Goodnight, Goodnight Moon

h1 August 1st, 2006 by jules


A momma friend asked recently, ‘Is anyone else tired of Goodnight Moon? What else is there?’ Goodnight Moon is certainly a perfect little poem of goodnight farewells, but there is life beyond Margaret Wise Brown, the empress of books for toddlers. Here are some wonderful alternatives to the classic Goodnight Moon, a handful of bedtime beauties. (And, by all means, folks, pretty please send comments and tell us what your bed-time favorites are).

  • hushabye.gifHushabye (2001) by John Burningham — hands down, my favorite bed-time book ever. Burningham is one of England’s most celebrated illustrators. His drawings radiate utter simplicity but are far from simple. Burningham’s understated text here is lilting and songful and everything else downright soporific. This one has been criticized for its break in rhythm, followed by sudden prose. But I love the quiet respite, as it makes — upon return — Burningham’s hushabye melody even more satisfying.

  • bang.gifIn My Heart (2006) by Molly Bang — This is a joyful book, one in which a momma explains to her child that, no matter where she goes or what she does during her day, her child remains in her heart — and with Bang’s trademark finely-detailed, bold, expansive, mixed-media illustrations. This is not an I’ll-love-you-forever-and-throw-you-or-kiss-you-(or-whatever)-to-the-moon-and-back, schmaltzy story that is disguised as a children’s book but really for the parents (can you tell I’m not a fan of those?). This is a lively, colorful, very child-centered book — with a multicultural and hip cast of characters, including the toddler’s veterinarian mother — that brings great reassurance to the little one, particularly when being tucked in for the night. And then, after you’ve read that one, fall back on another Molly Bang, her bed-time classic, Ten, Nine, Eight.

  • sheep.gifPhyllis Root — Root is a masterful writer of children’s books. Ten Sleepy Sheep (2004), illustrated by Susan Gaber, is a peaceful text with lush illustrations done in pastels and acrylics. What Baby Wants (1998), illustrated by Jill Barton, entertains with warm illustrations and much humor as a family goes to whatever lengths necessary to get the youngest member to sleep. Or — best of all — Oliver Finds His Way (2002), illustrated by Christopher Denise. This award-winner does not set out to be a bed-time book; oliver.gifin fact, your toddler may sit almost breathlessly through Oliver’s emotional attempt (perfect for toddlers) to find his way back home after wandering from the fold. But, in the end and with his parents’ help, he runs into a “tumble-down hug” with Mama and Papa bear, an ending that tucks in your little one with a reassuring embrace before drifting off to sleep. (A similarly-themed book is Quentin Greban’s Mommy, I Love You, 2005, though I think the last page rings rather untrue; it’s still a good bed-time book, and I just discovered Quentin Greban and love his illustrations).

  • vitale.gifThe Sleepy Book (2001) by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Stefano Vitale — This is a reissue of a classic Zolotow book, originally published in 1958, with new illustrations by the obscenely talented Stefano Vitale. Vitale paints on a wooden canvas, and he’s a distinctive talent. The text reads almost like haiku, reminding children that everything — from moths to bears to crickets to upright horses — sleep. A sure-fire hit with those animal-obsessed toddlers, too.

  • tafuri.gifGoodnight, My Duckling (2005) by Nancy Tafuri — Tafuri, a Caldecott Honor winner for Have You Seen My Duckling? (1984), scores with warm watercolors and a cozy story about the same momma duckling who rounds up her eight ducklings for their bed-time journey home. One, however, is repeatedly distracted by pond animals he sees on his way to his nest, but observant young ones will spot the helpful turtle in each double-page spread who, eventually, helps the curious duckling find his way to bed-time with his protective momma and sleepy siblings.

  • hondo.gifHondo and Fabian (2002) by Peter McCarty (Caldecott Honor winner) — McCarty illustrates with charm, using his colored pencils to create a glowing, almost hazy palette that depicts a day-in-the-life of a cat, a dog, and a nameless toddler. This one’s not heavy on plot but rich in tone, and a soft mood — that manages to avoid being cloying — is set from the first page, as the animals set off on their quiet, simple adventures. We, eventually, wind down the day with the animals, “full and fat,” as they drift off to sleep in their well-worn spots, and we are given an opportunity to send our good-night farewells to baby as well, all tucked up in her bed after a day of gentle play with the hapless cat. Minimal text, and a perfect book for the very young. McCarty is a class-act.

  • frampton.gifThe Whole Night Through: A Lullaby (2002) by David Frampton — A brassy leopard cub announces he’ll not be going to sleep, inviting the reader to dismiss sleep, too, and join in his play. The narrator cub shows us all the other exotic animals sleeping, and verse such as belongs to the snake, who is “sleeping peacefully/like ribbon candy in a tree,” highlight Frampton’s clever use of metaphor. We see the sleeping monkeys, elephants, hogs, and even the kinkajou — and, of course, our sprightly cub relents in the end and gets some shut-eye himself. Frampton is a woodcut artist, and his work in this book is vibrant with gorgeous lines and arcs and curves that shine in this medium. This one is a book to savor, dynamically illustrated; never has a bed-time lullaby teemed with such zest.

  • eyes.gifKate Banks & Georg Hallensleben — Whether it’s Close Your Eyes (a New York Times Best Illustrated book, 2002) or And If the Moon Could Talk (winner of the 1998 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for best picture book), Banks and Hallensleben won’t disappoint. Oh my but are they are talented. Hallensleben always paints with much warmth and luster. And Banks’ texts are lovely (in the former, she writes, “Dark is just the other side of light. It’s what comes before dreams,” as a momma tiger tries to convince her young one to sleep). You will just feel nothing but snug (as opposed to smug, which is a mood not conducive to good sleep) with a Banks & Hallensleben title.

  • dreams.gifDreams (1974) by Ezra Jack KeatsPublisher’s Weekly described it as a “dreamy-colored nocturnal parable.” I won’t describe the plot of this picture book, simply because what I love more is Keats’ depictions of dreams — via acrylic painting and collage — in the windows of an apartment complex. Each child’s bedroom window is alive with swirly-wirly, colorful dreams — except for Roberto, who can’t sleep . . . I once read a biography of Keats. His father would never accept him as the artist he grew to be and never embraced his son’s talent, wishing that he would enter into a more lucrative field. After his father’s death, a newspaper article — applauding Keats’ talents and great successes as a picture book author/illustrator — was found in his pocket. Here I digress, but I just had to share that story . . . . Keats is a talent to be appreciated beyond the standard Snowy Day and Letter to Amy.

  • horses.gifAll the Pretty Little Horses (1999), illustrated by Linda Saport — My wee-est one heard this in utero probably about, oh, a skerjillion times, to be exact. This lullaby is thought to have its origins in the American South during the time of slavery. Saport, then, sets this dream-like book in this setting with an African-American mother lulling her wee one to sleep. There are no borders here — the illustrations spill to the edge, ample and elastic and gorgeous. I can’t imagine a lovelier lullaby; my only problem — when reading it aloud — is that I have to pause and remember how to differentiate between this classic way it’s sung and the gifted Ms. Patty Griffin’s rendition of it on a kickin’ Chieftains CD, “Whole Heap of Little Horses” . . . Check ’em both out — book and CD, that is. Saport (and Ms. Griffin, for that matter) won’t disappoint.

  • ahlberg.jpgMockingbird (1998) — written by Allan Ahlberg and illustrated by Paul Howard — In this variation of the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby,” all the family members (not just Papa) try to get the wee one to sleep; even Grandmother gets in on the act. Howard sets his cheerful, full-page illustrations with warm, flaxen tones at the turn of the 20th century, and each family member’s face tells a story with great expression and humor on every page. Ahlberg adapts the lullaby well with pleasing rhymes, and coupled with the exuberance and mirth of Howard’s illustrations, the book entertains ’til the end, in which the baby gets a big surprise — pinkney.gifa birthday cake, celebrating his first year of life . . . For other variants of the classic lullaby, see also Margot Zemach’s restrained yet charming Hush Little Baby (1987) and Marla Frazee’s lively Hush, Little Baby: A Folk Song with Pictures (1999). Brian Pinkney’s new title, the exuberant Hush, Little Baby (2006), is also set in the early 1900s; what a great companion book to Ahlberg’s adaptation. Sylvia Long also wrote a variant of the lullaby and illustrated it in 1997’s Hush Little Baby; she was disturbed by the materialism of the original lullaby. Oh, come on. I knew there was a reason I’m not a fan of her work. Argue freely with me if you’d like. I may be in the minority anyway. Child magazine named Long’s version one of the “Best of 1997.”

  • jay.gifI Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis and illustrated by Alison Jay — O hallelujah and amen and many thanks to the friend who sent this to my wee-est daughter when she was born. This book is steadfast and perfect, and it’s how I was introduced to Alison Jay’s work. A boy takes a night-time stroll with the smiling and, at turns, shy moon. The text is lyrical, dreamy, inventive (“We tiptoed through grass where the nightcrawlers creep when the rust-bellied robins have all gone to sleep, And the moon called the dew so the grass seemed to weep When I took the moon for a walk”). I wish someone would read it to me nightly and then tuck me in. Jay illustrates here in alkyd oil paint on paper with a crackling varnish to give the book a folk-art-type, pleasantly outworn, antiquated look. Jay joined forces in 2001 with Mij Kelly to created another good bed-timer, William and the Night Train.

  • fox.gifWhere is the Green Sheep? (2004) by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek (a Horn Book Fanfare List book) — In this lively romp of a book, the reader is on a quest for the incognito green sheep. Horacek uses watercolors and a simple, clear line of black ink with a clean, white background to bring us all kinds of sheep — the musical sheep, the near and far sheep, the thin and wide sheep, etc. — and to give the book a keen, brisk look. Toddlers will enjoy Fox’s jaunty text and repetition of “but where is the green sheep?” — especially on her double-page spread of all kinds of skylarking sheep in one big bunch — as they search and search for the pesky green one. He is fast asleep, it turns out, making this a fitting bed-time story to end your busy toddler’s day . . . See also Fox’s cozy and gentle Time for Bed, illustrated by Jane Dyer. It’s a lullaby in and of itself.

  • raschka.gifCan’t Sleep (1995) by Chris Raschka — Our protagonist pup, who just can’t get to sleep, watches and hears the rest of his family get into bed and go to sleep without hesitation. But, Raschka writes, “{w}hen you can’t sleep the moon will keep you safe . . .” Addressing a toddler’s fears of sleep and perhaps being the only person awake while others doze off, the poetic text and Raschka’s almost transcendent, minimalist illustrations (it’s amazing what Raschka can do with a few brushstrokes) — depicting the full, glowing moon watching over our fretful pup — will soothe your trepidacious sleeper. In the end, the pup reciprocates by watching over the moon during the day . . . Another keeper that actually made strides in helping my toddler with her reluctance to fall asleep alone (and is, more importantly, a fine, fine picture book) is Anna Dewdney’s Llama, Llama, Red Pajama (2005).

  • rice.jpgGoodnight, Goodnight by Eve Rice (1980) — Eve Rice’s books are sure-fire toddler hits. My daughter and I might have broken the record for the number of consecutive readings of Sam Who Never Forgets (1977) and Benny Bakes a Cake (1981). So, I was surprised when my Rice-lovin’ toddler didn’t even have enough interest in Goodnight, Goodnight to finish the dang thing. But, different strokes; different folks. For my one Goodnight, Goodnight-resisting toddler, there are countless others who love it. “Goodnight creeps over the rooftops slowly” in this tranquil book illustrated with white-on-black, some greys, and a conservative use of yellow to indicate the warm glow of the lights of night. We are privvy — through the windows of the finely-detailed city at night — to a variety of people and their bed-time rituals as they settle down for the night, while a nearby kitten in the street searches for someone to play with. Rice’s rounded edges, stout characters, and collapsed, two-dimensional backgrounds give her books an affectionate comic strip quality.

  • barn.gifOh, how many there are! I want to add Kate & Jim McMullan’s Papa’s Song (2000), Jan Ormerod’s Ten in a Bed (2001), Hush! A Thai Lullaby (1996) by Minfong Ho and illustrated by Holly Meade, A Good Night Walk (2005) by Elisha Cooper, I’ll Catch the Moon (1996) by Nina Crews, a big ‘ol handful of Denise Fleming’s books, and so many more. But I fear this list is long enough to have lost folks a while ago anyway. It’s hard to narrow. Will you oh will you add your own titles and we can create one kickin’ list? Oh, and let’s come full circle and add Margaret Wise Brown’s Big Red Barn (1956) in all its everlastin’ goodness as one of the best bed-timers there is.

    9 comments to “Goodnight, Goodnight Moon

    1. One of our current favorites is “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anne Dewdney. Hayden asks for it by name each and every night, and acts out all of the motions that the baby llama makes.

    2. Chyna, yay for ‘Llama Llama’ . . . It is actually mentioned in the Rashcka paragraph above, and I say that, ’cause I linked to Dewdney’s site . . . if we keep our eye on her, maybe she’ll do more great books!

    3. I’m taking a moment to add to my own list here, since I will be using this as a resource myself. We just discovered ‘One Ted Falls Out of Bed’ by Julia Donaldson and ill. by Anna Currey (copyright 2004). Love Currey’s illustrations, and she’s new to me. My toddler loves this one — and not just at bed-time. Great book (also a counting book). — jules

    4. yep, adding to my own list again . . . okay, i’m rediscovering Peggy Rathmann’s ‘The Day the Babies Crawled Away’ this week (with my two-and-a-half-year old, who hee haws at those renegade babies), and it’s just so stinkin’ good… perfect. why oh why did it not win the Caldecott for ’04? i’ll have to look up again which book won that year. anyway, i’m reminded that it’s a good bed-time book, too. oh, it’s just so great on so many levels…..i’m done ravin’ now. — jules

    5. okay, just looked ….mordicai gerstein won that year. honors were ‘ella sarah gets dressed,’ a wonderful book, indeed — other honor winners were steve jenkins (LOVE him — i’m considering writing a post simply called: “Steve Jenkins: An Appreciation”) and good ‘ol mo willems. so, guess i can’t complain. hmmm, but rathmann’s is so perfect….i’ll shut up now. — jules

    6. hell yeah, we should complain! rathmann was robbed! that is a truly wonderful, visually perfect book – i love how keeping the characters in silhouette, and keeping the protagonist sort of gender-neutral in the cowboy hat, goes so well with the second-person narration. it really lets the reader (or listener) be in the story. gerstein, as awesome as he is, was a political choice, i think. and rathmann had already gotten a caldecott for “Officer Buckle and Gloria.”

      just my opinion.

    7. complaint well taken. aw, snap, snap. you go. — jules

    8. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments about I Took the Moon for a Walk! I’m so glad you enjoy our book. Could you possibly email me? – I’m gathering quotes for my own publicity packet and also for Barefoot Books, and I’d love to include portions of your review.

      Thanks again,

    9. You’re right, “Goodnight, Goodnight” by Eve Rice is a huge hit with my toddler son. He also loves “Subway” by Chistopher Niemann.

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