Margaret Wise Brown, best known for the classic stories Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, was a prolific writer, producing hundreds of children's stories before her untimely death at the age of 42. Some of her lesser-known stories are wonderful (The Big Red Barn is a personal favorite, though "lesser-known" may be an underrepresentation of its popularity); others are merely OK. So, it was with mixed feelings that I opened the package of "lost and previously unreleased" titles from this beloved author. Where would these books fall?
Parragon Books recently released two titles, Count to 10 with a Mouse and Goodnight Little One, and has three more releases planned for August. I would place one of the new releases solidly in the "wonderful" category, the other in the "OK."
Like so many books for young children, Goodnight Little One is a bedtime story designed to lull little ones to sleep. It's completely charming. Young animals are all urged to go to sleep with gentle, lilting prose, beginning with: "Little donkey on the hill, standing there so very still. Making faces at the skies, little donkey close your eyes." The illustrations, by Rebecca Elliott, are soft and sweet and go well with Brown's prose.
For Count to 10 with a Mouse, Parragon found another well-matched illustrator, Kirsten Richards. The illustrations of the little mouse, as he runs through holes in the pages of a book, are funny and sweet. As he makes his way through the fictional book, the mouse counts from one to 10 – 1 mouse, 2 holes, 3 fish, and so on. The text gets a little too repetitious for my taste; every spread ends with: "Then the mouse ran through the book, the mouse ran through the book. He ran onto the next page to take a little look." But toddlers do love repetition, so I may be in the adult minority on this one.
These hardcover picture books are extremely well priced at $7.99. Both of the stories would translate well to board books, something I hope the publishers are considering.
There are some authors you can't really get too much of; Margaret Wise Brown is one of them. So, while I wouldn't give top ratings to both of these new releases, I'm still eagerly awaiting the three books coming out in August.
Goodnight Little One, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Rebecca Elliott, Parragon Books, $7.99. Ages 2 and older.
Count to 10 with a Mouse, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Kirsten Richards, Parragon Books, $7.99. Ages 2 and older.
Ruth Schubert is a Seattle writer, mom and lover of children's books.