In September 1947, the classic children’s bedtime story Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown was published. Brown wrote a lot of children’s books (about 100), but is best known for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny (both illustrated by Clement Hurd).

She claimed to have just awoken one morning and started listing the items in her house, and saying goodnight to each of them. She thought the list read like a poem and might make a good story. Her editor  agreed.

Margaret Wise Brown‘s very simple tale of a little rabbit who wanders about his room, saying goodnight to things like his comb, brush, and his bowl full of mush, has remained a bestseller with its soothing bedtime litany.

She also wrote My World: A Companion to Goodnight Moon.

But Margaret was not the person many readers and listeners probably imagined as they read the book. Katie Roiphe, an NYU professor, decided to do some checking into the author:

For all the years that I had been reading Goodnight Moon to some child or another, I had been picturing its author as a plump, maternal presence, someone like the quiet old lady in the rocking chair whispering, “Hush,” and so I was surprised to see, in a bored, casual dip into Google, the blonde, green-eyed, movie-starish vixen, and attendant accounts of her lesbian lover, her many male lovers, her failure to settle down, and tragic early death.

Margaret Wise Brown, or “Brownie” as her friends called her, did not harbor sentimental notions and was not overly devoted to bunnies and chubby toddlers. In a Life profile the reporter expressed surprise that the tender creator of so many rabbit-themed books would enjoy hunting and shooting rabbits, and Margaret replied: “Well, I don’t especially like children, either. At least not as a group. I won’t let anybody get away with anything just because he is little.”

Besides the many languages that Goodnight, Moon has been translated into, another sign of its success is the number of parodies it has inspired: Goodnight Nanny-Cam: A Parody for Modern Parents, Goodnight iPad: a Parody for the next generation, and Goodnight Bush (a requiem for the Bush administration with a childlike George W. Bush in his room with all of the toys he’s willfully destroyed, abused, or defaced along with Dick Cheney whispering “hush”) and Goodnight Keith Moon (a tribute to The Who’s drummer).

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