I don’t get Goodnight Moon.
I mean, on the one hand, of course I get it. What is there to not get? There’s a rabbit going to bed, and as he goes through his nighttime routine, he says goodnight to all of the things in his room, including but not limited to a mouse, two cats who seem unconcerned about the presence of a mouse, and a bowl full of mush, which only seems to be appetizing to the mouse.
But on the other hand, I don’t get it. The illustrations are charming but not great. The rhyme is pretty basic. There are no characters, nothing extremely clever, and every other two-page spread is in grayscale. When I looked at it at Goodwill before Erin was born, I hesitated before I threw it in the cart. My brother and I didn’t have it when we were kids, so there was no nostalgia driving me to make sure this book was on Erin’s shelf. I wasn’t sure there would be anything in this book, despite its status as a classic, to appeal to a modern child. For 50 cents for a brand-new copy, I figured I could take the chance even though it didn’t speak to me at all.
None of that matters, though, and this is why: Erin loves it. She loves lots of books (Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin, Little Tickles, Jamberry, Clifford’s Furry Friends, and Touch the Art: Tickle Tut’s Toes, to name a few), but she has a special spot in her baby bibliophile heart for Goodnight Moon. She specifically goes to the shelf to pick it out. She pushes it across the floor to me to read not just at bedtime but during the day as well. She points to the little toy house and the young mouse as I say the words, and excitedly declares “Kitties!!” every time the kittens appear on the rug. She will go to bed if she hasn’t heard it, but not as easily as she does when it is the last bedtime story we read.
We’ve been reading Goodnight Moon since Thanksgiving, and I still don’t understand what it is that sets this particular book apart for Erin. Maybe it’s the cadence of the words. Maybe it’s the simplicity, that this book is not surreptitiously trying to teach a lesson about colors or manners or shapes or body parts but instead is simply saying goodnight. Maybe it’s the repetition, the familiarity, the fact that this is the book that we always read before bed. Maybe it’s not the book at all, but instead the snuggling and the coziness she associates with it. Maybe I’ll never get Goodnight Moon. Maybe I don’t need to. Maybe all I need to know is my daughter loves it, and she loves reading it with me.
My brother and his wife had their first baby yesterday afternoon, a little girl with a tiny bit of reddish-brown hair. I sent a care package before she was born full of practical things like baby nail clippers and the Snugli Erin just outgrew, but this morning I sent them a copy of Goodnight Moon. I can only hope my niece loves it as much as Erin does.