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Thu Jan 16, 2020, 01:14 AM

How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon

How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon
There’s a reason this classic is missing from the New York Public Library’s list of the 10 most-checked-out books of all time.

https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/goodnight-moon-nypl-10-most-checked-out-books.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab

By Dan Kois
Jan 13, 20205:45 AM

?width=780&height=520&rect=1200x800&offset=0x0
HarperCollins Publishers

On Monday the New York Public Library, celebrating its 125th anniversary, released a list of the 10 most-checked-out books in the library’s history. The list is headed by a children’s book—Ezra Jack Keats’ masterpiece The Snowy Day—and includes five other kids’ books. The list also includes a surprising addendum: One of the most beloved children’s books of all time didn’t make the list because for 25 years it was essentially banned from the New York Public Library. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, would have made the Top 10 list and might have topped it, the library notes, but for the fact that “influential New York Public Library children’s librarian Anne Carroll Moore disliked the story so much when it was published in 1947 that the Library didn’t carry it … until 1972.” Who was Anne Carroll Moore, and what was her problem with the great Goodnight Moon?




<snip>

She was also a tastemaker whose NYPL-branded lists of recommended children’s books could make or break a book’s fortunes. “Other libraries around the country looked to the NYPL, and if she didn’t buy it, they didn’t buy it,” explains Betsy Bird, a children’s book blogger and longtime NYPL librarian who’s now at the Evanston Public Library in Illinois. “If Anne Carroll Moore didn’t like a book, she could effectively kill it.” Marcus writes that “editors, authors, and illustrators routinely stopped by to visit with Miss Moore and seek her counsel on their works in progress”; she supposedly had a custom-made rubber stamp reading “NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PURCHASE BY EXPERT,” and she was not afraid to use it.

But Miss Moore’s taste was particular. She loved Beatrix Potter and The Velveteen Rabbit and was a steadfast believer in the role of magic and innocence in children’s storytelling. This put her in opposition to a progressive wave then sweeping children’s literature, inspired by the early childhood research of the Cooperative School for Student Teachers, located on Bank Street in Greenwich Village. The Bank Street School, as it became known, was also a preschool and the teacher training facility where Margaret Wise Brown enrolled in 1935. This progressive wave was exemplified by the Here and Now Story Book, created by Bank Street’s leading light Lucy Sprague Mitchell in 1921. A collection of simple tales set in a city, focusing on skyscrapers and streetcars, it was a rebuttal to Moore’s “once upon a time” taste in children’s lit.
“She is the quintessential bun-in-the-hair shushing librarian. She’s such an easy villain.” — Betsy Bird

<snip>

By the time Brown’s most famous book was published in 1947, Moore had ostensibly retired, though,—as Jill Lepore noted in the New Yorker in a story about Moore’s war with another children’s classic, Stuart Little—she still essentially ran the children’s section, leading department meetings even when her put-upon acolyte and successor, Frances Clarke Sayers, tried changing the meeting room at the last minute. Margaret Wise Brown wanted librarians to adopt Goodnight Moon; she even blurred out the udder of the cow who jumped over the moon to avoid offending those “Important Ladies.” But it certainly wasn’t enough for Moore, or Sayers, or the NYPL: Marcus notes that “in a harshly worded internal review, the library dismissed the book as an unbearably sentimental piece of work.” And so the book wasn’t purchased by the New York Public Library, and while children were encouraged to check out all kinds of books from the library’s extensive children’s department, Goodnight Moon was not one of them.

As Bird notes in a fascinating blog post, the legacy of Anne Carroll Moore is one that many children’s librarians struggle with. “She is the quintessential bun-in-the-hair shushing librarian,” says Bird. “She’s such an easy villain.” Her discriminating book recommendations delivered from on high represent the exact opposite of the credo pledged by most children’s librarians today: that the library’s role is to provide the widest possible array of titles and allow children to find the books they love. Yet Moore did more than anyone else in the first half of the 20th century to encourage children of all races and incomes to read. To adopt a 21st century rallying cry, Bird notes, Anne Carroll Moore “was all about diverse books waaaaaay before anyone else was.”


Perhaps in part because of Moore’s blacklisting, Goodnight Moon wasn’t an immediate commercial success; by 1951 sales had dropped low enough that the publisher was considering putting it out of print. So no one was pressuring the NYPL to stock the book, least of all Brown, who died in 1952. (Recovering from surgery for an ovarian cyst in a hospital in France, she playfully kicked her leg up, cancan-style, to show a nurse how well she was feeling; the action dislodged an embolism from a vein in her leg, which traveled to her brain, killing her nearly instantly.) The book regained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s as chains like Waldenbooks and B. Dalton grew; soon, libraries ceded their position as the primary buyers of children’s books to parents. By 1972, the book’s 25th anniversary, Goodnight Moon was nearing 100,000 copies sold a year. Perhaps it was that anniversary, speculated the NYPL’s Lynn Lobash, that spurred the library finally to stock the book.

<snip>

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Reply How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon (Original post)
marble falls Jan 16 OP
Wabbajack_ Jan 16 #1
marble falls Jan 16 #5
Midnightwalk Jan 16 #2
elleng Jan 16 #3
PoindexterOglethorpe Jan 16 #4
marble falls Jan 16 #6
PoindexterOglethorpe Jan 16 #7
marble falls Jan 16 #8
PoindexterOglethorpe Jan 16 #9
marble falls Jan 16 #10

Response to marble falls (Original post)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 01:21 AM

1. So what was her problem with the book?

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Response to Wabbajack_ (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 10:21 AM

5. She felt it was too 'grown up" for children.

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Response to marble falls (Original post)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 02:34 AM

2. What a strange story

I wondered what the controversy was. I still don’t really get it, but I think part of it is the librarian Moore became an unofficial censor of which children’s book libraries carried.

Reading the book there’s an obvious shot at Moore.

Here’s a link to the story

[link:http://www.sfasu.edu/echl/documents/Goodnight_Moon.pdf|]

The story has the line
And a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush”


Which lines up with the article excerpt


As Bird notes in a fascinating blog post, the legacy of Anne Carroll Moore is one that many children’s librarians struggle with. “She is the quintessential bun-in-the-hair shushing librarian,” says Bird. “She’s such an easy villain.” Her discriminating book recommendations delivered from on high represent the exact opposite of the credo pledged by most children’s librarians today: that the library’s role is to provide the widest possible array of titles and allow children to find the books they love.


So Moore must be the quiet old lady hushing.

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Response to Midnightwalk (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 02:43 AM

3. AHA!

And a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush”

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Response to marble falls (Original post)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 02:56 AM

4. Hmmm.

I never was a fan of that book, and I didn't buy it for my two sons, but I'd never ban it.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #4)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 10:31 AM

6. I didn't get it until I was a young hippy and I loved it, which meant that my kids ...

got it, and now my grandchildren have it.

The first thing my mother did when we were in kindergarten was get us library cards. As a result the books I got my children for their home library was "Mary Ann, the Steam Shovel", "Hats for Sale" ... all the books I read when I was a kid, and signed them for their own library cards. Its something I think might be a lasting custom in my family and my mother started it.

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Response to marble falls (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 02:33 PM

7. Actually, the book about the steam shovel

is Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. She also wrote The Little House and Katy and the Big Snow.

I had loved those books when I was a child, and bought paperback copies when my first son was little. I read them out loud so often that they wore out, and I re-purchased them in hardback.

What I loved best about having young children was reading old familiar books to them and also discovering new books to read to them.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #7)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 02:51 PM

8. I managed to find library bound copies in the books for sale bins at libraries for most of them.

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Response to marble falls (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 02:53 PM

9. Oh, nice.

And library binding is a lot sturdier than the normal binding.

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Response to PoindexterOglethorpe (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 16, 2020, 02:58 PM

10. Much better dust jacket, too. Juice and waterproof! And now they get to give them to ...

their children.

I did a couple of things right.

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