Margaret Wise Brown
“In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child's need for quietness is the same today as it has always been--it may even be greater--for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.”
― Margaret Wise Brown
This quote really spoke to me as I have always valued my quiet time. Growing up in a large family, quiet was precious and scarce, but I remember the ritual of bedtime where my parents would often take turns reading and telling stories. Sure, there were arguments with my siblings over whose turn it was to pick the books each night, and perhaps a fight over who got to sit next to mum or dad, but overall it was a quiet, peaceful time in a normally chaotic household. I have continued the same bedtime ritual with my own daughter, and look forward to the quiet time we spend together reading, telling stories, snuggling and singing each night.
A beloved bedtime story from my childhood that has now become one of her favourites is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. As a toddler she delighted in the beautiful illustrations, obsessing over the little mouse, the red mittens, and the red balloons. It’s one of the first books she learned how to read. The classic picture book was first published in 1947, and has since sold over twenty-four million copies. It is just one of many books by Margaret Wise Brown.
Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952) lived a short life, but wrote over one hundred books, of which more than forty remained in print long after their initial publication. She is best known for The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon and Big Red Barn, all of which have never gone out of print. Brown was one of the first authors to write stories for children about the familiar in their everyday life, which was a large step away from the predominant fantasy and fairy tales in classical literature for children. When she died suddenly of an embolism following a routine operation at the age of 42, she left a trunk of unpublished works. The trunk was forgotten, only to be discovered years later in a barn belonging to her sister. Gradually since then, some of these stories and poems have been published. Most recently in 2014, Goodnight Songs, a collection of Brown’s lullabies, was released with artwork by twelve award winning artists. You can watch Sterling Publishing's book trailer here. Many of her books have also been reissued with new illustrations, such as Sleepy ABC, which Karen Katz illustrated in 2009. You can borrow both the original Esphyr Slobodkina and the Katz versions from TPL.
Brown's life was not as peaceful as one might expect from the author of such bedtime classics. She was a glamorous and adventurous woman who had numerous affairs including a long and tumultuous relationship with actress Michael Strange. She loved animals and wrote about them, but she was also an avid hunter who adored furs. You can read more about Margaret’s fascinating life in Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus.