The lovely Kirsty Murray has given Luka a copy of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurt. In 2007 this book celebrated 60 years of saying 'goodnight' to stuff.
Somehow I've never read it before, though I seem to have encountered it a lot on American tv shows. I'm sure there was a Sesame Street segment where Oscar the Grouch reads a bedtime story to Smiley called Scram Moon (How great is Oscar. I've been watching those 1960s/70s Sesame Street Old School dvds, and when Johnny Cash guest stars Oscar calls him 'Johnny Trash').
There's also that Simpsons episode where Christopher Walken does a creepy storytime reading of it to a group of children ("Please, children, scootch closer. Don't make me tell you again about the scootching.")
Goodnight Moon is a gentle, memorable rhyming story where a bunny is going to bed, and says goodnight to various items in the room:
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon
And the red balloon'
There are brightly coloured double-spread pictures of the whole room (mainly in green, orange, blue & yellow) interspersed with black and white illustrations of each item as it is identified and said 'goodnight' to. Items in the roomscape disappear and reappear, and the room gradually dims as the book goes along.
It's got a weirdy moment.
Paul read the book first, and came over to me saying 'This is bizarre. There's a blank page that just says "Goodnight nobody."'
And there is, it's got no illustration, just the words 'Goodnight nobody'. Then it goes back to saying goodnight to the bowl of mush and more everyday things.
Goodnight nobody? What does that mean? Margaret Wise Brown has said that picture books should have the power to 'jog the child with the unexpected and comfort them with the familiar'. She's certainly doing that with Goodnight Moon. We say 'goodnight' to the everyday objects; the doll house, the little mouse, and then suddenly are confronted with a blank page to say 'goodnight' to...nobody.
I thought about it for a bit, and wondered if this page is intended to be a kind of strange reassurance in the going-to-bed ritual for the child reader . When you go to sleep, you're on your own in your room, and so perhaps saying goodnight to 'nobody' helps make the dark empty room less scary. It allows you to make nobody into somebody.
I was pretty happy with this theory, but when I look at the roomscape of the book after the 'Goodnight nobody' page, it doesn't quite fit. The bunny isn't alone in his room at that point. The 'little old lady who was whispering "Hush"' is still there. She's gone at the end, but not at the 'Goodnight nobody' point.
So now I really don't know! It's strange, and trés cool, but I can't quite puzzle it out. I bet someone's written a PhD on it somewhere, though.
Either way, Luka thinks it's ace. He whacks the coloured pages vigorously, and does his happy legs. So we can't read it too close to bedtime; it's too thrilling.
Maybe he's worked out what 'Goodnight nobody' is all about, and it's so world-shaking he can't fall asleep?