Margaret Wise Brown
Sterling Children’s Books
ISBN: 1-4549-0446-1, 28 color pages w/ CD,
10″x10″ hbk, $17.95 (U.S.) / $19.95 (Can.)
To say that Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952) was one of the most prolific authors of children’s picture books would be an understatement. Dying prematurely (of an undetected blood clot that formed following from routine surgery for the removal of an ovarian cyst) at the age of 42, she left behind a treasure trove of still beloved tales. In addition to more than one hundred published books, including When the Wind Blew (1937), The Runaway Bunny (1942), and Goodnight Moon (1947), there were more than five dozen manuscripts – stories, poems, and songs – not yet released. For most of the next four decades, however, they languished in a cedar chest at her sister, Roberta Brown Rauch’s Vermont home, nearly forgotten. During a discussion with Rauch, Amy Gary, then the president of Birmingham, Alabama-based Watermark Press, a small publisher of vintage children’s books, the subject of these unpublished manuscripts came up. Gary eventually became the editor of the author’s estate and manager of the collection in the cedar chest.
Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown focuses on songs that Brown wrote the last year of her life, as she traveled through France on a book tour. Although she had contracted to record an album of children’s songs, it would go unfinished when she died. Gary spent nearly two decades assembling the people who would complete Brown’s dream. A dozen award-winning illustrators (Jonathan Bean, Carin Berger, Sophie Blackall, Linda Bleck, Renata Liwska, Christopher Silas Neal, Zachariah O’Hora, Eric Puybaret, Sean Qualls, Isabel Roxas, Melissa Sweet and Dan Yaccarino) each visualize one of the author’s poems, while the accompanying CD is a real treat. Set to gentle, string band melodies and performed by Gary’s Charlottesville-based daughter, Emily, a classically trained pianist & organist, and ex-elementary schoolteacher & multi-instrumentalist Tom Proutt (piano, ukulele, guitar), Brown’s songs encapsulate the joys of childhood, eliciting smiles in adults and youngsters, alike.
— Craig Harris