I am by no means an expert when it comes to children’s literature. I save that for the wonderful children’s librarians of The New York Public Library. In a readers advisory bind I can recommend some of the current series that the kids are reading and those classic children’s books that I’m particularly fond of now: Where the Wild Things Are, the Mo Willems Pigeon books, anything by David Wiesner, and Goodnight Moon.
Published in 1947, Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon has certainly had a lasting appeal. Maybe it’s in the simple poetry of the book. Maybe it’s in the story itself: the prolonging of the act of saying goodnight, something that everyone can relate to. Maybe it’s because the story is easily adaptable into a ritual that parent and child can continue after reading the book. Maybe it is because the main character is a rabbit.
I don’t have any real recollections of ever reading Goodnight Moon as a child. When I think of that children’s classic the first thing that comes to mind is the episode of The Simpsons where Christopher Walken reads the book to a group of terrified children at a book fair. “Please, children, scootch closer. Don't make me tell you again about the scootching.”
Another thing that comes to mind is the interesting history behind a charming little house near the Jefferson Market Library. This 18th century farmhouse was the residence and writing studio of Margaret Wise Brown in the 1940s. At the time the house was located at 71st Street and York Avenue. It was there that Brown wrote many of her classics, including Goodnight Moon. Illustrator Garth Williams even depicted the house in Brown’s Little Golden Book, Mister Dog. The house later faced demolition and on March 5, 1967 it was moved from the Upper East Side to its present location at 121 Charles Street. Complete with a beautiful yard and a cobblestone driveway, it is a truly magical and unique literary landmark unlike any other residence in New York City. Take a look next time you’re in the area, then stop by Jefferson Market and read Goodnight Moon. Personally, I can never read that story again without hearing Christopher Walken’s voice in my head: “Goodnight room. Goodnight Moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon."