Goodnight Nobody… on Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown may not be a household name, but children certainly have been formed by her tales. I am thinking especially of the 4 books I read repeatedly to my daughters: A Child’s Goodnight, Two Little Trains, The Runaway Bunny, and of course – Goodnight Moon. There is a theme of stillness and grace that runs through her stories – a willingness to say alot by saying just enough… and not too much. I was reading Goodnight Moon again to the girls tonight, and just watching how relaxed they become when they hear “and the quiet old lady whispering ‘hush’…” reminds me how hurried and frenetic I am. As the world slowly goes to sleep in her world, Margaret Wise Brown allows us to see that amidst the rest and stillness is when we truly ‘awaken’ and in the end, it is in this still point in a turning world that we don’t find ourselves as much as we are ‘found’ by grace. As the young bunny in The Runaway Bunny continues to think through the various means to out run, out fly, out distance her Mother, we find that distance is not only met and overcome, but the Mother so loves the young bunny as to leave her very life behind and take whatever form – be it a Mountain or the Wind – to embrace the young prodigal. When did children’s stories stop meaning so much by saying so little – but saying it just right? Even though Margaret Wise Brown wasn’t consicously engaged in apophatic thought, reading aloud “goodnight nobody, goodnight mush” comes closer to a theology of ‘presense through absense’ then half of Pseudo Dionysius‘ writings. In a world that is over fascinated with itself to the point of utter bordom, the child-like and selfless wonder of Margaret Wise Brown’s world is like a long needed swing in a hammock on a summer’s day.

I am just glad I get to say, in a whisper, “goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere” for a few more years… sometimes that is enough for now…


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  1. Nathan loves “Goodnight Moon”. Can’t get enough of it. However, and I’m going to get eviscerated for this, I really don’t like it. And it has nothing to do with the prose. You’re right, Jeff, the words just flow and put you at ease. What I have issues with is the art. The perspective that Clement Hurd employs is the wonkiest I’ve ever seen. How can the bed be against the wall and be jutting into the room at that angle? And apparently the lamp is the only light source in the room. Please ignore the big fire in the fireplace as it apparently gives off no light. I’m an art and design guy. Little things like these get on my nerves to a degree that even baffles me sometimes.

  2. Hey Colin…Hmmm… dont know what to say other than…STOP TRYING SO HARD! ITS A SWEET KIDS BOOK! 🙂 As for the paradox of the bed being against the wall and be jutting into the room at that angle…STOP TRYING SO HARD! ITS A SWEET KIDS BOOK!…

    In all seriousness, I love the art – especially the way the girls have moved into the “lets find the wee mousey on each page” game… I am cutting Hurd some slack I guess, but I do like the warm abstraction of the book… 🙂

  3. Finding the mouse is one of Nathan’s favorite things as well. He was pointing out the mouse before I even noticed that it moved around all over the place. I will say that Hurd does put fun things for the kids to look at on each page. Are ya happy now? I said something nice about the art. Afterall, it’s just a sweet kids book…:)

  4. There’s much to be said for the freedom to simply let go and believe at times. To see with a different set of eyes. In “real life” if we can, in art and children’s stories if we must.

    The bed can be against the wall AND jut in at an angle… and it’s ok. There can be 2 light sources AND only one provide light… and it’s ok. The water can be made into wine, the man can be a lamb AND a lion AND a God…

    And it’s all ok… it’s all “in perspective” if we look with the right set of eyes…

  5. Yeah Mike – couldnt have said it better myself! But just remember… not “a” God… “THE” God 🙂

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