out two nostrils (the size and shape of jellybeans) from darker or different-colored cardstock. Stick these nostrils on the wider end of your shoe-print.
5 Ears. Cut out leaf shapes (ovals) from cardstock. Pinch the base of each "ear" to fold at the bottom. Tape the folded section to the back of your shoe-print head above the eyes.
6 Use double-stick tape to connect the neck to a background sheet if desired.
7 Halter. Start with a 40" piece of thick string. On one end, measure 12" along the string, mark it, and tie a simple knot (loosely). Then, pass the other end of the string through the knot, pulling the string towards the starting end. Using the part of the string that you pulled through the knot, make a loop twice as big as the width of your shoe. Finally, tie the string at the end of your loop in a simple knot.
8 Connecting the pieces. Pull the smaller loop of your halter over the pony's "nose." Tape the bigger loop onto the back of the head between ears. Cross the left string over the nose and tie to the knot on the right. Finally, doublestick the head onto the neck. Yeehaw!