Goodnight, Book Full of Mush

June 23rd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  10 Comments

This book is bad.

This book is bad.

Our son usually demands that five or six books to be read to him before bed, and I’m happy to oblige him. He comes up to me, hands me a book, smiles and giggles, and then turns around and parks himself in my lap. It’s just about as sweet as daddytime gets. Most of the time we work our way through the usual board-book canon: Sandra Boynton, Dr. Seuss, a staple by Al Perkins. A newish (and excellent) book called Gossie, which is apparently a hit with the under-3 set. And the mid-century classic Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd. I don’t remember whether I was enamored of that one as a toddler, but I know my kid brother was. And after a few weeks of regular readings, I have discovered something new about it.

It’s really bad.

Not bad in a dangerous way: It’s not racist or sexist or cruel in the ways that older children’s books can be. It’s merely shapeless and pointless and, after the second or third reading, stunningly dull. Brown’s much-praised voice is stodgy and stiff. Nothing happens. There’s no story; nothing opens up to provide that sense of delight you get toward the end of, say, The Cat in the Hat. The rhythm is, to be charitable, irregular. The text refers to objects in the illustrations that are barely visible because of the faux-primitive skewed perspective. (Even the line-editing is poor. Like that line about “a little toyhouse.” What’s a “toyhouse”? Is it a dollhouse? A toy that is shaped like a house? A place where you store toys?) I know it’s meant to help get children to sleep, but I don’t think it’s meant to do it via boring them until they nod off. I cannot believe we all pretend to like this book. (For what it’s worth, my kid seems bored by it, too.)

Even the author’s heir didn’t do so well.


  1. Daddy Files says:

    June 23rd, 2010at 8:38 am(#)

    Nevermind that at one point we’re saying “goodnight nobody” and then we’re bidding sweet dreams to “a bowl full of mush.” I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’ve never talked to invisible or inanimate objects, but there was a fair amount of marijuana and/or alcohol involved. I can’t handle that shit sober.

    I stick with “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and it’s offshoots Polar Bear, Panda Bear and Baby Bear.

  2. Julian says:

    June 23rd, 2010at 10:30 am(#)

    I actually like Goodnight Moon… But If you want truly bad, read her other book “My World”. The rhythm there is non-existent. The “story” is so disjointed and bizarre that I find the whole thing kind of trippy and creepy.

    I do think “The Runaway Bunny” is cute. Only problem there is that all the text appears on the pages with fairly boring black and white pictures – then the pages with nice color pics have no text at all. Once you memorize it it’s not such a problem though 😉

  3. Gregor says:

    June 23rd, 2010at 12:55 pm(#)

    It IS a terrible book. It’s fine at first blush, but the more you read it the worse it gets.

    When you read these works over and over again you begin appreciate the great ones. “Where the Wild Things Are” only improves with repeated reading. – though I’ve noticed that the moon is waning when Max is sent to his room but full when he returns from where the wild things are? That’s at least 18 days he was away!

  4. Jeremy says:

    June 23rd, 2010at 2:30 pm(#)

    Goodnight Moon is a nothing-happens book, but I find it calms my one year old down before bed (especially when the last half is read in a whisper). So I can’t complain too much.

    In our house, Ollie—a sequel to Gossie—is the big hit. No mush there.

  5. Matt says:

    June 23rd, 2010at 2:53 pm(#)

    Wait, do all your toddlers actually let you read the book? Sasha is interested in books mostly because she can turn the pages. The words and stories are utterly unimportant to her.

  6. Gregor says:

    June 24th, 2010at 12:54 am(#)

    You have to read the words like you MEAN them Matt. Sheesh.

  7. Julian says:

    June 24th, 2010at 12:34 pm(#)

    i would have a revolt if i didn’t read the words. sometimes i try that when i’m exhausted or i have her younger brother as well.
    my daughter is a little over 2. we recently discovered she actually knows most of the books we read often. she’ll complete sentences if we stop reading…

  8. Ron says:

    August 9th, 2010at 5:43 pm(#)

    I disliked it at first – then realized that it guides both the reader and the audience into the disjointed consciousness we all experience right before sleep. It does this freakishly well. I now see it as a success on all levels (including the missing balloon – which just follows suit perfectly with other visual incongruosity, like disappearing picture frames and objects).

    If you want to hate a popular board book – set your sights on Guess How Much I Love You, wherein the adult dashes it’s child’s attempts to express itself. The much larger rabbit employs bullyish one upmanship until the tike collapses, defeated and exhausted. WTF?!


    'Goodnight Moon': The Criticism Continues | DADWAGON
  1. Words vs. Pictures | DADWAGON

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