Fifteen Animals, written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton

Fifteen Animals

This is not so much a book review as it is a story of how our second child nearly got named “Bob”.

But before I get into that, let me just express genuine surprise that neither Vicky nor I have ever reviewed a Sandra Boynton book.  Sandra Boynton is, as many parents know, a long-time mainstay of baby/toddler libraries.  I don’t know how it happened, but there you go.  When I was a child (oh, so long ago), my mother owned a gift shop and we had many Sandra Boynton mugs, greeting cards, and other gift shop paraphernalia, but nary a children’s book.  These days, it seems I can hardly walk into a bookstore, second-hand store, playdate, daycare, or even gar(b)age sale, without seeing at least one Boynton book.  Hippos Go Berserk, The Going to Bed Book, Barnyard Dance, Moo Baa Lalala!, the list of silly animal books with their catchy rhymes goes on and on and on.

We were given Fifteen Animals when Toddly was, well, Baby Tee and well before he had any interest in books.  It came with a slew of other Boynton books from an older boy who off-loaded some (but not all) of his stash (he kept Barnyard Dance and The Going to Bed Book).  The older boy was about five and I was surprised he was still so attached to these books.

Now, a year later, I am no longer surprised.  Some of these books have surprising staying power and, apparently, Fifteen Animals is one of those.  After months of thinking Toddly had lost interest in this book, it resurfaced as a favourite when it came time to name the new baby.

For those of you who don’t know this book, I’ll give a brief synopsis (spoiler alert: I will also reveal the surprise twist at the end).

  • There is a boy who really likes animals, likes them a lot.  Fifteen animals is what he’s got.
  • They are friendly and tame and each one has a special name.
  • The special name is, for fourteen of the animals, “Bob”.
  • The fifteenth animal is Simon Alexander Ragsdale the Third.
Fifteen Animals Page
A picture of animal bliss.

When Baby2 was born, he didn’t have a name for a few weeks.  Dad and I discussed names in between sleeplessness and negotiating with a toddler.  Unbeknownst to us, Toddly was also thinking of names and declared to his daycare teachers that the name would be “Bobby/Bob”.  This became a standing joke at the daycare, which is somewhat unfortunate because Toddly can be serious at times and came to believe that Bob should be Baby2s name.  When Baby2 was named (not “Bob” or anything that could be shortened to “Bob”), Toddly considered it, but then told his dad that he liked Bob better.  He also told us that, at the daycare, his teachers laughed when he told them Baby2s name and said, “Still Bob!” (they have great senses of humour and make us and Toddly laugh on a regular basis).

Last night, we read Fifteen Animals and Toddly admitted that his brother’s name is not “Bob”.  But we had a great time with all of the Bobs in the book.

Rating: A.  I would give it an A+, but Hippos Go Berserk is much more reached-for than Fifteen Animals so I think I would have to reserve the highest rating for Hippos.

Reading Ages: Baby to toddler and, apparently, still has appeal for older kids.  That appeal may be sentimental, though – there aren’t a ton of words and the plot and illustrations are very simple, even for Boynton.  I would say that after 3, you’re probably pushing it as a “new book” gift.

Did we ever seriously consider “Bob” or Robert or Robin or any Bob-like names?:  No.  We couldn’t.  How could we tell our future teenager that we allowed a 2-year-old to name him?  That alone was a strong deterrent.  Robert was independently suggested to us by various friends and relatives, but we declined.

What name did our kid actually get?  Sorry, but I am just paranoid enough that I don’t post my kids’ names on the interwebs.

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