Donovan Roberts Witmer '97
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A book worth singing about
My two-year-old daughter carries a stuffed chicken around with her everywhere she goes. It’s not just any chicken, mind you. According to her, it’s a “dancing chicken” from her favorite book, The Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton.
While the country was still healing from the effects of 9/11, I remember this “family musical in a book” hitting the stands in 2002 like a ray of sunshine.
At the same time, Harry Potter fever was building momentum among families and breakthroughs in technology following Y2K were creating a surge in video gaming among children.
Still, The Philadelphia Chickens managed to top The New York Times best-seller list at No. 1, where it stayed for nearly a year. Although a book of lyrics may not sound exciting, Boynton brings it to life with her unique animal personalities, silly words, and colorful illustrations—not to mention the CD that’s included with the book. The singers include an all-star cast such as the Bacon Brothers and Meryl Streep. My daughter laughs about dinosaurs with the blues, sings along with hippos about their belly buttons, and, of course, struts her stuff with chickens. That’s enough to make this title No. 1 in our house.
Books have always been an important part of my life, from reading Dr. Seuss as a child to discovering Great Expectations in high school to studying Shakespeare in college. While becoming a mom has created a few challenges when it comes to reading (i.e., finding time), it also has its rewards like discovering such a hip, fun children’s author.
When I think of the books I read as a child of the 1970s, I immediately think of the crazy characters in the Dr. Seuss books. While I’ve enjoyed sharing those favorites with my daughter, it’s clear to me that Boynton has become to her what Dr. Seuss was to me. And how can you blame her? Dancing chickens are pretty cool!
—Karren L. Johnson ’97 is a mom and freelance writer in Harrisburg.