Sunday, May 23, 2010

Goodnight Moon...

It's the birthday of the children's writer Margaret Wise Brown, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn (1910). She preferred playing outdoors to reading, but when she went on to boarding school and then to Hollins College in Virginia, she studied English and hoped to write literature for adults.

But then she went to teacher training college and got to work with little kids, and she was inspired by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, an education reformer who had an experimental school in New York City. Mitchell pioneered concepts that we take for granted now — considering student's behavior, psychology, family life, and environment; interdisciplinary teaching; using creativity in the classroom; trying to figure out how each child learns best and teaching to that method. Mitchell was particularly interested in how young children absorb language, and felt that the language itself was important to them, not just what it communicated. And she thought that the experience of real life was enough for kids without fantasy. Mitchell took Brown under her wing, and then Brown took her ideas and wrote books that sounded good, that were soothing to children, that found the magic in their own realities: "Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon."

Margaret Wise Brown wrote about 100 books, including the beloved Goodnight Moon (1947) and The Runaway Bunny (1942).

She was stylish and beautiful. A 1946 profile of Brown in Life magazine said: "In addition to her solid claim to the title of World's Most Prolific Picture-Book Writer, Miss Brown, who is unmarried, is probably prettier than any of her competitors. She is a tall, green-eyed, ash blonde in her early 30s with a fresh outdoors look about her. People who meet her for the first time are likely to think she is extremely sophisticated, which is entirely true." She had a series of lovers, both men and women, and in 1952 she got engaged. But she died later that same year, at the age of 42, of an embolism.

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