By all measures, this book should be a top checkout
January 13, 2020 9:05 AM   Subscribe

By all measures, this book should be a top checkout (in fact, it might be the top checkout) if not for an odd piece of history: extremely influential New York Public Library children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore hated Goodnight Moon when it first came out. As a result, the Library didn’t carry it until 1972. posted by Cozybee (26 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Very interesting - thank you for sharing.

Also, holy crap, I had no idea this was how Margaret Wise Brown died:

So no one was pressuring the NYPL to stock the book, least of all Brown, who died in 1952. (Recovering from surgery for an ovarian cyst in a hospital in France, she playfully kicked her leg up, cancan-style, to show a nurse how well she was feeling; the action dislodged an embolism from a vein in her leg, which traveled to her brain, killing her nearly instantly.)

Gah!
posted by cheapskatebay at 9:10 AM on January 13 [24 favorites]


The author of Goodnight Moon, said that Gertrude Stein was the big influence on that book.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:13 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting!

I wonder what the list would look like if they had "normalized" it by the number of years that the book has been published (or alternately, the number of years since the book has been owned by the library, which presumably would catapult Goodnight Moon way high up on that list).
posted by andrewesque at 9:50 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Now I wonder what other books Anne Carrol Moore banned. Where did she stand on Harold and the Purple Crayon? Caps for Sale? Clifford, the Big Red Dog?
posted by thelonius at 9:50 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


It's pretty amazing to see how a few people can become exceptionally powerful in their fields and effectively become gatekeepers of the culture that children are exposed to. Even up to the 1980s in the UK, the reward books (prizes at school/sunday school) market dominated children's book sales, and thus “morally improving” books were favoured by publishers over ones children might actually enjoy.

I'm just glad that someone at Jonathan Cape got to see J. P. Martin's Uncle manuscript and decided to risk publishing the whole chaotic series. Otherwise, my morals might have improved to alarming levels.
posted by scruss at 9:53 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Who was Anne Carroll Moore, and what was her problem with the great Goodnight Moon?

Probably hated mush.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:54 AM on January 13 [16 favorites]


She didn't like Charlotte's Web. But she didn't ban anything, she was a highly influential librarian.

Pretty sure Clifford postdates ACM.
posted by the_blizz at 9:54 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Who was Anne Carroll Moore, and what was her problem with the great Goodnight Moon?

Goodnight nobody? GTFOH.
posted by tftio at 10:08 AM on January 13


The New Yorker 2008: The Lion and the Mouse The battle that reshaped children’s literature

The end of Moore’s influence came when, years later, she tried to block the publication of a book by E. B. White. Watching Moore stand in the way of “Stuart Little,” White’s editor, Ursula Nordstrom, remembered, was like watching a horse fall down, its spindly legs crumpling beneath its great weight.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:43 AM on January 13 [14 favorites]


I was going through my son's books yesterday (with my son of course) and we were making some hard choices. I came upon Ezra Jack Keats' Snowy Day (#1 on that Top 10 Checkouts of All Time list and a previously) and I asked him if he wanted to part ways with it. He picked it up, flipped through it and without comment put it on the keep pile. I asked him about it, saying isn't it a bit young for you and he said "I love that book. And I love the art. Keep." 'Nuff said.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:52 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]


Maybe if she'd read Goodnight Moon aloud, to a child, she'd have realized what a magical piece of writing it is. It feels more like an incantation or a prayer than a children's book. Then again, maybe that's exactly what she had a problem with.
posted by swift at 12:19 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


This was fascinating and I really want to read an ideological history of children's books.
posted by selfnoise at 12:22 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


She seems great. A crotchety woman who cared very deeply about kids reading, and international literature for kids, and had very strong opinions about this genre she loved, and who died doing a high kick.

Yes, her opinions were occasionally incorrect, but Stuart Little and Goodnight Moon did just fine.
posted by jeather at 12:30 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


You might also find interesting Ursula Nordstrom (Wikipedia), quoted in the New Yorker piece by Jill Lepore that ActingTheGoat shared.

She edited basically every children’s book giant - Charlotte’s Web, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Harriet the Spy, Where the Wild Things Are.... Her motto was “good books for bad children” - which directly conflicted with Moore’s vision!

I have her collection of letters, Dear Genius, and love dipping into it as a reminder of how to give loving, demanding feedback to bring out the best in others’ work.
posted by estlin at 12:39 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


(Recovering from surgery for an ovarian cyst in a hospital in France, she playfully kicked her leg up, cancan-style, to show a nurse how well she was feeling; the action dislodged an embolism from a vein in her leg, which traveled to her brain, killing her nearly instantly.)
Assuming that's true, that's one hell of a way to go. Cheers!

I haven't read the book. I hadn't heard of it until I was an adult. I'm torn between sympathy for scorning an "unbearably sentimental piece of work" and wanting to mock the idea of blurring cow udders. There are only complicated heroes here.

I remain annoyed that Fahrenheit 451 remains so popular. It's an awful book in every possible dimension. Implausible plot, silly concept, nonsense title. If that's really the best we can do, as a civilization, we might as well give up on the whole idea of literature and find something else to spend our time on. (To be clear, it looks like a masterpiece when compared to Dale Carnegie.)
posted by eotvos at 12:44 PM on January 13


and who died doing a high kick.

(jeather, the person who died of the embolism was Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon, not Anne Carroll Moore the librarian.)
posted by theatro at 12:44 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Whoops, sorry! I still like Moore. I also like Brown, and Nordstrom.
posted by jeather at 12:46 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]




From Tehhund's link: I’m right now trying to picture a situation in which I would place my unwashed hairbrush next to a bowl of cream of wheat and even the idea of it is turning my stomach.

I know my standards of cleanliness are pretty lax, but that doesn't bother me at all. Maybe because in our household we assume all our food has been seasoned by pet hair and the idea of eating hair is just not upsetting to me. Also was I the only kid who would stick the end of my own hair into my mouth sometimes as a self-soothing thing? Also also the author is mad at how ridiculously large the room is but also as someone who has lived in tiny-ass spaces you get used to setting your food down on surfaces made for 10 other purposes so this doesn't seem weird to me! Geez!

...also I absolutely love the interior decoration of that room and have always wanted to live in it, so yeah, I’m sensitive about it. /end derail
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:44 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I'm a big fan of children's and YA books in general, but I did not like Stuart Little or Charlotte's Web, both of which I thought had a kind of world-weary and bloody undertone I felt was meant to undermine and subvert the straightforward sentimentality about animals common to many children — not that many children raised on farms, of course.
posted by jamjam at 1:47 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


How have I never noticed until right now that the book on the bedside table in the great green room is itself Goodnight Moon?!
posted by Daily Alice at 1:49 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


Surely the inspiration for Inception.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:57 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


I loved and love Goodnight Moon and Stuart Little.

Also The Sailor Dog, and Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan.

Moore was less.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:31 PM on January 13


There's a recent kids picture book bio of MWB-- "The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown" that's well worth seeking out. Beautiful and funny and sad.
posted by PandaMomentum at 6:25 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Have any of you read that book in the past 10 years or so? It doesn't age well... there is a telephone on an end table, as well as pretty old school wind up clocks on the walls of the child's room. The child's parents lack a safety screen in front of the fire. On top of all this: there is a rodent infestation too big for the house cat can handle.

Structurally, there is a total lack of narrative in the story... Art-wise, the pallet is extremely limited.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:39 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


You're a dog. You have no ability to judge color palettes.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:44 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


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