Author Spotlight: Margaret Wise Brown

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I’ve got a winner to my contest!

No one guessed the most popular book searched for on Rebecca Reads. The book that I get the most searches for is a children’s book. It is one that I think almost everybody has read at least once: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I wrote a post about it here last August, and it has always gotten the most hits on my site. In connection with the contest, I thought I’d take this chance to read some others of Margaret Wise Brown’s picture books.

As for a winner for my giveaway, I chose a winner, then, from all those who did make a guess. (It pays to make a random guess, sometimes!). I’ll send the winner a copy of any of the books I reviewed in the past year.

Out of the twenty people who made guesses, the winner is ……Penny from Penny’s Pages!

Penny, I’ve sent you an email. Please send me your address and which book you’d like out of those I’ve reviewed since I started blogging. The archive is here for your browsing.

Margaret Wise Brown

Goodnight Moon is one of my favorite picture books. My son likes it too. But I hadn’t read any other books by Margaret Wise Brown, so in the past few weeks, I’ve remedied that: some of the others I like a lot, and others I didn’t.

The Runaway Bunny features our little bunny friend from Goodnight Moon and is again illustrated by Clement Hurd. The little bunny tells his mother that he will run away. But no matter where he says he’ll go, his mother has a solution to get him back again. In the end, he decides to stay right where he is. The illustrations alternate between black and white with text to full-color with no text. It’s a very sweet story, and I like to read it to my son. I got the large-sized board book from the library, and he likes turning the big pages.

My World is subtitled “a companion to Goodnight Moon,” but I did not enjoy this one nearly as much. It is illustrated by Clement Hurd and obviously pictures the same room, house, and little bunny as that in Goodnight Moon. It tells the story of a little bunny introducing you to his world. But the things he points to in his world are not always illustrated on that same page, and there is no story to drive the entire book. It randomly ends with:

How many stripes
On a bumble bee?

Tell me: what did I miss with this story book?

It’s interesting how illustration can give a completely different feel to an author. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown was illustrated by Felicia Bond, and Bond’s illustrations are playful and simple, and yet amazingly realistic. Brown’s text is rhyming and simple. The story is that of the animals going about their animal days and then going to sleep at night. It reminds me very much of Goodnight Moon in its rhymes and simplicity. It’s kind of the equivalent of Goodnight Moon for animals, and I like it just as much.

The Little Island is illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, which provides yet another different feel for a very different kind of story. The story tells of a little island in the middle of the sea, the animals and plants that grow on it, and a kitty that visits and asks how the island is a part of the world. In a subtle way, The Little Island tells that we can be comfortable with ourselves, knowing that we are a part of the world, even if no one else believes us.

And it was good to be a little Island.
A part of the world
and a world of its own
all surrounded by the bright blue sea.

The Caldecott Medal winning illustrations are bright paintings that give life and texture to the island, its vegetation, and the sea that surrounds it.

Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Egg Book was published as a Golden Book, and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. It tells of a rabbit that found an egg and tried to open it. While he sleeps, the little yellow duck comes out of an egg. The rabbit and the duck are friends. The illustrations are bright and engaging, but this book irritated me to no end. Maybe it was because the duck came out of the egg looking rather old, not like a newborn chick. But maybe there was another reason. I’m not sure.

The Quiet Noisy Book is another odd book, also illustrated by Leonard Weisgard in a completely different style. A little dog awoke to a strange noise. In the end, he determines the noise is a new day. The book provides lots of (ridiculous) analogies of things that are quiet: a bee wondering, butter melting, a fish breathing. In some respects it may be educational for children trying to understand analogies:

As quiet as a chair.
Quiet as air.
Quiet as someone whispering a secret to a baby.

As an adult, I didn’t enjoy reading it aloud. But maybe a child would enjoy reading it and learning from it.

Garth William’s illustrated animals in Margaret Wise Brown’s The Little Fur Family seem a little too furry to me, but this is a story about a fur family, so I suppose it’s appropriate. The book I got from my library was a cute little size, so he enjoyed walking around with. The story of the little fur child is entertaining, I suppose, but I found the occasional rhymes rather annoying and the story less than engaging. Again, maybe a child would like it more.

The Color Kittens, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, was originally a Little Golden Book, and this one I like. In this story, two kittens mix pails of paint to discover other colors, and they paint their world. The kittens were adorable, and I liked the colorful world they created together. There is a rhythm to The Color Kittens that also makes it pleasant to read aloud. I think it is a winner.

The Caldecott Honor A Child’s Goodnight Book, with pictures by Jean Charlot, has color pencil illustrations to show the different creatures and things around the world that are sleepy or quiet. It doesn’t rhyme as some of Margaret Wise Brown’s books do, but it does have a “sleepy” feel to the language, as each page ends with something sleepy: Sleepy fish, Sleepy sheep, sleepy bunnies, sleepy children. It ends with a prayer, which seems out of place today, but was probably pretty normal given the original publication of 1943.

The library also has a number of stories by Margaret Wise Brown that were originally published for magazines; now they have been reissued with modern illustrations for a picture book format. It was interesting to read some of them. Although I wouldn’t consider them great stories, it was nice to see that stories written fifty years ago can be translated into modern stories with the right illustrations.

In the end, I feel Margaret Wise Brown wrote some winning children’s books. I’m glad for her legacy, and I’m all the more interested to learn about her life and her impact on children’s picture books.

Which is your favorite book by Margaret Wise Brown? Did I miss it?

Reviewed on May 29, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Congratulations to the winner! Good night Moon and Runaway Bunny are the only books by Brown that I’ve read. I’m going to give the rest a try. That was a great contest.

  • I wouldn’t have guessed! congrats to Penny for winning the drawing.

    My youngest is now 8, so we have not read MWB for a long time here. But one of the kids faves by MWB (other than Goodnight Moon) was an used Little Golden Book book I found…still have it… illustrated by Garth Williams….titled “The Friendly Book”.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m currently in an agonizing internal struggle over which book I want. πŸ™‚ My favorite Margaret Wise Brown book is either Good Night Moon or A Child’s Good Night Book. Both have such soothing rhythms when read aloud. My children regularly pick both of them for bedtime stories.

  • Congratulations to Penny! My children and I love love love Goodnight Moon. The only other Margaret Wise Brown in our home library is Love Songs of the Little Bear, which is good, but not as good as Goodnight Moon, of course. πŸ˜€

  • Amanda, mine too!

    Vasilly, somehow I’d missed Runaway Bunny. Glad you liked the contest.

    Valerie, It was pretty hard to guess….I didn’t find “The Friendly Book.” So many out there, but I guess these ten were enough for now.

    Penny, I’m glad I can help add to your bookshelves!

    claire, I didn’t find that book either! I guess I need to get back to searching the library. Sounds like another good one!

  • I had no idea the author of Goodnight Moon is the same one who wrote The Runaway Bunny, which was my favorite book as a child. Never heard of My World, but that does sound like a weird ending.

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