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I am just having a little trouble wrapping my head around Goodnight Moon being a fable about death. It used to be the four year old's favorite book - I could read it without looking by 18 months.

It is not terribly new but Goodnight Opus by Berkley Breathed, is one of his favorites now. And it even has a tribute to Goodnight Moon in. We both really enjoy all of Breathed's childrens books - The Last Basselope is the four year old's favorite.

I have to say that I rather ejoyed Where's My Cow by Terry Pratchett, the second time through. The first time was fun, but I spent a lot of time trying to explain it all to my son. I really enjoy his curiosity, but it makes it hard to actually follow even childrens stories.


I, too, goggled at that passage about "Goodnight, Moon," about which I have nothing but warm memories. Sometimes we still read it together, along with "The Runaway Bunny," which should be kept far from Kolbert's busy brain.

Kate knows that when she was very wee, she always stretched forward at the page with just the mouse -- "goodnight, mouse" -- and carefully put her finger on the mouse. Thereby CRUSHING IT TO DEATH, I'm sure.

Sorry I missed the Blonde's call(s) today. Hope you found the perfect tree.


Cat's pajamas. Doodly-doo
Kitties on the prowl two-by-two
cool cats, hip cats, kitty cats, meow

Oh, sorry. I can't say the title without reciting the whole book. My daughter loved hearing this book so much she'd hand it to guests and ask them to read it to her.

I even wrote Thacher Hurd to get his permission to create a site where people would upload audiofiles of the book. I figured my daughter would love hearing strangers with different accents read the book.

Alas, by the time he wrote back giving me permission I was in the middle of a serious medical problem.

My older daughter loved Caps for Sale.


Mo Willems new book, Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, is quite funny.

Looking for a Moose, by Phyllis Root is also a good new picture book.

(I know teachers/librarians who have tried these two books out on kids and said they were a hit.)

Little Pea is relatively new and very cute. (Little pea can't wait to eat his veggies - yum! - but first he has to eat his candy - yuck!)

Sandra Boynton has a new one out too, My Personal Penguin.

And Panda Bear, Panda Bear is finally out in board book this Christmas.

RE: Goodnight Moon - I have heard similar interpretations before, but with less emphasis on the death and minus the idea that the book shows no parents (the little old lady whispering hush is obviously meant to be a mother, grandmother, or nanny). The idea is that for small children bedtime is an anxious time because it's a time of separation, and seperation is the closest children that young understand of death. Goodnight Moon not only mimics children falling asleep through it's drifting focus (now the picture is of the whole room and in color, now it's just a black and white fuzzy picture of one thing); it also prepares children for that nightly seperation (naming familiar objects is reassuring and the repetition suggests routine which suggests that morning will come).

(Sorry, I'm currently finishing up a class in Library Resources for Children 0-6 and had to share.)

Having said that, Elizabeth Kolbert should not be reviewing children's books.

Art uses "play on words to punishing extremes"? Has she ever read Dogzilla? Does she have any understanding that children of a certain age can't get enough of puns? (granted, not necessarily the age Art is geared towards) And Museum Trip is protectionist? And does she even understand that most of the books she's reviewing are meant for children that are older than Goodnight Moon's usual audience?


Shut my mouth. Here I always thought Goodnight Moon was kind of insipid. Who knew it had such ... depth. Mind you, my kids love it despite Mom's low opinion, as they love The Very Hungry Caterpillar despite George W. Bush citing it as a personal favorite (it was published in 1981, by the by) and One Fish Two Fish despite its being too darn long and having illustrations that give me a headache.

Some books that we all love in the Siren's household:
Mother Goose (all versions)
Goodnight Gorilla (much more fun than Goodnight Moon)
Goodnight Dinosaurs by Judy Sierra (ditto)
The Eensy-Weensy Spider
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (and Baking a Cake)
Officer Buckle and Gloria
Sam and the Tigers (Jerry Pinckney's resurrection of Little Black Sambo)
Mange-Moi, S'Il Te Plait (the favorite French book, so far)
Eloise (the daughter of the house's favorite, already, which is a bit alarming)
Olivia (ditto)
Ferdinand the Bull (older, flower-loving son's favorite, probably out of identification with the flower-sniffing Ferdinand)
Five Little Ducks (Jose Aruego & Ariane Dewey's illustration of ths song, which son was so attached to we went through six copies)
The Monster at the End of This Book
It's the Bear by Jez Allbrough
and the George and Martha books and just about anything else by the late, lamented James Marshall.

Your anecdote reminds me of stories I heard from someone who used to work for Maurice Sendak's agent. They would get a steady trickle of letters from well-meaning Moms about the Christian imagery in Where the Wild Things Are. Two problems with that:
1. Sendak is Jewish (he was NOT amused when an orchestra wanted to set a reading of WTWTA in part to Strauss's Thus Spake Zarathustra)
2. The images of the Wild Things are not, in fact, demons but renderings of his child-eye's view of some of his elderly relatives.


Some favorites at my house these days:

Earl the Squirrel, by Don Freeman
The 39 Apartments of Ludwig von Beethoven, by Jonah Winter (ill. by Barry Blitt)
This Jazz Man, by Karen Ehrhardt (ill. by R.G. Roth)
Aliens Are Coming! by Meghan McCarthy
Two Eggs, Please, by Sarah Weeks (ill. by Betsy Lewin)
Cookie's Week, by Cindy Ward (ill. by Tomie dePaola)
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scarry


It's been a while but both my children were clever at choosing books that took at least 30 minutes to read. But many favorites were shorter. My son liked *Julia Child's Cookbook* (sounds like a joke but we moved when he turned two and he found one of the fattest books in the boxes.) Besides those mentioned above they both liked **William Steig's* books for children (fantastic,in every sense of the word), *Cars & Trucks and Things That Go*, *"The Little Engine that Could,"* *"Flat Stanley" by Jeff Brown,* *"Wizard of Oz,"* *"Will I Have Friends?" Miriam Cohen* They liked *"Rhymes Around the Day,"* *Ogden Nash,* and *Edward Lear.*
We continued reading to them through sixth grade so we read chapter books and poetry. *Ursula K. LeGuin's, "Earth Sea Trilogy," as well standards like the Hobbit, Watership Down...(We JUST missed Harry Potter.) *Roald Dahl* was a big favorite, prose and poetry.
Neither kid tolerated Han Christian Andersen. And, as a benchmark on children's literature, check out "The Wind and the Willows." I could not read it out loud; the prose-style cracked me up.


I don't know if I would go so far as to agree with the death angle, but the Goodnight Moon bunnies are creepy. In both versions I have, the bunnies have dead eyes and absolutely no expressions. It's creepy.

More on topic, a lot of classic children's books are kinda odd, emphasising confomrmity and obedience. That's one of the reasons I like Dr. Suess so much -- the opposite is true of his books.


Ferdinand the Bull! His name occasionally comes up in conversation around this house, mostly when the dog is sniffing a new floral whatsit that's made its way to a coffee table low enough.

Has no one read anything by Daniel Pinkwater? I've enjoyed his commentaries and readings on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.


My 6-year-old enjoys the Magic Treehouse series. And Encyclopedia Brown. He also still enjoys Eric Carle books. When he was younger, the book we read the most was "Joseph had a little overcoat".
My 2-year old likes Olivia, Madeline, and George and Martha. Also Suki's Kimono.


Linkmeister- My girls and I love Pinkwater! We can't get through "once Upon a Blue Moose" without laughing ourselves silly.

Vance Maverick

The Kolbert article is really bizarre. Her account of the end of Good night, Gorilla, for example, is simply false. In fact, all the animals are asleep. They've been put back in their cages where they belong, except the gorilla and his sidekick, who have crept back to the keeper's house to sleep in bed, between him and his wife ;-).


Er, well, _Field Notes From A Catastrophe_ was great, but this review is ... crazed.


Lance and everyone, some 80 children's literature bloggers are working right now on the Children's and Young Adult Literature Awards--all will go to 2006 titles. A short list of 5 will be announced in January, then the top prize winners about a month later. You'll find the lists--full of great books--in a number of categories at the Cybils web site:

P.S. I should have put Daniel Pinkwater's "Orange Splot" on my list, too. Oh, and one he recommended on NPR, "The Bakeshop Ghost." by Jacqueline K. Ogburn (ill. by Marjorie Priceman).

Comandante Agi

That's a heavy take on a classic children's story, Lance. There's only one direction where this leads:

America can, should, must and will blow up the moon!


I love reading Cronin's Click Clack Moo to my almost 2 year old nephew. He helps with the "mooing".
And when I was a children's librarian, I always used to read "Stephanie's Ponytail" by Robert Munsch. It's suitably wacky for younger kids.
I have literary crushes on Kevin Henkes and Ian Falconner, so most of my youthful acquaintances get copies of the Lily books and the Olivia books.


How I Became a Pirate is loved by my 18-month-old, even though it has lots of words. It's great up through 3rd grade or so. The best of the Pirate books I've seen so far.

Sandra Boynton's "Hippos go Berserk" is wonderful, (counting book) even the 498th time through. As is another of her books, "Barnyard Dance" (animals)

My son also loves The Deep Blue Sea. It's one of those very simple, beautiful books that will be requested time and time again. ("There's the deep blue sea. There's a rock, a red rock in the middle of the deep blue sea. There's a tree, a green tree on the red rock in the middle of the deep blue sea.") and when the fishies come out to play they all sing, "Fiddle-dee-dee it's raining on the rock in the middle of the sea" Great pacing, good way to learn colors. My son can now recognize clouds, parrots, nuts, trees and the sea. He knows blue, green, red, brown, purple, orange and black. He knows the sun is up (and tries to hold the book over his head on the page that talks about the yellow sun over it all) and that dark clouds lead to rain.

Los Primeros Cien Palabras (First 100 words) is his favorite pictures-only book. We don't actually try to teach him the Spanish, that can come a little later, but he loves the pictures. He's loved this book so much that it finally tore. I don't know where you can buy it, it was a gift from someone, we can't remember who.

I love The Owl and the Pussycat, illustrated by Jan Brett. A luscious, gorgeous book based on a Caribbean/Trinidad look with beautiful flowers, fish and shells on every page. My son always shouts out "Bong tree, bong tree!" on the particular page. He also loves, and calls out to, the fish, the turtle, the shark and the turkey. It will make you want to run away to a deserted island and on the edge of the sand, dance by the light of the moon.


harry near indy

as for elizabeth kolbert's interpretation of goodnight moon:

what ... the ... heck?

o well ... proof that a book/text/any work of art has at least two interpretations: those of the artist with his or her intent, and those by the reader/viewer/consumer with his or her outlook.

besides the good doctor seuss, two favorite books from my childhood were picture books of greek and norse myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire. i liked the greek myths books better than the one about the norse myths.

iirc, the new york review of books's publishing division has re-issued the book about the norse myths. i don't know about the greek myths book, but i hope it does so soon. i'd be tempted to go out and buy it -- that's how much i enjoyed it as a kid, and why i remember it today, when i'm in my fifties.

linkmeister, if you can find it, i'd recommend that you get fish whistle by daniel pinkwater. it's a book with many of his npr commentaries from the 1980s. i boughy mine at a used book store around 1990, so i don't know if it's still in print.


Funny... Goodnight Moon has been in the regular rotation of books I read to my 11-month -old at bedtime. He loves to turn the pages maniacally, and especially loves GM because it alternates between the lush color pictures and spare black-and-white ones, so he flips back and forth nonstop.

All the books I can recommend are for the under-1 set; I prefer stories with one sentence per page because my son turns the pages so dang fast. His favorites are Leslie Patricelli books ("Yummy Yucky", "Binky", "Quiet Loud") which have bold colors and simple illustrations, but are also pretty funny.

Mr. X

I'm reminded of David Sedaris' essay in which he mimics a snotty theater critic writing reviews of children's grade school plays.


Glad you mentioned Mike Mulligan. My elder son adored that book, as well as the one she wrote about Katy the snowplow. I had both memorized at one point in his life, as did he.

Ken Muldrew

Goodnight Moon had it coming. A book has to have more than 10 words else the reader's mind is apt to wander and come up with deeper meanings.

I second Officer Buckle and Gloria and the Richard Scarry books. Also Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsman was always a favourite.

It was a very sad day when my youngest daughter informed me that she was too old to be read to anymore.

John M. Burt

Already mentioned above, but I heartily endorse _Where the Wild Things Are_. A wonderful experience for any child.

Kolbert's interpretation reminds me of Aleister Crowley's Kabalistic reading of "Old Mother Hubbard", in which he "proved" that Mother Hubbard was Isis, and her dog the martyred Osiris.

Porlock Junior

The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate, by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain. Fine book for raising young Anglophiles, from the fascination with pirates to the style of drawing to the characters, one after another, who are full of conventional wisdom and in a larger sense are full of it. Does not inculcate conformity.

Seeing Ferdinand here raised fond memories. One night I realized I hadn't read it to the younger kid, and picked it up with a sense of nostalgia from my own childhood: this book has gravitas. And as I got to the bullfight it was impossible not to start singing
Out came the matador
Who must have been potted or
Slightly insane, but who looked rather bored...

An odd thing to sing to a kid of 7 or so, so the next day I got out the record for the kids and created a couple of Tom Lehrer fans.

Tomie di Paola's Strega Nona books. Anything by James Marshall and/or Daniel Pinkwater. Runner-up: I Will Not Go to Market Today. All-time champ: The Wuggie Norple Story.

When they're getting a little older and more intellectual: Sideways Stories from Wayside School; Louis Sachar.



Let me see if I understand this: The farmer and his family routinely slaughter and eat the animals on their farm. The animals are all sentient beings, who understand this and do nothing to escape—in fact, they work hard to curry favor with the farmer, in order to prolong their lives. This is the sort of children's film that Roman Polanski would make.

(from McSweeney's)

Kevin Wolf

Dr Suess' Sleep Book
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff
The Pooh books are amusing enough

Oddly, we didn't seem to have a lot of "classics" around the house when I was a kid, so I was not exposed to nor have I ever read: The Wind In the Willows, Charlette's Web, Ferdinand the Bull, Mike Mulligan & His Steamshovel, etc.


Under 1, I remember my daughter like several of the Sandra Boynton board books in addition to Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny. Moo, Baa, La La La and one about going to bed that I still remember the beginning of "The sun has set not long ago, so every one goes below. To take a bath in one big tub..." Hey what is this book about, really?!?

But, no mention of the *real* controversy? The publisher has *altered* the photo of the illustrator, Clement Hurd, without his ever present cigarette.

Recent hits with our 4 1/2 year old include: Incident at the Dinosaur Cafe, Zen Shorts and A Beautiful Girl.


I don't have kids but I babysit my friend's kids and I always like to read their books and for birthdays and things I give them some favorites of mine. You've included a lot of them here but, ones I've always loved and it seems to go over well is "Harry the Dirty Dog" and "No Roses for Harry." One I've read at their house that I liked was "Squids Will Be Squids" - very funny.

Like Linkmeister, I also call my dog Ferdinand(a) the Pit Bull...she does smell flowers which always makes me laugh and she is very sweet (happily raised pitbulls are).

sander gonzales wilburforce

goodnight moon is a faustian autobiographical tragicomedy in which margaret wise brown sells her soul (the great green room and all of its contents) to the devil a clever mephisto-like character named michael strange who is absent in the story, but whose presence is symbolized by the red balloon. Margaret wise brown (who was called "bunny" by her lover, michael strange) is lies in bed, naming and rejecting all the particulars of her "here-and-now" reality. the telephone connects her to god or the devil, as she chooses. the kittens and the mouse are real folks, friends and colleagues who go about their busy lives, unaware of the ultimate bargain that margaret has made to achieve perfection in her art. the absence of margaret's lover is demonstrated symbolically by the abandoned comb and the brush, common tools of beauty,and primping, and the idle bowl full of mush. in fact the main character has no one but herself, "bunny" to love in the end. fate and circumstances have served her ill in such matters. margaret is her own gretchen. she loves herself. to hell with all the rest. on the wall, she sees the homuncular characters - the cow jumping over the moon; the three little bears - products of the old rejected nursery rhyme alchemy, trapped in their pseudo-reality forever. they have no place in the "here-and-now". she sees, though the story avoids calling attention to it, the picture of the mother rabbit fishing for her runnaway bunny, an odd fragment of another story, shown here because it suggests again the artificial homuncular characters that bunny (margaret) and her lover michael strange (whom she called "rabbit")had evolved into in their unfortunate relationship. the quiet old lady is society, judgement, religion, the deity. margaret wonders whether these have had anything but muting effect on her art. she is haunted by their subliminal whisper, "hush."

in the end, the devil has her day. margaret dismisses the quiet old lady and passes through the veil of sleep. but as she does, and as darkness descends, her art achieves a perfection whose beauty matches that of all the masters of art and literature and it rises like the celestial moon. she leaves the reader with the great irony of her parting farewell to poetry and literaturature and song and children's storybooks - "goodnight noises everywhere."

sander gonzales wilburforce


sander gonzales wilburforce

actually, that's my faustian goodnight moon exegesis...don't know how it crept into your comments, jillbryant...i din't do it...i fear lance mannion's blog is harm intended.


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