Portrait of Margaret Wise Brown and her dog.

‘Goodnight Moon’ controversy: Why has the beloved book been banned for 25 years?

Who doesn’t love Margaret Wise Brown Goodnight Moon? In this cute bedtime story, a little bunny in bed checks out all the things in his room and then wishes them all a good night. Kittens, gloves, a bowl of mush, the moon itself – every detail is presented lovingly and unforgettable. Published in 1947, the book is a rare combination of beauty and utterly inoffensive, making it a useful story for a wide range of audiences. So why wasn’t it primarily available in bookstores for 25 years after its appearance?

The answer tells us a lot about how attitudes toward children’s literature have changed drastically during the twentieth century. It also demonstrates the unsettling power that tastemakers have over what is read and what is not.

genius Goodnight Moon

Page from Margaret Wise Brown
(Harper Collins)

in her country in 2014 The New York Times opinion article Goodnight Moon, author Amy Bender comments on the surprisingly witty execution of the story. She writes that the book “creates a world and then subverts its own rules even as it follows them.” Instead of a simple symmetrical structure, where the story introduces us to all the things in the room and then says goodnight to all of them, the second half of the book turns into amazing places. There is a blank page where the bunny says good night to no one. In the end, instead of just finishing with the old lady in the chair, the book says “Goodnight sounds everywhere.” Bender suggests that this structure mimics how a rabbit feels while it sleeps:

Isn’t this also the way to metaphorically close our eyes with the rabbit and be in that state before falling to sleep, that magical moment that drifts after floating with the stars and the air, when we only hear sounds and then it’s sleep . How much deeper and more elegant the elegant symmetry we might expect.

As a storyteller, Brown definitely knew what she was doing, and wasn’t afraid to take risks with her writing – just as any talented adult storyteller would. But this was not the only source of its success. Brown was also a teacher at Bank Street Experimental School in New York City, whose pedagogical origins focused on placing children in the real world. Brown’s writing style was greatly influenced by her teaching work, and she sought to write children’s books that reflected the way young children live the world around them. This meant simple language, along with stories and concepts that were easy to follow and understand.

However, not everyone agreed with her approach to children’s literature.

Ann Carol Moore, librarian and gatekeeper

New York Public Library
(Getty Images)

Some said that Goodnight Moon It was “banned” after it was posted. There is an essential piece of truth in that, but keep in mind that the word “banned” can have a lot of different meanings. Goodnight Moon It wasn’t thrown on any fires (at least, not as far as I know). It has never appeared in the list of blacklisted titles from schools or libraries. It does not contain any content that religious fanatics would consider satanic or degenerate.

What happened was this: There was a librarian he didn’t like.

In the early 20th century, parents were not the primary buyers of children’s books. Libraries were. This means that a major public library’s decision to include a book in its collection could make or break that title. And that’s exactly what happened with Goodnight Moon. according to slateAnn Carol Moore, head of the children’s department at the New York Public Library, did not like it Goodnight MoonRealism, which she described as “overly emotional,” and decided not to buy it for NYPL. You read that right: The book in which Rabbit says goodnight to a bowl of mush wasn’t fancy enough for Moore’s tastes.

Moore is known for her delicate, and sometimes eccentric, tastes in children’s literature. For example, I also kept EB White little stewart off the shelves of NYPL, and she refused to stock up on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books because she didn’t like it being a series. She was famous for her pregnancy A doll named NicholasWhen Wilder’s editors tried to persuade her to stock Wilder’s books, Moore reportedly spoke to Nicholas in their place.

However, Moore was widely known as an authority in children’s literature, and many in the library and publishing fields looked to her for guidance, so when she refused Goodnight MoonOther librarians around the country followed suit. as a result of, Goodnight Moon He spent years stumbling, and even nearly printed.

It is important to remember that although we think of libraries as unbiased and democratic institutions, they have always been subject to the prejudices and worldviews of the librarians who run them. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a librarian for 10 years, two of which I spent as a children’s librarian.) trumps. In fact, with limited budgets and limited storage space, this kind of decision happens every day. And yes, this has a very real impact on the books that readers can find and access. If you want to see an exciting and heated discussion, simply stroll into a room where librarians grapple with the ethics of which books should be included and excluded from their collections.

What is unusual about it? Goodnight Moon is how far librarians across the country are behind Moore. But is this kind of groupthink really different from, say, the Booktok trends we see today? To what extent does an influencer’s opinion determine which books succeed and which fail?

Of course a story Goodnight Moon It has a happy ending. In the decades after its publication, the book’s sales increased slowly, as of 2017, 48 million copies had been sold. NYPL finally started stocking the book in 1972, and it’s hard to find a bookshop these days that doesn’t have at least one dog-eared copy on its shelves.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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