Goodnight Moon

written by Margaret Wise Brown
illustrated by Clement Hurd

Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon
pictures by Clement Hurd

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 2+

At first blush, it might not be obvious what makes this book such a classic, nor why it's been the bedtime book of choice for millions of children for over 60 years.

There's no plot to speak of. The illustrations could be dismissed as repetitive. The only action to be witnessed is an "old lady" knitting. And yet...

There's magic in these pages.

What kind of magic? Well, the kind that actually puts your wide-eyed, energy-riddled little attention-demander to sleep. A book for your child? Lord, no. This is a book for you.

The sleep experts tell us that bedtime ritual is the key to putting our little monsters to sleep. A bath, a book, a song - all can be part of an effective bedtime ritual that works to counter your child's inclination to be awake every minute you are!

So why Goodnight Moon? What makes this THE bedtime book?

Author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd (who also teamed up on Runaway Bunny) created a book that is itself a ritual.

Baby (a bunny) is already in bed. Of course, as we know, that's no guarantee that sleep is on the way. (Sometimes it's only a measure of just how tightly you're capable of tucking those sheets in!) His room - which is enormous and contains an actual fireplace - is depicted in some detail.

There are baby-appropriate paintings on the walls. There's a comb and a brush, as well as a red balloon resting against the ceiling. There's that grandma bunny knitting. (Yes, she's in a rocking chair. This is the ultimate bedtime book, remember?) There are two kittens and a mouse, though I'm pleased to report that the kittens show no interest in the mouse. Review continues.

bunny's bedroom

And you know what? All these things have to be said "Goodnight" to. There's your ritual.

Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon

(That's one of the paintings.)

Goodnight bears
Goodnight chairs
Goodnight kittens
And goodnight mittens

I trust you get the idea. Of course it's delightfully inevitable that your Goodnight Moon bedtime ritual will come to include the features of that special place where your own child sleeps.

Goodnight violent superheroes
Goodnight unrealistic body image blonde dolls

(Yeah, your child will probably phrase things differently, but we can dream.)

The point is, this classic does everything but come with a sleep guarantee. No surprise it was one of the best-selling children's books of the 20th century.

Illustrator Hurd provides the perfect complement to Ms. Wise Brown's simple text. The colors are high-contrast so as to make all the room's different features easy to spot, but the real magic is in Hurd's lighting. The room grows subtly darker with each turn of the page - in harmony with your child's fast descending eyelids.

The ultimate bedtime book indeed.

Of course, the real challenge with Goodnight Moon is trying not to fall asleep yourself! But then deserve a little shut-eye. Don't you?

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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