Posted by: Tom Owen | August 21, 2009

Goodnight Moon (1947) – Clement Hurd, SPS 1926

Goodnight Moon (adapted from Wikipedia)

Goodnight Moon is an American children’s book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd. It was first published in 1947, and is a highly acclaimed example of a bedtime story. The content depicts the process of a child saying goodnight to everything around: “Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light, and the red balloon…”

(narrated by Susan Sarandon)

Biographical Notes
Clement G. Hurd (January 12, 1908-February 5, 1988) was an American illustrator of children’s books. He is best known for his collaborations with author Margaret Wise Brown, including Goodnight Moon (1947) and The Runaway Bunny (1942). He also illustrated a number of books written by his wife Edith (a friend of Brown’s) as well as a children’s book written by Gertrude Stein, The World Is Round. He also wrote and illustrated the book Run, Run, Run

The son of a New York mortgage banker, Hurd was educated at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, studied architecture at Yale University and painting with Fernand Léger in Paris. On seeing two of his paintings, Brown asked him if he would consider illustrating children’s books.

His son Thacher Hurd is also a children’s book author and illustrator, and referred in an interview to the “wonderful aura of creativity” surrounding his father and the Vermont farm that was their home.

Summary
Goodnight Moon is classic children’s literature in North America. The text is a poem, written in simple feminine rhyme, describing a bunny’s bedtime ritual of saying “goodnight” to various objects in the bunny’s bedroom: the telephone, the bunny’s dollhouse, the bears, etc.

Goodnight Moon slowly became a bestseller. Annual sales grew from about 1,500 copies in 1953 to 20,000 in 1970; and by 1990, the total number of copies sold was more than 4 million.

Author Susan Cooper writes that the book is possibly the only “realistic story” to gain the universal affection of a fairy-tale, although she also noted that it is actually a “deceptively simple ritual” rather than a story.

Illustrations
One aspect of this book is the wealth of detail in the illustrations. Although the entire story takes place in a single room, the careful reader or child will notice numerous details from page to page, including:

  • the hands on the two clocks progress from 7 PM to 8:10 PM.
  • the young mouse and kittens wander around the room. The mouse is present in all pages showing the room.
  • the red balloon hanging over the bed disappears in several of the color plates, then reappears at the end.
  • the room lighting grows progressively darker.
  • the moon rises in the left-hand window.
  • the socks disappear from the drying rack.
  • the open book in the bookshelf is The Runaway Bunny.
  • the book on the nightstand is Goodnight Moon.
  • in the painting of the cow jumping over the moon, the mailbox in the right-hand side of the painting occasionally disappears.
  • in the painting of the three bears, the painting hanging in the bears’ room is a painting of a cow jumping over the moon.
  • the painting of the fly-fishing bunny, which appears only in two color plates, appears to be black and white (or otherwise devoid of color). It is very similar to a picture in the book “The Runaway Bunny”.
  • the number of books in the bookshelf changes.
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