Friday, September 21, 2012

The Runaway Bunny & Goodnight Moon

Loungin' with the bunnies
Baba G's Great Aunt Sue bought him Goodnight Moon a few months before he was born, and then followed up with its companion book The Runaway Bunny as an Easter gift this year. I, however, didn't realize the books were related in any way. I'd never read either and knew nothing about them, except for the fact that Goodnight Moon was one of the all-time best-selling children's books. And that it was one of those "Dammit, I could've written this and become a millionaire!" types of books in its extreme simplicity.

Since BG didn't have any sort of bedtime routine for quite a while, I didn't crack open Goodnight Moon until a month or so ago. But we've been reading The Runaway Bunny every single morning since he was less than three months old. It is OUR book, and no one else is allowed to read it to him. So don't try!

At first I was like, "Hmm, is reading this book each morning going to instill the desire in him to run away—if for no other reason to test whether or not I could catch him?" Because that's basically the entire story. The little boy bunny keeps saying he's going to run away and turn into different things (like a fish) and then the mom bunny explains how she'd still find him (she'll become a fisherman). Then I reasoned with myself that a kid probably isn't going to want to run away if you've openly talked about running away for years in the context of a bunny story. Where's the rebellion in that, right? Plus, he would know by then that I WOULD find him.

Yes, the story is simple. But what I love about it is that its phrasing is very rhythmic and sing-songy (at least it is the way I read it), and you can make up whatever you want to say for the picture-only pages, which comprise half the book. Plus, it's a great mother-son story.

So I adore The Runaway Bunny (and in researching for this post I learned that it's apparently one of David Letterman's favorite books to read his son, too), but remained skeptical about Goodnight Moon. Finally I gave it a shot, and now I understand what all the fuss is about.

First, the same little boy bunny from The Runaway Bunny is IN Goodnight Moon. I had no idea. There are a few other little cross-overs, too. I've personally had fun discovering those, as nerdy as that might sound.

Mmm, cardboard.
Second, the illustrations are really what make both of these books so wonderful. Margaret Wise Brown might have come up with some soothing verses, but Clement Hurd brings everything to life. Goodnight Moon is significantly better than The Runaway Bunny in this regard. Sure, there are major inconsistencies in the drawings across the pages, but there's just so much cool stuff in each room scene—I admit I'm looking forward to when BG realizes there's a tiny mouse who keeps moving around the room as the story progresses. Or when he starts imagining what the two silly cats are doing, or what the old lady bunny might be knitting. Or when he appreciates the beauty of the final illustration.

Right now, however, while he DOES listen patiently to the stories and look at the pictures, he's mostly concerned with gnawing on the corner of both books every chance he gets. Two more top teeth are coming in, and something must be done!

 The bottom line: There's a reason Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny have been in print since the '40s. They work. They're beautifully illustrated, the stories are engaging, and there's room for improv thanks to several picture-only pages in both. And I think The Runaway Bunny is especially great for mom-son reading time.

Once I figured out that the two books were connected, I rushed to Amazon to buy the third Wise/Hurd book, My World. But then I read all of the negative reviews and decided against it. Apparently the verses aren't sing-songy and there's a dad bunny smoking in it and random stuff like that. I guess there's a reason that one is NOT a children's classic, huh?

I wish I could tell you that this is a picture of Baba G being absolutely delighted after I finished reading him Goodnight Moon, but it's actually the first time he realized he was seeing himself (or at least a happy looking baby) on my phone when I turned the camera screen around to face him.

Have a great weekend!

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