Happy Birthday, Margaret Wise Brown

Today is the birthday of Margaret Wise Brown. If she were with us, she'd be the coolest 97-year-old great-granny around because she could spin a yarn to captivate any kind of kid. Brown is the author of the eternally popular and ubiquitous Goodnight Moon, the Big Red Barn, Runaway Bunny, Wait 'til the Moon is Full, The Golden Egg Book, The Important Book....

She is the author of so many children's books and was so popular in her time that she took pseudonyms to create the illusion that one writer wasn't saturating the market--that one woman wasn't the market! Brown helped make picture books popular--marketable--because she asked children to help her determine good books from bad ones. Brown also understood that kids see books as tactile objects, things to be touched and turned and tossed and tasted. She gave her audience what they wanted. (See Robin's Room, for example.) Brown gave kids books with pictures and enormously powerful truths without fanfare, excuse, or apology. Kids liked that. Brown was a creative woman whose muse was no slave to deadlines. She left a legacy of wisdom and truth. If only her publisher would capture the complete Margaret Wise Brown in one volume so her readers wouldn't have to search for old titles in basements and bookstalls.

Her first published work, When the Wind Blew, fetches around $9,000 these days. This is a wonderful story of a solitary elderly woman who devotes her life to her cats. Then, one cold and windy night when she has a toothache but has no place to turn for help, the smallest cat in the bunch climbs into bed with her and rests himself against her cheek like a little hot water bottle. The least of these comes to the rescue. We all have our place and our gifts; we have only to give them. Thank you, Margaret Wise Brown, for yours.

Comments

  1. I was planning to start this with "Goodnight, Rummy. Goodnight, Condi." But then I remembered how it started:

    In the great green room
    There was a telephone
    And a red balloon
    And a picture of the cow jumping over the moon
    And there were three little bears sitting on chairs
    And two little kittens
    And a pair of mittens
    And a little toy house
    And a young mouse
    And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush
    And a quiet old lady who was whispering "hush"

    Goodnight room
    Goodnight moon
    Good night cow jumping over the moon
    Goodnight light
    And the red balloon

    Goodnight bears
    Goodnight chairs
    Goodnight kittens
    And goodnight mittens

    Goodnight clocks
    And goodnight socks
    Goodnight little house
    And goodnight mouse

    Goodnight comb
    And goodnight brush

    Goodnight nobody
    Goodnight mush
    And goodnight to the old lady whispering "hush"

    Goodnight stars
    Goodnight air
    Goodnight noises everywhere

    I read it to four kids, separately, for twenty years, at bedtime. Sometimes the older teenage boys would object, but... "I'M THE DADDY, THAT'S WHY!!"

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  2. Hey, Greg...
    Thanks for that! Twenty years...Wow. I used to read The Big Red Barn to Adella, and she'd scream her head off when I got to the part about the animals going to sleep. She knew I was setting her up!

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  3. Very nice post. My kids loved her books.

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  4. Thanks for stopping by, Dana. Adella once bought me a copy of Sailor Dog at a book fair so I'd have my own! It's great when kids love the right things.

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