Artist Sandra Boynton

Sandra Boynton is best known for her whimsical greeting cards that mix animals and puns. A classic birthday greeting features a hippo, a bird, and two sheep. "Hippo Birdie Two Ewes," the message reads.

Ms. Boynton first sold greeting cards to friends and bookstores to help pay her tuition at Yale. When she graduated in 1974, she turned pro with a big card company.

Her quirky messages were a hit at a time when card choices were few. By 1980, she was selling 80 million a year.

She wrote many children's books, too: "Hippos Go Berserk" came out in 1979. "Doggies" and "Blue Hat, Green Hat" have sold millions.

Imitators flooded the market, and sales of her cards sank. She stopped creating new cards a few years ago, but her classic ones are still available.

"A lot of people think I disappeared because I don't aggressively market," she says from Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and four children. "My work is not the center of what I do. Home and family is key."

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