PONTIN | Goodnight Moon | The Cornell Daily Sun

Eufemia Didonato

Anyone who has ever dabbled in the world of babysitting — perhaps as a high school endeavor to generate pocket cash or involuntarily by being born an older sibling — understands the inestimable power of a good children’s book. They contain the seemingly supernatural capacity to quell tears after a […]

Anyone who has ever dabbled in the world of babysitting — perhaps as a high school endeavor to generate pocket cash or involuntarily by being born an older sibling — understands the inestimable power of a good children’s book. They contain the seemingly supernatural capacity to quell tears after a stubbed toe, lull an energetic little one to sleep and even distract from the threat of an imminent visit to the dentist or doctor. Children’s stories appear to hold a leverage that is notably challenging to replicate among tales targeted towards adults. This observation yields a crucial question: Are these stories so powerful because children are more easily swayed than their aged counterparts, or is there something in their simplicity that renders them so poignant? 

I’d be shocked if the correct answer was the former one. Reading Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, originally put to print in 1947, still conjures a sense of serenity within me that few books I’ve read in my (albeit short) adult life have done. What could be more peaceful and more innocent than the process of wishing goodnight to the very fixture of nighttime itself, without whom our night sky would remain stuck in a perpetual state of new moon? 

Goodnight Moon, of course, is not alone in its place of honor among the pieces that have continuously and relentlessly soothed children across generations. Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, published first in 1969, is another certifiable classic, recounting a story of metamorphosis and transformation that speaks directly to kids’ own fears about growing up and taking on new roles. I remember hearing this story an unidentifiable number of times in classrooms and at home throughout my youth, and his passing earlier this year felt to me like the loss of a true cultural icon. 

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