Goodnight Moon and the Emperor’s New Clothes

Goodnight Moon and the Emperor’s New Clothes

Goodnight Moon is overrated, ugly and boring.

There, I said it.

The illustrations are poor, the colors are garish, the perspective is ridiculous, and the text is downright lazy:

“Goodnight nobody. Goodnight mush.”

Seriously, Margaret Wise Brown?

I understand the appeal, of course. I know that it’s considered a “classic”, with almost every parent being given multiple copies when they have a baby, and there’s a sense of tradition in reading it to your child that appeals to parents if they had it read to them when they were young too. I honestly have no memory of it from when I was little, but for all I know it was my favorite book. Well, I don’t mind admitting it’s possible I had terrible taste in books when I was an infant, so I’m not worried this position is indefensible.

And hey, it’s not like my son doesn’t enjoy it at all, often including it in his frequent “make dada read every book in sight” adventures. He mainly likes pointing out the kitties and the balloon. With a little bit of effort there can be a certain lyricism to the words that I can see being an aid to lull a child to sleep… assuming he isn’t kept awake at night wondering why a bunny has pet kittens and a tiger pelt rug.

Isn’t that bunny a little young to have a phone in his room? And dang, that bowl full of mush is bigger than the poor kid’s head, no wonder he didn’t finish it all before bed.

Anyhow, I am seriously starting to suspect that high regard for Goodnight Moon is little more than an invisible robe, and no one wants to be the one to tell the Emperor that his ding-dong is hanging out.

Or maybe we’ve just convinced ourselves that any book that requires techniques for surviving its boringness (“Look! The clocks hands and the mouse have moved on the next page! Thrilling!”) must be good literature, or else it would never have become popular…? It’s like Moby Dick or Wuthering Heights or something.

I’m not even suggesting my son won’t come to love it more and more as he grows. I don’t plan on cutting him off from it or anything. Some day I might even shed tears of joy as he reads or recites it to me on his own. I’m not a heartless monster.

But I still think it’s a terrible book.

Am I alone here?

NOTE: I forgive Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd for their awful “classic”, because I love The Runaway Bunny.


  • Nice post man and I completely agree with you. I don’t understand how this is a classic, although the kids love it.

    Did you see the post I wrote about Goodnight Moon?


    • I don’t know how I missed your post. That DadLabs thing is amazing. I wish I’d thought of doing that!

  • I never had Goodnight Moon read to me as a child so we haven’t read it to Bea much either. She does get The Big Red Barn read to her almost daily. Who can resist the Bantam Rooster and the Bantam Hen and the opportunity to tell her about farms and the great outdoors? Not us! Why is every other page of Goodnight Moon in black and white? Is that supposed to be artistic?


    • Thanks for totally deflating my favorite moments with my boys, Chris. 😉 I chuckled reading your blog on this, but I will totally admit that there’s something about the way I read it to them at bedtime that sounds very lyrical and very soothing. I used to recite it by memory to Addison if we were coming home late at night from Zern’s and he’d fall asleep in his car seat. So for ME, it has good memories. Big Red Barn is definitely the other favorite for them at bedtime. And that, too, is forever ingrained in my head. Your point is well taken though. That bowl of mush IS huge. 🙂

    • Oh, don’t let this deflate or diminish good memories! Like I said, Tuck still likes the book and everything, and it’s entirely possible it will become a favorite. I just think it’s not a very good book — there are far better, at least — and not quite worthy of being treated like a classic.

      But you make a good point that you can get good memories and a special time out of lame books with a little effort. We have this one book about some yellow bear who basically just selfishly exclaims about all the gifts he got for his birthday, then they have cake. Tuck likes the drawings though, so instead I make it about a ninja bear and a dog helping their friend fight off gift-wrapped Borg ships. Then they have cake. 🙂

    • SO FUNNY!!!

    • okay this story is very funny i wish i had this story to read to my brother every day.

  • Thank goodness I’m not alone. I thought it was one of the more useless books. I wonder if boredom is supposed to equal calming effect for the babe. And the art, I agree whole-heartedly. I was given a stack of Sesame Street books and get so much more use out of them. And Wuthering Heights, I had to get the book on tape, that thing was sooo boring.


    • I told my eighth grade English teacher that I hated Wuthering Heights, and that I thought Heathcliff was psychotic. She told me I should reread it when I was older. I’ve never felt particularly compelled to do so.

  • I can’t stand Goodnight Moon! I just don’t get it… I also have no memories of it from my child and I roll my eyes every time Riley hands it to me at bedtime.


  • A lot of people love this book (according to Google). But few people can articulate why beyond, “I had this as a kid” fond memory stuff.


    The few that can articulate, say it is the rhythmic rhyming that lulls the kids to sleep, but the same could be said for text books! I doubt my boys would be impressed if I read them text books. LOL


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