The Enduring Brilliance of "Goodnight Moon"
Since it was published in 1947, Goodnight Moon has sold more than 48 million copies and been translated into at least a dozen languages.
Generations of children have drifted asleep to the incantation-like tale of a young bunny who says goodnight to the objects and creatures in a green-walled bedroom, listing them off one by one. In bedrooms all over the world, Goodnight Moon is as ubiquitous as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and for many families, it’s a beloved bedtime tradition.
But what of Margaret Wise Brown, the woman behind the book? In In the Great Green Room, author Amy Gary investigates the “fascinating” life of the whimsical woman who sat quietly at the “center of a children’s book publishing revolution,” and who died suddenly at the age of 42.
According to Smithsonian, Brown based Goodnight Moon on her own childhood ritual of saying goodnight to the toys and other objects in the nursery she shared with her sister Roberta. A memory of the ritual is said to have come back to her in a vivid dream as an adult. What Brown jotted down in a haze the next morning is what ultimately became Goodnight Moon.
Brown recruited her close friend Clement Hurd to provide the now-iconic illustrations. When it went on sale for $1.75 in the fall of 1947, Smithsonian reports that the New York Times praised the combination of art and language, telling parents that the book “should prove very effective in the case of a too wide-awake youngster.”
At a time when children’s books were fairytales and fables, Brown managed to craft something amusing, unique, and completely mundane. She wrote of familiar things from a child’s daily life, and parents appreciated the satisfying rhythm of reading it aloud.
Though plenty has changed between 1947 and now, those things never will.