Goodnight Moon

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Goodnight Moon
Author Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator Clement Hurd
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's literature
Publisher Harper & Brothers
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 32
ISBN 0-06-443017-0
OCLC 299277
[E] 21
LC Class PZ7.B8163 Go 1997
Followed by My World

Goodnight Moon is an American children's book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd. It was first published in 1947, and is a highly acclaimed example of a bedtime story. It is about a child saying goodnight to everything around: "Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light, and the red balloon..."

Plot summary[edit]

Goodnight Moon is classic children's literature in North America. The text is a rhyming poem, describing an anthropomorphic bunny's bedtime ritual of saying "goodnight" to various objects in the bunny's bedroom: the red balloon, the bunny's dollhouse, the kittens, etc.

One aspect of this book is the wealth of detail in the illustrations. Although the entire story takes place in a single room, the careful reader or child will notice numerous details from page to page, including:

  • the hands on the two clocks progress from 7 PM to 8:10 PM.
  • the young mouse and kittens wander around the room. The mouse is present in all pages showing the room. The cats ignore the little mouse even when it is very close to them.
  • on each page that features the bunny, he is looking directly at one of the objects mentioned on that page, except for the last page, in which his eyes are closed and only 'noises' are mentioned.
  • the old lady is the only element in the room that is introduced in a black and white illustration.
  • the old lady and her knitting play out a sequence of their own from page to page, starting with the knitting lying on the rocking chair, the old lady sitting in the chair with the ball of yarn on the floor at her feet, the ball farther away and starting to be unraveled by the kittens, the ball unraveled further, the ball entirely rerolled and back on the old lady's lap with the kittens regarding her expectantly, and finally with the lady and the knitting both gone and the kittens sleeping on the rocking chair.
  • the red balloon hanging over the bed disappears in several of the color plates, then reappears at the end.
  • the string of the red balloon is not straight as it should be, given the fact that the balloon is not moving - as though the string is a thin, curling ribbon.
  • the room lighting grows progressively darker.
  • the moon rises in the left-hand window.
  • the socks disappear from the drying rack when only the mittens are being addressed, and then reappear.
  • the open book in the bookshelf is The Runaway Bunny.
  • the book on the nightstand is Goodnight Moon.
  • in the painting of the cow jumping over the moon, the mailbox in the right-hand side of the painting occasionally disappears.
  • in the painting of the three bears, the painting hanging in the bears' room is a painting of a cow jumping over the moon.
  • the painting of the fly-fishing bunny, which appears only in two color plates, appears to be black and white (or otherwise devoid of color). It is very similar to a picture in the book "The Runaway Bunny".
  • the number of books on the bookshelf changes.
  • the pendulum of the bedside clock becomes harder to see as the room dims until it disappears in the final room scene.
  • the curtains have green and yellow stripes throughout the book, but green and red stripes on the cover.
  • the stripes on the bunny's shirt change.
  • in the last page the word 'bunny' is gone off the brush in the dim light.
  • not all items listed at the beginning of the story are told "goodnight" in the book, nor are all things told "goodnight" announced at the beginning.
  • on the last page the mouse has eaten the mush.
  • on the last page the lights in the toy house appear to be mysteriously on (and perhaps on throughout the story, being revealed only by the darkening of the room).
  • the door handle on the doll house is absent on the page that references the little toy house.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Goodnight Moon slowly became a bestseller. Annual sales grew from about 1,500 copies in 1953 to 20,000 in 1970; and by 1990, the total number of copies sold was more than 4 million.[1] Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children".[2] It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.[3]

Author Susan Cooper writes that the book is possibly the only "realistic story" to gain the universal affection of a fairy-tale, although she also noted that it is actually a "deceptively simple ritual" rather than a story.[4]

Brown bequeathed the royalties to the book to (among many others) Albert Clarke, who was the nine-year-old son of a neighbor when Brown died. In 2000, reporter Joshua Prager detailed in the Wall Street Journal the troubled life of Mr. Clarke who has squandered the millions of dollars the book has earned him and who believes that Brown was his mother, a claim others dismiss.[5]

In 2005, publisher HarperCollins digitally altered the photograph of illustrator Hurd, which had been on the book for at least twenty years, to remove a cigarette. Kate Jackson, editor in chief for children's books, said "It is potentially a harmful message to very young kids." HarperCollins had the reluctant permission of Hurd's son, Thacher Hurd, but the younger Hurd said the photo of Hurd with his arm and fingers extended, holding nothing, "looks slightly absurd to me."[6] HarperCollins has said it will likely replace the picture with a different, unaltered photo of Hurd in future editions. In response, a satirical article demanded the removal of other potentially dangerous objects in the book, such as the fireplace and balloon (a choke hazard for young children).[7]

The book has been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Catalan, Hebrew, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Korean and Hmong.

Allusions and references[edit]

Goodnight Moon contains a number of references to The Runaway Bunny. For example, the painting hanging over the fireplace of "The Cow Jumping Over the Moon" first appeared in The Runaway Bunny. However, when reprinted in Goodnight Moon, the udder "for caution's sake was reduced to an anatomical blur" to avoid the controversy that E.B. White's Stuart Little had undergone when published in 1945 (Making of Goodnight Moon, 21). The other painting in the room, which is never explicitly mentioned in the text, portrays a bunny fly-fishing for another bunny, using a carrot as bait. This picture is also a reference to The Runaway Bunny. The top shelf of the bookshelf holds an open copy of The Runaway Bunny, and there is a copy of Goodnight Moon on the nightstand.

The telephone is mentioned early in the book, but is absent from the litany of 'Goodnight ...' salutations. The primacy of the reference to the telephone indicates that the bunny is in his mother's room and his mother's bed.[8]

Publication history[edit]

In addition to multiple octavo and duodecimo paperback editions, Goodnight Moon is available in board book edition, a book whose pages are actually stiff cardboard to make it suitable to give to a very young child, as well as a "jumbo" edition, suitable for use with large groups.

  • 1991, USA, HarperFestival ISBN 0-694-00361-1, Pub date 30 September 1991, board book
  • 1997, USA, HarperCollins ISBN 0-06-027504-9, Pub date 28 February 1997, Hardback 50th anniversary edition
  • 2007, USA, HarperCollins ISBN 0-694-00361-1, Pub date 23 January 2007, Board book 60th anniversary edition


My World, billed as "a companion to Goodnight Moon", and also written by Brown and illustrated by Hurd, was published in 1949.[9]


  1. ^ "The Writer's Almanac for the week of May 21, 2007". 
  2. ^ National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  3. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 6, 2012). "Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results". School Library Journal "A Fuse #8 Production" blog. Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  4. ^ Cooper, Susan; Betsy Hearne, Marilyn Kaye (eds.) (1981). Celebrating Children's Books: Essays on Children's Literature in Honor of Zena Sutherland. New York: Lathrop, Lee, and Shepard Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-688-00752-X. 
  5. ^ Prager, Joshua (2000-09-08). "Runaway Money". Wall Street Journal. p. A1. Retrieved 2007-03-26. 
  6. ^ Wyatt, Edward (2005-11-17). "'Goodnight Moon,' Smokeless Version". New York Times. Retrieved 2005-11-23. 
  7. ^ Karbo, Karen (2005-12-04). "Goodbye, Moon". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  8. ^ Pearson, Claudia. Have a Carrot: Oedipal Theory and Symbolism in Margaret Wise Brown's Runaway Bunny Trilogy. Look Again Press (2010). ISBN 978-1-4524-5500-6
  9. ^ Brown, Margaret Wise and Hurd, Clement. My World (Harper, 1949). ISBN 0-06-024798-3.


  • Marcus, Leonard S. Making of Goodnight Moon. New York: HarperTrophy, 1997.
  • Pearson, Claudia H. Have a Carrot: Oedipal Theory and Symbolism in Margaret Wise Brown's Runaway Bunny Trilogy. Birmingham, Al: Look Again Press LLC.