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The Enduring Wisdom of ‘Goodnight Moon’

The Enduring Wisdom of ‘Goodnight Moon’

It’s the first book many babies receive as a gift, and one of the few that parents will keep when their child is grown. Why does this 75-year-old story have such staying power?

By Elisabeth Egan

The first 25 times I read “Goodnight Moon,” I cried. Not in a dainty, tear-dabbing way; I’m talking Niagara waterworks, heaving sobs and a red nose.

My firstborn daughter was only a few days old, swaddled in a blanket printed with baleful teddy bears, when we made our first foray into the iconic picture book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. I’d been a mother for long enough to know how little I knew: My bathing and feeding skills were weak. My diapering experience was limited to Cabbage Patch Kids. The one-handed stroller collapse that would become my signature maneuver was a mirage shimmering beyond a desert of sleepless nights.

Reading was something I could do with aplomb, and I thought the experience would be soothing for all involved — including my husband, who was sweating over instructions for a bottle sterilizer that looked like R2-D2. I picked “Goodnight Moon” because I remembered how veteran parents had slapped their hands over their hearts when I unwrapped the slim hardcover at my baby shower. The vote was unanimous: “That one is the best.”

Except it wasn’t. The book was maudlin and depressing. It lacked the wild abandon of “Jamberry” and the wacky nonsense of “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket!” The lone red balloon made me feel like I was staring down a well, and the font reminded me of a standardized test. Plus, “Goodnight nobody?” It was a knife to the heart. By the time I arrived at “Goodnight noises everywhere,” I was mopping my face with the teddy bear blanket. Read the full piece at the New York Times.

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