Summary of "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown

by Nathaniel Williams

Margaret Wise Brown's "Goodnight Moon" is one of the most beloved children's books of all time, and a perfect bedtime story for young kids. It is remarkably simple in content, but has a timeless quality and does not lose impact with repeat readings.

The Text

The text of "Goodnight Moon" is brief and is written in simple, rhyming verse. After setting the scene of a child's room, the parent or reader says goodnight to the things in the house that the child can see. She says goodnight to the room, the chairs, the clocks, and the brush. Additionally, she says goodnight to less tangible things for a child, such as the moon, the cow jumping over the moon, the air and the stars. Finally, she says a hushed goodnight to "noises everywhere," the perfect signal to close the book and let the child go to sleep.

The Images

Illustrator Clement Hurd uses simple, classic images using clear lines and bright, primary colors. The items receiving a "goodnight" stand out clearly and will be recognizable to even the youngest children. The decor and style of the room dates it (the book was written in 1947), but nothing is included in the room such as an old radio, icebox or early television that would puzzle the child looking at the pictures. As long as we have clocks, beds, fireplaces and blankets, the images will seem familiar, engaging and comforting.

Changing Details

Though the images are simple, they subtly reflect the passage of time over the course of the book. The clocks slowly move from 7 to just past 8, appropriate for a young child's bedtime. Through the window, the moon changes, room light begins to dim, and other small items move or disappear throughout the tale.


Published in 1947, "Goodnight Moon" is still a best-selling children's book. It began as a small run, self-published by its author. But the book's uncommon and perfect bedtime nature -- few books are as effective at lulling young children to sleep -- was such that it sold millions based on word of mouth. Today, parents are reading "Goodnight Moon" to grandchildren of the generation that first heard this classic story.


Photo Credits

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