The Worst Children’s Classic of All Time


Norie and I are traveling to Colorado today to visit my parents, so this felt like the perfect time to address my hatred of Goodnight Moon – a book I never liked but that my mom read to me a lot as a kid.  Here’s a picture for reference:

Is it children's literature or the nightmare of an opium addict?

Not to be confused with the nightmares of opium addicts.

Right off the bat, the color scheme in this book is off-putting and hurts my eyes.  Always has, always will  (except for the kittens, who are inexplicably in black and white).  Whoever thought red carpet went well with green walls should have his or her face eaten off.

Which leads me to my next point – that “quiet old lady who is whispering ‘hush'” looks like she’s eaten plenty of faces in her time.  The panel before that sinister line, the rocking chair is empty – so I can only assume that that demonic, face-eating rabbit woman materialized out of thin air before she started knitting some fiendish device while whispering her menacing threat.

Added to all of this, on the wall to the left (meaning that if the child bunny looked at the woman-rabbit it would be hanging ominously right behind her) is the scene from Runaway Bunny in which the mother is trying to catch her child using a fish hook.  I’ve already covered that book’s disturbing threats of violence, and this one is apparently using that trauma to further intimidate the child.  No wonder this book always creeped me out as a kid.

Another part of what makes everything so creepy is the logical inconsistency of the anthropomorphized rabbits.  If I’m to believe that rabbits in this world are vaguely human, then why aren’t kittens also more like people?  Bears in this world apparently sit in chairs, but what about the cows?  For all of its delightful crappiness, Howard the Duck had the decency to explain the strange human/animal hybridity of its main character.  Here, we’re just supposed to take for granted that human/rabbit crossbreeds exist, live in houses, and based on the rug next to the bed, kill tigers.

But even if I’m willing to get past all of that, there’s still the issue of the book simply being poorly written.  The rhymes are forced and the verbal gymnastics that Margaret Wise Brown goes through to make them happen render the sentences choppy and ungraceful.

Not to mention, like the worst of the board books (and there is, appropriately, a board book version of Goodnight Moon) almost the entire book consists of nothing but a repeated phrase.  In my last post I wrote jokingly that I could make a book out of the phrase “Goodnight, sleep tight,” but I was apparently being overly ambitious.  Just “Goodnight,” is all I needed.  At least Hello Bugs went to the effort of using different drawings as it went through its list of saying “Hello” to things, but Goodnight Moon just recycles the same LSD trip of a picture as it recites its catch phrase over and over.

What it all adds up to is a creepy, aesthetically bankrupt piece of drivel whose writing is as stilted as the visuals are abrasive.

Oh, and what the hell is mush?


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