Margaret Wise Brown.
April 8, 2002 10:15 PM   Subscribe

Margaret Wise Brown. Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon and dozens of other children's classics, all but invented the picture book as we know it today. Combining poetic instinct with a profound empathy for small children, she knew of a child's need for security, love, and a sense of being at home in the world—and she brought that unique tenderness to the page. Yet these were comforts that eluded her. Brown's youthful presence and professional success—as an editor, best-selling author, and self-styled impresario—masked an insecurity that left her restless and vulnerable. My favorite children's book author. The Runaway Bunny is my favorite title of hers that I've read--I've run her name in Search before but never saw this site before:I had no idea she'd written so many titles. Nor how important she was to the genre. A biography. An autobiographical essay. Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus looks interesting, too. And here's a fan page. And, just for the heck of it--a 1957 Little Golden Books display.
posted by y2karl (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Goodnight Moon always kind of freaked me out as a kid. Something haunting about it.
posted by bingo at 10:24 PM on April 8, 2002

I loved that book growing up, it and the giving tree by shel silverstein are what I learned to read on, and they both still have a place on my shelf. I can understand where goodnight moon might have freaked you out bingo, there was a sort of quiet melancholy feeling to it (similar, I think to that of another childrens classic, the little prince), but I always thought that emotion was one of the most beautiful to be found. Still do.
posted by atom128 at 10:36 PM on April 8, 2002

Margaret Wise Brown is a wonderful author but she certainly didn't invent the picture book as I know it. Beatrix Potter created her series at the beginning of the 1900s. Authors like Hugh Lofting , Robert McClosky, E.
B. White
, and Ludwig Bemelmans all made going to the library a complete treat.
posted by Sqwerty at 1:52 AM on April 9, 2002

The Runaway Bunny is utterly charming - probably my favorite book for young children. I can still repeat it word for word even though I haven't opened the book in 8 or so years.

Goodnight Moon was always a good read because rhyming books are fun and there was always trying to find the mouse hidden in the rooms. I have it in English, Spanish, and French. I always thought garishly bright colors always seemed an odd choice for a bedtime book.

Thanks for these links - I've always been a fan.
posted by iconomy at 4:54 AM on April 9, 2002

Make that: I always thought the garishly bright colors seemed an odd choice....
posted by iconomy at 5:05 AM on April 9, 2002

Actually, Brown more or less did invent the picture book as we know it (the other authors Sqwerty cites are mostly not authors of picture books per se)--not singlehandedly, of course, but she was one of the pioneers. It's hard to imagine now, but Goodnight Moon was controversial in its day and not warmly received by the children's book establishment. It essentially established a new model for children's literature. Before Brown (and a couple others in her circle) books for pre-readers and early readers were very, very scarce and written with "adult" literary values in mind--Beatrix Potter is a good example of what Brown and her peers were reacting against. Brown was at the forefront of a movement aimed at inventing books for very young kids, with ties to the progressive schools movement and the New York Public Library. She was a pioneer in testing books with actual kids to see what they paid attention to, and, as author, editor and impresario, was one of the major figures in the development of a real children's publishing industry. (Her eventual neighbor McClosky was another one, although he was less of a figure in the New York publishing world.)

There's a great discussion of the issues surrounding this in the Marcus book, which I highly recommend. Brown had a slightly bizarre and more than slightly tragic life: she was a beautiful, charismatic, lonely, artistically unfulfilled, sexually conflicted woman.

She also lived in the coolest house ever in New York, Cobble Court.

About Goodnight Moon: ever notice that there's no horizon in that window? If you think about it a little too hard, you'll realize that room could only have been in outer space.
posted by rodii at 5:38 AM on April 9, 2002

Goodnight Moon was the first book I read to my children.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:43 AM on April 9, 2002

rodii, I hear ya, but it could be that the simplified illustration perfectly captures a toddler's understanding of the view through the window.

The horizon's not liable to be visible if you're looking at the window from close to the sill. Especially from a child's perspective: Very young children are actually shorter than the distance to the windowsill in most traditionally built North American homes.
posted by alumshubby at 7:19 AM on April 9, 2002

My favorite part of Goodnight Moon is this line: "And goodnight to the old lady whispering 'hush'." I must've read the book to my children a dozen times before I recognized that the narrator was taunting his mother.
posted by rcade at 7:57 AM on April 9, 2002

I love that line too, but my favorite (we always read it with a pregnant pause) is "Goodnight nobody."
posted by rodii at 8:18 AM on April 9, 2002 [1 favorite]

I love her books, and so does my son. It's been a while since we've read them, and although he's now into pirates and space rangers, I'm going to pull them out again for old times sake.

Goodnight Moon is indispensable. If read in the right hushed tone, it will induce sleepiness in the average young toddler.

Clement Hurd, the artist for Goodnight Moon & Runaway Bunny, also deserves a lot of credit for their dreamlike quality.

Thanks for the links.
posted by groundhog at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2002

I prefer The Velveteen Rabbit. My favorite children's book of all time. Not counting the collection of Grimm fairytales or Aesop's fables, of course.
posted by acridrabbit at 3:17 PM on April 9, 2002

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