Goodnight Moon, the classic children’s book written by
Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, will never go
out of style. Available in hard cover, paperback, and board book
editions, this is the ideal first book for a young child. First
published in 1947, Goodnight Moon still tops the best book
lists for young children and is a classic for many reasons.
I did not come to this particular book as a child. My first
experience with the story came only recently when my own child
received it as a first gift. The beauty of this book is the marriage
of language and illustration; both make use of repetition to lull
the child into quietude and eventually sleep. Having read this book
near a hundred times, I am amazed that I have not grown tired of the
repetitive goodnights and neither has my own son.
Essentially all the illustrations show the same colorful room filled
with recognizable items like pictures on the wall, clocks, a toy
house, kittens, mittens, etc…As the reading commences, the colorful
pages are punctuated with simpler black and white illustrations that
single out a detail of the room like a picture or a bowl of mush.
The book completely revolves around this young rabbit’s room and
somehow readers never grow tired of visiting.
The text begins by pointing out some of the more noticeable objects
in the bunny’s room like a red balloon and a telephone. Then the
pictures on the wall are pointed out. One is a picture of the cow
jumping over a crescent moon. The other shows the three bears
sitting on their chairs. The next page shows a double spread of the
colorful room. Readers can linger here for a long while. Parents
have so many options for discussion on these two pages not to
mention all the others. For instance, parents can talk about
color—the color of the walls, of the night sky, of the rabbit’s bed,
of the mittens, etc…
Soon after we meet little bunny’s mama who is knitting in a chair.
Kittens play at her feet while the restless little bunny in bed
changes position and tries to get comfortable for the long night
ahead. And so begin the repetitive goodnights—“goodnight moon,
“goodnight brush,” “goodnight kittens,” “goodnight mittens” and so
forth. The book has so much subtlety that some details may not be
noticed until subsequent readings. For example, the position of the
moon changes in the window as the evening progresses. Also, readers
familiar with Margaret Wise Brown will notice a picture on the wall
from another of her books titled The Runaway Bunny.
The lighting of the room also changes as the story progresses. It
diminishes as the mama bunny quiets her baby’s room down. It’s
simply a beautiful book that is far more complex than is readily
apparent during an initial reading. It is well deserving of the
label classic. It is an absolute must for every child’s library.
By J. A. Young
Deceptively simple, Goodnight Moon is a sophisticated
classic of young children's literature. It is the ideal first book
for any child, and the perfect bedtime story.
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Reviewed: April 2009