March 19, 2012
Moo, Baa, La La La!
By Sandra Boynton; illus. by author
0-4 Little Simon 14 pp.
978-0671449018 Board Book $5.99
Beneath the exuberant silliness of Moo, Baa, La, La!, ("A cow says MOO. A sheep says BAA. Three singing pigs say LA LA LA!"), there are important lessons at work.
Boynton, whose board books have combined concept introduction and good, plain fun for decades, has a light hand and an expert's sense of her audience. She sets up her concept - in this case the sounds that animals make - in facts that are straightforward and known. A cow does say "moo", a sheep does say "baa". Then she hits the reader with a goofy zinger, in this case, the "three singing pigs" and their "la, la, la", all the while employing natural, super-pleasing rhythm that appeals to a child's sense of play. But it doesn't end there. Boynton credits her young reader with the knowledge to recognize that what she's told them is wrong, ("No, no, you say. That isn't right. The pigs say OINK all day and night"). Then, with her young audience fully invested and sitting up in their moms' laps, she writes about rhinos "snuffing" and little dogs "ruffing" and other quirky choices set to an impeccably timed rhythm that rolls along to the end where she again addresses her audience with "It's quiet now. What do you say?" thereby inviting the reader to go ahead and make his own noises too.
Moo, Baa, La La La!, with its classic Boynton animals looking bored and mischievous by turns, is masterful in it's simplicity. Over the course of 14 easy pages, Boynton introduces animals sounds, real versus make-believe, vocabulary and rhyme while effortlessly drawing her reading into the silliness and fun. It's the kind of book that is a pleasure to read and to hear, the kind that works educational magic under the radar, one that might even contribute to a family's lexicon of inside jokes. Incredible - seriously silly fun.