Reading a book 200 times is a surefire way to find out whether you love it or want to throw its rhyming llama couplets into the diaper pail. Children's books especially do a tricky dance for an audience of squinty-eyed parents and wide-eyed tots: the best ones, like a syringe of infant-suspension Tylenol, have a little something for the parent at the end. These are the ones we are celebrating in This Book Belongs To — the books that send us back to the days of our own footed pajamas, and make us feel only half-exhausted when our tiny overlords ask to read them one more time.
Is there a book more emblematic of early childhood than Goodnight Moon? Written in 1947 by Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon is simple; annoyingly simple for parents who have to read it 27 times a day. A bunny is crawling under the covers after its final bedtime bowl of ~mush~, and the book is a sort of prose lullaby that sees it off to sleep, with gorgeous pictures that show a world darkening into night. I mean, is it that? Or it is a symbolic and existential hellscape that will haunt your child's dreams? It depends on the answers to my questions for the Old Lady whispering hush in Goodnight Moon (as she seems to be the most senior person involved). The general theme of these questions is: what in the actual is going on here?
Goodnight Moon was published after World War II, and was perhaps the first truly realist children's book to focus on a parent's desire for their child to go to sleep for the love of. But that doesn't mean it isn't a book that lends itself to sleep (reminder that Edgar Allen Poe called sleep "little slices of death"). No, the closer you look at the pages in this classic, the longer you'll find yourself staring into the dark, wondering if you're cursed with an eye floaty, or if spirits walk among us and you just saw one climb into your rocking chair and start knitting.
Having re-read this charming children's favorite, I have 20 moral and philosophical questions for the Old Lady whispering hush, which I have prepared with 🙌 top-notch multimedia aids 🙌 (you know, gifs), because I am paralyzed by thoughts of this book each night when the darkness comes. GOODNIGHT, NO ONE!
What Even Are You, Biologically Speaking?
OK, so you're rabbits, but you wear clothes and live in a house. At the very least, you live in a large room. Now, I would say the room is to scale, but there's ample evidence to indicate that's not the case. There's the tiny fireplace (what are we feeding this fire, popsicle sticks?), and also the fact there are kittens and a mouse who appear to be pet-sized.
So... are you enormous bunnies? Is this a post-apocalyptic world where hares have arisen as Earth's new prevailing species? Does wearing clothing over fur give you the same kind of hair headache I get when I wear a headband too long? Help me understand, old lady.
Are You A Nanny? A Grandma? One Of Those Fancy Night-Nurses That Let New Moms Sleep Like Kings? What?
What's your relationship to the kid? It's not necessarily important, I just want to know.
Why Does A Child Need A Room This Large?
That's a lot of space for anyone, let alone a small bunny child. Are you rich? Is this room small compared to the other rooms in the house? Or is this a studio and we just don't see the bathroom and kitchen areas? Is this place rent-controlled?
I'm deeply interested in your real-estate situation.
Have You Ever Heard Of An Accent Wall?
I don't have anything against bold design choices or primary colors but good God, woman, this is a lot of green. It feels like I'm living in the bottom of a putt putt golf hole. Certainly you should feel free to see through your interior design vision — I even like the shade of green you've chosen — but I'm getting the same headaches I got the first time I saw Avatar in 3D. I need air, or a piece of macrame, or an accent color that isn't chartreuse.
The red carpet is fine, I guess.
Oh Crap, Is That A Tiger Skin Rug?
IKEA didn't exist in 1947, so I'm going to assume this rug is real. My issue again is... this tiger is 10 times the size of the kid bunny, so at least four times as big as you, anthropomorphic night nanny/knit circler. How did you obtain this pelt? Did you... go trophy hunting? If bunnies are crackshot hunters at the top of the food chain, I am out of here.
Why Is There A Telephone In A Child's Room?
This seems like a terrible decision. What if someone calls in the middle of the night? That phone is right next to the bed. What if the kid decides to dial random numbers and put in a long-distance call to Sri Lanka? If I know anything about children it's that, left with a phone, they will manage to break any passcodes, dial 9-1-1, and fill your camera roll of pics of their chin. Do not recommend leaving a phone within reach of their bed.
Rabbits Owning Kittens? How Does That Work?
Every spring, my cat would hunt and kill baby bunnies. It was always super sad and it stayed with me, so I can't but help of think of this series of unfortunate events when I see kittens and rabbits in close proximity to one another. At some point, those kittens' instincts are going to kick in. "Oh, but they're so sweet!" you say, "And we've trained them so well! They would never do that to us!"
No, lady, those kitty cats share 96.6 percent of their DNA with actual wild tigers. You didn't think this through.
Why Is "Toyhouse" One Word?
Because it's not. It's not one word and I can't even begin to think of why you'd ever think it was.
Why Is There An Open Fireplace In A Child's Room?
I know fires are folksy, and you're an old-school bunny grandma/nanny/auntie/whatever, buuut lighting a roaring fire and then leaving the room is a 0/10 do again. Yes, the baby bunny looks asleep on that final page, but if you know kids, you know he is just as likely to get up, put his diaper on the bedpost, then build a cone of kindling and alight a bonfire as he is to stay asleep.
Why Aren't The Kittens Dealing With That Mouse?
There's two little kittens and a young mouse. The kittens even have a numbers advantage.
I don't know. Maybe animal dynamics are super screwed up in this world where giant rabbits are our overlords.
Why Are You Completely Unconcerned About There Being A Mouse In Your Child's Room?
Do you know what kind of diseases those little bastards spread through their poop? It's a nightmare. And if you see one mouse, there's, like, 100 you're not seeing.
Do You Make It A Habit Of Leaving Uneaten Bowls Of Food Just Sitting There?
What's with the mush? First of all, did we brush our teeth after dinner? What are we doing eating mush bedside? This is why people used to wind up with wooden teeth. And look, I have left the odd dish out from time to time, but by morning, that mush may as well have gone through a pottery kiln. Good luck cleaning it off your Pottery Barn stonewear, Old Lady.
OMG, Did You Actually Name The Bunny "Bunny"?
What tomfoolery is this? A bunny named Bunny? What's your name — Old Lady? OMG, I'm done. I'm done.
Or I would be if I didn't have more questions.
How Do You Feel About This Kid?
So far my questions have been a bit superficial. To be fair, there's so much at the surface that has me confused and in need of answers. Frankly, given the goddamn circus I've observed so far I'm a little nervous to go any deeper, but I'm a serious journalist* and deeper I shall delve.
So... you're whispering "hush." Is this a soothing, matronly "hush?" Like a melodic "hushaby" sort of thing to gently coax Bunny to sleep? Are you resentful of this little brat and just want him to GTF to sleep so you're venomously hissing "hush" at him? I want to know about your relationship.
*not a serious journalist
Let's Talk About "Goodnight Nobody"
What sort of nihilistic crisis of consciousness is Bunny having and are you worried about it? "Goodnight nobody?" That's not a normal thing for a kid to say. Is he so lonely he literally bids farewell to nothingness every evening? Wow.
"Goodnight Air" Sounds Ominous AF
It sounds like a murderous taunt, to be honest.
Did You Know Margaret Wise Brown Was A Quirky, Bisexual Badass?
It's true! I learned it from a January 2017 installment of NPR's Weekend Edition, which went as follows:
When she received her first check for writing, she didn't buy necessities or even champagne, but an entire cart full of flowers. She had dramatic and tumultuous love affairs with both men and women. She was ambivalent about her audience, famously telling a reporter, "I don't particularly like children."
This doesn't really have anything to do with you, Old Lady whispering hush, but it's too rad to not bring up.
Why Don't We Talk About The Fisher-Bunny Painting?
We talk about about the three little bears sitting on chairs and the cow jumping over the moon, so why don't we discuss this painting? I can't help but feel there's a reason and that the reason is sinister. The things unspoken about this bizarre painting (depicting a bunny fisherman catching a bunny fish) hangs in the air like a stench. Is this a Dorian Grey situation? Is the painting haunted? Does the painting depict some sort of malevolent figure that you and Bunny fear?
Secrets keep us sick, Old Lady. Unburden yourself. Be free.
Is That The Cow Jumping Over The Moon Painting *IN* The Three Little Bears Painting?
What is this?
WHAT IS THIS?
Why And How Is There A Copy Of 'Goodnight Moon' On Bunny's Nightstand?
Holy sh*t what's going on? Where are we? What is... is this an Inception thing? ARE YOU INCEPTIONING ME?! DID THE TOP STOP SPINNING OR NOT?
In short, Old Lady Whispering Hush, this "charming" bedtime story has left me full of unanswered questions and a looming sense of dread. I shall never look at rooms, moons, clocks, socks, nay, not even mush, the same way ever again.
And we read this to children.