Things You Might Not Have Known About Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

I have read this book at least once per night since Eliza was three months old. And I have not gotten sick of it-- that is the magic of Goodnight Moon for you!

During my four-month study, I have managed to notice a few things about this dear old classic. Here is my current list:
  • You can hunt for the mouse in every scene.
  • The moon rises higher each time it’s in the window.
  • A copy of Goodnight Moon is on the nightstand, all green though.
  • A copy of Runaway Bunny (by the same author and illustrator) is on the bookshelf, also all green.
  • The socks on the rack disappear when we say goodnight to the mittens on the rack. This was surely to avoid the oddness of looking at socks *and* mittens while bidding goodnight only to the mittens. (The socks get their turn with the clocks.)
  • The red balloon is sometimes visible in the corner of the room, sometimes not. I imagine it floating around the room, phantom-like.
  • The teats appear to have been edited out of the cow jumping over the moon—they seem to be painted over, sometimes not so well. Since I work in publishing, I imagine some executive-level person being uncomfortable with the teats, and the art having to be corrected. Who knows!
  • The cow jumping over the moon appears in the Three Little Bears painting, too.
Now if I put on my "children's book editor" hat, I can tell you a few other things I notice... If you can bear with me...
  • The word "goodnight" actually does not (yet) exist as one word in English. It is two words according to Websters (and therefore to the proofreaders of the world). You would think the sheer force of Goodnight Moon would have forced Websters to concede. But alas. (There are lots of similar situations, where common usage has married two words and Websters insists that the union is not legal. Rain forest and shoe box are examples. Or, sometimes Websters allows two words that are commonly married to be joined with a hyphen, kind of like a domestic partnership. "Good-bye" is in this camp. Issues like these force copy editors and proofreaders to wear down a lot of pencils.)
  • There is no punctuation in Goodnight Moon. No periods to end sentences. Nothing. I suppose a copy editor could look the other way because it's poetry.
And about the art. . .
  • You know how there is a limited palette of colors? Goodnight Moon was published so long ago (1947), it was before our normal four-color printing process came along. So, each of those colors was its own color plate. It looks to me like they had a red plate, a blue plate, a yellow plate, and a black plate. I bet the green was made by printing the yellow on top of the blue. So, imagine the page being composed of several layers of tracing paper, one layer for each color. Everything that was red on the page would have been rendered by the artist in black on the "red layer." Then the red printing plate would have been made out of that layer. So, you would have only seen the scene in color once it was printed... Not an easy way to illustrate a book! (Now, fyi, Goodnight Moon is printed on a normal four-color press. It's much more expensive to print it the old way now.)
  • A longtime veteran in the children's book world, Christopher Franceschelli (who founded Handprint Books), told me that the reason the book has alternating color spreads and black-and-white spreads is because that was a common money-saving technique back when GM was published. So, instead of printing the whole book in color, they printed only half of it in color. Impressive how they made it seem completely intentional (as if it was done for visual variety and pacing), alternating between quiet vignettes and full-room scenes!
Eliza is calling me now... Better go! Goodbye for now! (Or Good-bye!)