One of the most well-known bedtime books is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
It has been loved by generations, and has helped millions of little people fall asleep. It is also a great example of how text and illustrations work together to make an excellent book for children. I’ve heard that Margaret Wise Brown didn’t give much direction to illustrator Clement Hurd, other than a few notes and a picture of Goya’s Boy in Red for a color reference.
Hurd’s primary color scheme must have been influenced by that bright red pantsuit! The illustrations alternate between brightly colored views of the entire bedroom and black-and-white illustrations of individual items in the room. The switch back and forth provides interest and helps add a calming effect. I’m guessing that including black-and-white illustrations was also an editorial decision… Illustrators charge more for color illustrations, and printing pages in color added quite a bit to the cost when the book was published 60 years ago. (Color is not so much an issue in printing costs now.)
What I find most interesting in the illustrations of Goodnight Moon is Clement Hurd’s attention to details. You may not notice it at first, but if you look carefully, you can see that it’s getting later and later. At first, the room is bright and the night sky is dark by comparison. The clocks say “7:00.” There is activity in the room… frisky kittens, a scampering mouse, and a bright-eyed bunny who has just been tucked into bed.
As the “quiet old lady” whispers, “hush,” the room begins to darken, the moon begins to rise in the window, and the little bunny settles back a bit in his bed. (Though he does wiggle and squirm a bit more before succumbing to sleep… And the old lady whispers “hush” a few more times! (I can identify with her… Can you?)
As the story progresses, the bunny says goodnight to everything in his room. The room gets darker and the night sky gets brighter as the moon rises higher. Even the kittens begin to settle down. The clock keeps ticking and time moves on. (Note the wiggling bunny child.)
Finally, the story ends with a sleeping bunny, a brightly lit night sky, and a room that is completely dark, except for the fire in the fireplace and the lights in the toy house. The clock reads “8:10.” (An hour and ten minutes to get a toddler to sleep? Yup. Sounds about right.) The old lady has left the room, and the kittens have curled up in her rocker. I don’t know how you read this story aloud, but by this time, I’m practically whispering… even if it’s being read in the middle of the day!
Isn’t it great how the illustrations darken as the text quiets?
Makes ME want to take a nap.
Sooo… Next time you read aloud to a little person,
take a little extra time to look at the illustrations with them…
You might be surprised at the details you discover!