Literary Arts Week: Learning About Margaret Wise Brown
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.
Goodnight light and the red balloon.”
It didn’t take long after my daughter was born for the little bunny and his goodnight routine to become part of our goodnight routine. The little toy house and the kittens and the mittens. Before long we could recite it from memory, a blessing when bedtime found us with achy, tired eyes. We marked our children’s growth by its pages: the first time they reached out a chubby little hand to flip the page, the first time they engaged with the story, the first time they excitedly pointed out the red balloon. And, eventually, the day when my daughter could also recite the routine from memory.
Though her words are now solidly imprinted on my brain and in my heart, I had never taken a moment to learn more about Margaret Wise Brown. Beyond hearing once that Goodnight Moon sprung out of her as a fully formed story (and feeling more than a little bit of envy at her genius) I never explored her life or works any more deeply.
This week, as Brooksfield celebrates Literary Arts Week with a focus on Brown and her works, seemed as good a time as any to finally learn more about her.
As it turns out, the rumor I’d heard that Goodnight Moon was a stroke of genius was true. And it wasn’t the only one. Brown, or Brownie as she was known to her friends, often penned fully formed stories all at once, dreaming them up at night and then rushing to get them on paper in the morning. This is how it was for more than 100 stories.
She initiated the rise of the “here and now” philosophy, the idea that moved the world away from fairytales and fables to stories about children living the lives of children. Today, children’s book writers are encouraged to craft their stories from a child’s point of view, make a child the hero or heroine of the story, and write about a child’s life, because, as Brown knew, this is what children want to read.
Childless herself, Brown knew instinctively what captures a child’s attention and what they crave when they curl up next to a parent for story time. She is quoted on the bio page of her website as having said:
“One can but hope to make a child laugh or feel clear and happy-headed as he follows the simple rhythm to its logical end. It can jog him with the unexpected and comfort him with the familiar, lift him for a few minutes from his own problems of shoelaces that won't tie, and busy parents and mysterious clock time, into the world of a bug or a bear or a bee or a boy living in the timeless world of a story.”
As a mother to children who are often bogged down with the problems of busy parents and mysterious clock time and a world that was clearly designed for bigger people, I am thankful that Margaret Wise Brown gifted us such sweet, little stories that we can all escape to when the growing up gets tough.
Learn more about Margaret Wise Brown, talk with your kids about her this week and, if you haven’t read it in a while, dust off your old copy of Goodnight Moon and remember the old routine.