The first chapter of Wild Things: the Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy is all about Goodnight Moon and its author Margaret Wise Brown. This most delightful children’s book is a pleasure to revisit. Handy calls it a “transcendent masterpiece.”
It is a book that almost everyone knows. It has sold 26 million copies in various editions and has been translated into twenty languages. It’s easy to take for granted. Have you reread it recently? The bright colors, the dreamy quality, and the unexpected transport the adult back to childhood.
Handy tells us it was Brown’s gift to experience the world like a child. If you know some of her other books: The Runaway Bunny, or my favorite The Important Book, among so many she wrote, you know how true that is. “The important thing about the sky is that it is always there.”
Goodnight Moon is so much more than a catalog of a room’s furnishings. Yet, it is hard to put your finger on just what it is that makes it so soothing. Rhythm, yes, but…. Clement Hurd’s illustrations are somewhat unexpected, yet familiar. I love the three little bears sitting on chairs. Nothing takes the youngest child’s attention like the red balloon. Nothing communicates hush and goodnight noises like the darkened room with the night sky showing in the windows.
I did not have this book as a child. So I associate it with the excited but sleepy faces of the many children I have read it to over the years. I have always been completely captivated by this author’s books. I love children’s literature. Bruce Handy’s chapter on Good Night Moon and Margaret Wise Brown helps me understand why.
I’m not sure what else Handy has in store for me in his book. But I look forward to finding out.