Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Reader's Diary #228- Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd: Goodnight Moon

A while ago, another blogger, offended by some of my comments suggested that I go back and read Goodnight Moon. Great suggestion.
As many children and parents have come to understand, Goodnight Moon is a great book. My wife thinks it's a little overrated, and to some extent she's probably right. I think maybe parents, out of nostalgia, push their childhood favourites on their kids. I remember one parent telling me how their daughter loves Dick and Jane books, and is even learning to read because of them (they're making a resurgence, in case you didn't know). At least the ends justify the means because I'm not a big fan of those books. Furthermore, I felt like saying, "if you'd only shown that much enthusiasm for other, BETTER books...!" but anyway, I didn't and to get back on topic, even if Goodnight Moon lives on mostly because our parents (or grandparents) liked it, it's still a good book.

What I like most (and this will reveal the teacher in me) is how great of a "learning to read" tool it can be. While children seem to like it for the rhymes, the relaxing, almost soothing text, and possibly the illustrations (which I'll discuss later), I like it for how well the text matches the pictures and for the repetition. Also, it's an easy book to memorize and while parents sometimes scoff at kids reading merely by memorization, I welcome it. It builds confidence and I think they absorb more that way than we realize.

The illustrations are not my favourite. I do like how time passes in each picture (they room gets slightly darker, the moon rises, and the clock changes), but they don't seem terribly creative to me, nor do I think they have much of a recognizable or unique style.

An interesting sidenote to the book revolves around illustrator Clement Hurd and his picture inside the back cover. I only noticed the other day, as I had finished reading it to my little girl, that he is shown with a cigarette in his hand! (Probably old news to many of you). Anyway I took it as a time to discuss what smoking was and why it isn't healthy and she hasn't mentioned it since. But looking it up on the Internet, I see that we must own an older edition because HarperCollins digitally altered the picture in 2005 to remove the cigarette. Of course, this leaves Clement in a rather silly pose and I came across this really funny site which had fun with the whole thing, called "Goodnight Photoshoppers Everywhere".

Photos from The New York Times showing the previous and altered photos.


Allison said...

Just seeing the cover art to the book I can remember quoting back lines of the story to my parents before bed.

I never read any Dr Seuss books as a child, but reading them now as an adult I think they would fit near the top of the pyramid in easy to memorize text.

John Mutford said...

Eric Carle's Have You Seen My Cat? is a favourite of our son, and it's REALLY easy to memorize. That's not the only good feature of course, but it's cute when our daughter "reads" it to him.

John Mutford said...

Also discussed by Loni here.