Disclaimer: Yes, I know that Margaret Wise Brown has been dead for over sixty years. Well, I actually didn’t know that until I started writing this post, but work with me here.
Dear Ms. Brown,
I have always had a thing for bunnies and for this I blame you.
Ha ha, nice cold open, right? Seriously, though, you are the inspiration for my love of all things cunicular. Oh sure, I have fond memories of Peter Rabbit, too, but now that I have kids of my own, Beatrix Potter has let me down. Her stories are quaint in retrospect but seriously, Mr. McGregor’s wife making Peter’s father into a pie?? How did I
forget repress that part?
No, Ms. Brown, you are far and away the authority on rabbits. I mean come on, who doesn’t love “The Runaway Bunny?” “Have a carrot” has to be the best example of a sorely tested mother never losing her cool. Her kid is trying desperately to escape her and not only does she stay calm, but she offers him a reward for that behavior? Classy.
“Goodnight Moon”? Please. I can recite that book word for word now and since I was the tender age of four. Your partnership with Clement Hurd on the illustrations was brilliant as I cannot even imagine bedroom curtains NOT being red and green striped.
And imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? Well, have you seen the goth versions, “Goodnight Goon” and “Runaway Mummy”? I have to say I’m not a fan of the latter but the former is definitely an homage.
Though Mr. Hurd’s illustrations are classic and even reference each other (ever notice the painting hanging on the wall behind the quiet old lady in “Goodnight Moon”?), I’m actually more enamored of the work done by Garth Williams in “Home for a Bunny” and by Leonard Weisgard in “The Golden Egg Book.” The flora and fauna are lush and the egg-shaped page framing in “The Golden Egg Book” is inspired.
The best part of that second book, though? This line: “’Never mind that,’ said the duck. ‘Here I am.’” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That one slays me and my kids every time. “And no one was ever alone again.” Perfect.
Okay, now that I’ve buttered you up quite enough, I have to ask a few burning questions. I hope you aren’t offended, but I just have to know: What the hell were you smoking when you wrote “The Wonderful House”? A flying house full of animals and kids? And not even just a flying house, but a seaplane house? Really?? I know that you cranked out a ton of books in your short time as a children’s book author but were you already out of ideas by then? Bunnies! Why would you not fall back on bunnies, I ask you?!
While we’re at it, I have more to say about “The Wonderful House.” Though I earlier professed admiration for your somewhat blunt style, don’t you think this line is a bit rude?
Ms. Brown, don’t take this personally, but it might be a good thing that you aren’t around to see how we coddle kids nowadays. I mean, nowadays we like to let our kids down a bit easier. In 2013, some kids get trophies even if they come in last place. At worst, kids get a, “Good try,” or, “Well, Timmy, that’s one way of looking at it.” But no, you yelled NO! I guess you also don’t know that we frown upon shrieking in all caps like that. At least you toned it down with a period at the end of, “All guesses are wrong.” The lack of an exclamation point there does take out a bit of the sting.
Another one that puzzles me is “The Whispering Rabbit.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that you were back to bunnies, but a bee falling asleep in the bunny’s throat? That is the stuff of nightmares, woman! And the bunny just has to get quieter and quieter in order to wake the bee? That’s counter-intuitive! Unless . . . wait a minute . . . was there a sneaky moral in there? A subtle message to kids that the quieter they are, the better? Ooh, very subversive. I like that. Okay, put this one back on the list of faves.
Seriously, though, you have given us so many wonderful and memorable books. The ones I’ve mentioned so far already have pride of place in our library, but we’re definitely still working on adding to the Margaret Wise Brown Memorial Wing.
In conclusion, I just wanted to write to you to tell you how much we deeply, deeply love your books. My boys know every word you’ve written. I can give you no greater compliment than to share with you this exchange that happens every. single. night. in our home:
Me, reading to the boys before bed: “This is [X book] by [Y author].”
Big and Little, ages 4 and 2, crying out in unison: “Not Margaret Wise Brown??????”
Thank you for those moments.
Your biggest fan,
P.S. Have a carrot.