Pop Culture of My Life: Sandra Boynton on Ted Lasso, Eloise, and her new book Woo Hoo! You're Doing Great!
Chances are that almost every kid you know has a Sandra Boynton book in their personal library. From The Going to Bed Book to Moo, Baa, La La La, to Dinosnores, the prolific children's book author and illustrator has published over 75 books, many of them considered kid-lit classics. And soon to be among them is her newest picture book Woo Hoo! You're Doing Great! (out April 4), which offers her trademark rhyming wit and an inspirational message for kids and adults alike who are trying their best to make it through the day.
In an email interview with EW, Boynton talked about the genesis for her new book, her creative process, and all her pop culture obsessions as part of EW's Pop Culture of My Life questionnaire. Read on to see why she loves Ted Lasso, what kid's book is her gold standard for the genre, and what late grunge rocker she'd invite to her dream dinner party.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Can you tell us a little about the creation of the book?
SANDRA BOYNTON: It's kind of a wild story. On my social media, I like to let people know about incredibly important holidays, such as Static Electricity Day or National Lima Bean Respect Day. And I always illustrate my posts. So on Sept. 12, 2021, I decided to post something for National Day of Encouragement. I came up with a very shouty chicken saying "WOO HOO! YOU'RE DOING GREAT!" The deluge of responses floored me — varied and heartfelt and astonishing. And so many people asking me if I could make a poster or T-shirt or something so that they could give it to someone they wanted to honor or encourage. That chance WOO HOO! post is what provided the title, cover art, and official spokeschicken of this book.
What do you want kids to take away from the book?
I very much hope that the refrain "Woo hoo! You're doing great!" will stay with little people and big people alike. In the absence of a convenient loudmouth chicken, it's a great thing for us all to say to ourselves.
What is your process for your work? Do you start writing or drawing first?
The writing and drawing are oddly simultaneous. But almost always, I start with a title, and from there I design a finished cover — art, font, layout, colors, everything. That way, I can fool myself into believing the book already exists.
What are you working on now?
I'm recreating the entire Philadelphia Chickens book for release this fall in a spiffy super deluxe 21st-anniversary edition. Also, I'm writing and producing (with my fabulous forever music partner Michael Ford) a Christmas album. Right before this past Christmas, we released my handmade animation of the first track. It's a nifty new doo-wop song called Snow, Snow, Snow!
My favorite book as a child
Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight's Eloise.
The book I've read over and over again
We have four kids and, happily, the books in heaviest rotation when our children were little were all of the James Marshall books and all the William Steig books.
The last book that made me laugh
Chez Bob by Bob Shea. The sly, spare writing and the glorious illustrations — and the theatrical synergy of the two — are absolutely perfect.
The last book that made me cry
Howards End by E. M. Forster.
A book I consider grossly overrated
Ack, I can't think of one! (I pretty much don't finish books that I'm not smitten with, so maybe that's why?)
A classic that I'm embarrassed to say I've never read
James Joyce's Ulysses. Though I did try. Sort of.
My favorite fictional hero
Horatio Hornblower, or perhaps Pippi Longstocking.
My all-time favorite movie
Miracle on 34th Street.
My last TV binge
Ted Lasso. Such a smart, complex, compassionate, funny, and poignant show.
The song that always makes me feel better
Del Shannon's Runaway.
The music I listen to while I create
Oddly, I've never been able to listen to music while I work, even when I was a student. It pulls my attention — I become more interested in the music than in what I'm doing.
The book I wish I'd written
David Copperfield. Or maybe George and Martha. Or both, just to shake things up.
The book I think is the gold standard for kids' books
Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.
What I'm reading now
Leave It to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse.
The three people I'd invite to my dream dinner party
[Calvin and Hobbes creator] Bill Watterson, George Eliot, and Kurt Cobain. Though I suspect they're not exactly party people. We could just sit in companionable silence. Maybe listen to Fred Astaire records. Perhaps have pie.
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