When I was 3 years old in 1999, my favorite book was Goodnight Moon. But then my mother suddenly refused to read it to me anymore. She recently told me it was because of something you wrote back then.
I now have my own 2-year-old daughter and I’d like to read it to her, but not if there’s something wrong with it. Can you fill me in?
— Blanche Oelrichs,
It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you and a further pleasure to enlighten and admonish a new generation of young parents who seem to be ignoring the exhortatory clarion that continues to grow louder as the years pass.
Goodnight Moon, the so-called “beloved” children’s book that has been a bedtime staple since it was first published in 1947, was written by Margaret Wise Brown. She was also the subversive author of other dangerously anthropomorphic books, including the duplicitous Little Fur Family.
Anthropomorphism is dangerous in any form, but especially with furry critters that can bite.
Clement Hurd drew the disturbing illustrations for Goodnight Moon, a bunny’s bedtime ritual of saying “good night” to various inanimate and living objects in his bedroom.
Inexplicably, the book — a mere 30 pages and 130 words — still sells about 800,000 copies annually, for a cumulative total estimated at 48 million copies. It has been translated into 12 languages ranging from Hebrew to Hmong.
For 70 years misguided parents have been unknowingly sowing the seeds of chronic hypersomnia, parasomnia and leporiphobia into their children. Owner’s parents read the newly published book to him in 1949. Owner read it to Master Ben 37 years later. Hillary read it to Chelsea. Ivanka even read it to little Arabella, Joseph and baby Teddy.
Consider the book’s damaging subliminal messages: “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.”
The illustrations also show a painting on the far wall of a mother rabbit in waders fly fishing in a stream for a young rabbit pretending to be a trout. A carrot is being used for bait. Besides being a psychologically disturbing image, this is actually a scene from Brown’s 1942 children’s book, The Runaway Bunny.
Through the window can be seen the rising full moon and exactly 52 stars which, by the way, shift location from illustration to illustration. Parents should also note that a fire burns robustly in the fireplace without the benefit of a firescreen. It is an open invitation to disaster and the creation of juvenile pyrophobiacs.
The aforementioned red helium balloon floats directly above the bed (an obvious choking hazard), beside which is a politically incorrect tiger skin rug. The text then reveals: “And two little kittens and a pair of mittens, and a little toy house and a young mouse …”
Consider this: The great green room contains not only a roaring fire, but a rodent and two complicit felines. Notice the incongruity of that? Perhaps the varmint was drawn to the open bowl of mush left on the table.
Most enigmatic is the sudden appearance of “a quiet old lady [an unidentified older rabbit] who was whispering, ‘hush.'”
“Goodnight room,” the young rabbit intones as he begins his nightly ritual. “Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon. Goodnight bears. Goodnight chairs.”
According to the two clocks in the illustrations, it took 10 long minutes for the rabbit to bid goodnight to those seven items. That’s 1.43 minutes per item.
As the list continues, the mush, old lady, stars and even the air are mentioned. Then the bunny says, “Goodnight nobody.” The illustration is a blank page. What sort of freakish, idiosyncratic dementia is that? Then comes the final goodnight: “Goodnight noises everywhere.”
By the clocks, it has taken a stunning hour and 20 minutes for this young rabbit to go through this process.
One final mystery. What happened to the balloon? It vanishes sometime between 7:30 and 7:40.
Until next time, Kalaka reminds you to consider a Goodnight Moon connection when you hear of someone suffering from narcolepsy, sleep apnea, bruxism, enuresis or even fibromyalgia.
Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat’s award-winning column of
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