Book Review: Goodnight Moon

by Josh Hanagarne on July 13, 2010

There are so many books out there that I want to read, that I typically don’t reread books unless they’re my absolute favorites. Of course, there are about 100 books that I consider my absolute favorites, and I add to that list weekly.

But in the last week, I’ve read a certain book at least 100 times. I can’t get enough. Meaning, my son Max can’t get enough. Every night before going to bed, Max wants to read Goodnight Moon several dozen times, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd.

I think I know why: the book sounds like going to sleep. I’m not sure how else to say it. By the time I read it, my voice gets quieter and quieter, without me realizing it.  I have no idea if Brown had this intention, but my belief is that GoodNight Moon was written as much for wiggly toddlers as for adults who are winding down for the night.

The “story” is simple. There is a room with several things in it, including:

  • A bowl of mush
  • three bears sitting in chairs
  • An old lady
  • A red balloon

And you go through and say goodnight to all of them. The pacing, the ordering of the words, and the tenderness of the artwork really have to be experienced to be appreciated. It captivates Max and it calms me down.

There are a lot of books out there that set out to create a mood and fail miserably, laughably, or both. I didn’t need to have a son to have an excuse for revisiting children’s favorites, but it does make sure that I do it.

Goodnight Moon does mood better than any book I can think of. And if you get the board book, you can chew on it and it will last a long time anyways.

Josh

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave July 13, 2010 at 5:43 am

I think this post needs a new category: “Essential Truths.” It says something that my youngest is 15 and I not only still know where all the copies are (including the chewn one), but can recite the text without hesitation. Few things in life are perfect, thanks for cherishing this one.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

I’ll think it over:)

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Chris Baltzley July 13, 2010 at 7:00 am

I had never heard of this book until I was in my thirties, but one of my favorite books growing up was also by Margaret Wise Brown – “Nibble, Nibble: Poems for Young Children”.
(If you go looking for it, make sure you get the from 1959 with illustrations by Leonard Weisgard – the version currently on Amazon looks like it only has 5 of the original 25 poems and “more modern” illustrations.)

Some bugs pinch
And some bugs creep
Some bugs buzz themselves to sleep
Buzz Buzz Buzz Buzz
This is the song of the bugs.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:13 am

I don’t even know the tune and I think Song of the bugs is already stuck in my head.

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The Naked Redhead July 13, 2010 at 8:24 am

I LOVE “Goodnight Moon.” In fact, this is a line I often say to my friend every time she signs off of IM to go read to her son:

“Gotta go, Jude wants a story.”

“Awww, well, Goodnight Moon!”

Good stuff.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:13 am

I love it!

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Heather July 13, 2010 at 8:54 am

Goodnight Moon is a great bedtime read. Very soothing. Max has good taste! :)

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:13 am

He doesn’t get it from Janette, that’s for sure!

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Melissa Gorzelanczyk July 13, 2010 at 9:05 am

Love this book. Makes me want to dig it out of storage again and read it. (My kids are beyond the Goodnight Moon obsession.)

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

It’s wonderful stuff. We’ve got at least two copies sitting around. One for reading, one for chewing.

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Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire July 13, 2010 at 9:14 am

Josh!

This was one of my favorite books growing up as well. I think I said good night to just about everything in my room after that. This is the kind of book that every kids’ author dreams of writing.

…the only thing it needs is a kettlebell for the kid to say goodnight to.

-Joshua Black
The Underdog Millionaire

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

You’re right. I’m going to paint one in. Max likes to make kettlebells out of play-doh.

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John July 13, 2010 at 11:54 am

funny how life works. This post got me thinking about other books that I love from my childhood and as I was walking thru the bookstore this afternoon I came across some of my favorites…the “Mr. Men” books. I used to love reading about Mr. Happy, Little Miss Bossy, and all of the other Mr. Men characters. I stopped, read through a couple of them, enjoyed some memories, and picked up a few to share with my kids. Good times!

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

I loved those books. I think it was Mr. Messy, but my favorite was a guy who was just a big scribble.

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Janette Hanagarne July 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I have also read this book dozens of times to Max, and what strikes me is how he sees the book differently as the weeks go by. His focus was originally on the Moon, then on clocks, then the balloon, and now it’s the bowl full of “mus”.

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as reading to a child.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

Nothing? What about frying tilapia for your husband?

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Daisy July 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Do you have Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny? If you look closely in Goodnight, Moon, one of the pictures on the wall is taken directly from The Runaway Bunny. It’s so exciting when little ones discover a detail like that.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

I’m going to grab it at the library today.

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Jesse July 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm

We would always make a game of finding the tiny mouse and saying, “squeeeek” when he was discovered. In the beginning, I’d do ‘hot and cold’ to tell them when they were close to the mouse.

It didn’t take long for them to memorize the mouse’s location, but the squeeeeking was still a blast, although not particularly conducive to sleep.

LOVE that book.

Check out “The Runaway Bunny” and see if you can get through it without crying.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 8:53 am

Will do. I’ve read The Runaway Bunny before, but not since Max was born.

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Boris Bachmann July 14, 2010 at 2:01 am

I had a lot of favorites when my son was younger. I don’t know that we ever read Goodnight Moon… I really wish we had. I’ll check it out for myself.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 8:52 am

You won’t regret it.

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Pauline July 14, 2010 at 10:27 am

A new book for you and Max is The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood. It tells about all different kinds of quiet and has gorgeous illustrations. It just came out this spring.

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Josh Hanagarne July 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

On my way to look it up now! thanks.

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Elizabeth July 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

Just getting back to my blog reading and I happened upon this one. We actually have TWO copies of Goodnight Moon because our daughter chewed on the back cover (in the middle somehow! Talented child…) and we had to replace it. I had it memorized for awhile and, with our next baby due in September, I believe it’ll come back to me. :)

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Jodi Kaplan July 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

You know, I never read that book until a co-worker gave it to me as a giggle. She used to pass by my desk when I was working late and tell me it was past my bedtime. I finally told her I wanted a story (funny since she was much younger). One day, she brought me a copy of Goodnight Moon. I still have it and it makes me smile just thinking about it.

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Jenn July 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm

My boys loved that book when they were younger. I still have our battered copy. I love it as well.

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Kathy July 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Oh, Josh. We’re in the same phase. My 2 1/2 year old loves that book too. Have you read “The Escape of Marvin the Ape”? It’s our favorite one, right now.

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Marvin-Ape-Caralyn-Buehner/dp/0803711239

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Josh Hanagarne July 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I’m going to take a look today. I’m at the library.

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Claudia Pearson August 21, 2010 at 5:38 pm

The book is not that simple. It is the second book in Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny trilogy. Together, the three books have an Oedipal structure and some surprisingly explicit images and symbols. The Runaway Bunny explores the child’s fear of the omnipotent mother. Goodnight Moon explores the child’s efforts to define his place in a space dominated by his mother. In My World the father appears and as the bunny boy compares himself with his father, and the mother rabbit fades into the shadows, the bunny boy concedes that the moon belongs to the man in the moon.

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Claudia Pearson August 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm

People who want to know more should read Have a Carrot: Oedipal Theory and Symbolism in Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny Trilogy, Look Again Press (2010) http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/21324

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Josh Hanagarne August 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm

It’s that simple for me. I’ll enjoy it exactly how I want, but I will take a look at the link. No piece of academic criticism has ever made anything more enjoyable for me, and I’ve read plenty. It normally has the opposite effect.

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Claudia Pearson August 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Too funny Josh, and too true. Academics tend to point out things many of us would rather ignore. Books can offer a highly subjective experience for readers who endow them with meaning that comes from their own lives no matter what the words actually say. What I love about Brown’s books is that they can be understood on multiple levels.

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Johan von Boisman February 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

Being Swedish, I didn’t know this children’s story but got familiar with it thru Richard Price’s novel Clockers and then later the paraphrased scene in the episode he wrote for The Wire. So now I know its origins!

http://blog.nj.com/alltv/2008/02/the_wire_took_goodnight_moon.html

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Josh Hanagarne February 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Thanks Johan. I’m a big Richard Price and The Wire fan.

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Elisa April 18, 2012 at 7:10 am

I discovered this book as a mum. I loved it. It inspired me to write this on my blog:-

http://loveourchildrennow.blogspot.com/2012/04/goodnight-moon.html

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