On September 3, 1947, exactly 75 years ago today, the beloved children’s classic Good Night Moon was published and released. Its author, Margaret Wise Brown, having died suddenly at the age of 42 from an embolism after a routine surgery, never knew the book’s success. At the time of its publication, and for 25 years after, the book was banned by the New York Public Library and therefore frowned upon by librarians everywhere.
What in the world? How could a librarian NOT love Good Night Moon?!?
The little old lady whispering hush, the two little kittens with their two little mittens, and the cow jumping over the moon! Good night comb, good night brush, good night bowl full of mush! What could be controversial about this sweet, calming, soothing experience of bedtime?
In 1947, prevailing literary thought in the realm of children’s books required that children’s stories have a fully developed plot line, a beginning, a middle and an end. Also required was a conflict and an ending with a lesson, a moral, something for the young reader to aspire to, to learn. Children’s books were to be about building character.
Children’s books are revolutionized!
But a forward thinking educator, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, founded the Cooperative School for Student Teachers located on Bank Street in Greenwich Village in New York City, and this is where Margaret Wise Brown attended college. Basing the progressive curriculum on Ms. Mitchell’s revolutionary text book, Here and Now Story Book published in 1921, writers who came out of the college were writing books that were written on a child’s level about their experiences and their observations in the “here and now.” Margaret Wise Brown was among them.
I Write In the Here and Now Genre too.
I did not know this history until recently, long after Pensive Penelope Thinks About Words and Listening Lucas Listens to Letters were written. But I recognize my stories in the “Here and Now…” philosophy. I tend to omit conflict in my books…REAL life presents so many opportunities for children to observe, experience and learn from conflict. In books, I want my characters to be children who are learning, growing, developing, their stories small scenes from the tapestries of their lives. Their adults are attentive, supportive, encouraging and respectful. Their families, friends and neighbors LISTEN to them. As a result their skills grow and develop quickly. I feel no need to create conflict around learning, growing and developing. Just show me the world through a child’s experience, observation and process and you’ve got a book that I’m going to love! www.patblankenship.com
Happy Birthday Good Night Moon!
Happy 75th birthday to Good Night Moon! I’m so happy Margaret Wise Brown wrote this wonderful book! I’m so sorry she never knew how beloved her book would become. But there’s a lesson here for us: Banning books is AT BEST, short-sighted. Let children show us which books they love. They will always know.
PS And if you think Margaret Wise Brown must have been much like the “little old lady whispering hush,” you may be surprised to learn that she was an appealing young woman who moved in the circles of New York City society with beauty, grace and sensuality. Though she was engaged to be married when she died to no less than a Rockefeller, she never married.
Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened By the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus