50 Books: In Which I Gripe about Margaret Wise Brown

I honestly don’t know why my kids love this book so much:

The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise brown, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

Okay, so Margaret Wise Brown, best known for Goodnight, Moon — kind of a difficult author, in my opinion.  They couldn’t have chosen a more grating color scheme for the colorized version, and I have a really hard time with books that sometimes rhyme, but sometimes just use the same word twice, because that rhymes.  I have a hard time with the fact that they leave the bowl of mush out all night at room temperature.   I have tried really hard to see this book as charming and comforting, but it just always strikes me as dreary and creepy — like a Twilight Zone episode where alien rabbit drones enslave mankind and try to replicate a quaint nursery atmosphere, but since they’re aliens, something is disastrously off.  Or are they kittens?  I forget.  Luckily, my kids aren’t especially attached to this book.

I do actually really like The Big Red Barn, which just talks about how there’s all these animals doing stuff, and then they go to bed, and then it’s dark.  Very nice, and I enjoy the delicate shifts in the color of the sky as the sun slowly sets.

Okay, so back to the original book, the Golden Egg Book.  There is no actual golden egg involved (it’s a “Golden Book,” that’s all), nor is there a highly decorated egg like on the cover.  It’s a perfectly cute story:  bunny finds an egg, doesn’t know what’s inside, and harasses the egg in various ways until he falls asleep.  Then the egg hatches and the duckling who comes out harasses the bunny in various ways until he wakes up.  The pictures are pretty and old-fashioned, and have lots of atmospheric detail.

Well, according to my kids, THIS BOOK IS A RIOT.  It’s comedy gold.  I don’t know what it is, but they just can’t get enough of it.   They laugh and laugh and run around the room yelling with sheer excess of enjoyment.  I don’t know if that will make you want to buy the book or not, but if you do, your kids will probably like it.  (The kids in question are ages 7, 5, 3 and 11 months, by the way — all girls.)



  1. I LOVE the Big Red Barn! I just repaired the Golden Egg book and my kids were doing like yours, laughing their heads off even though I didn’t quite get it. It may be the pictures because I haven’t actually sat down to read it to them yet. But I’m glad I repaired it!

  2. I loved this book as a kid! I ended up seeking it out and buying it from an antique store several years ago for my own collection. I think part of the appeal (for me anyway) is the page with all the pictures of what the bunny thinks is inside the egg.

  3. Now, I don’t have kids yet but I’ve saved all my children’s books for when I do and I completely agree with your assessment on Goodnight, Moon. I kind of want to hide it from my future progeny. Still, the idea of a book by the same author that ends in riotous laughter has me intrigued. Now I just have to ask myself, would it be weird to buy it now?

  4. “the bowl of mush out all night at room temperature.” And what’s wrong with that?! Our house is so cold in the winter that butter left out is hard and we can see our breathe (no central heating, just a wood stove). You sissies.

  5. Our copy of Goodnight Moon was destroyed nine years ago by my set of twins who got into empty beer bottles while I showered, cut their wee little fingers and bled profusely all over Goodnight Moon. Neither shed a tear. Strange.

  6. “Sometimes rhyme, but sometimes just use the same word twice.” You mean like my least favourite Marian hymn? (Actually it’s a stiff competition, much as I love Our Lady.)
    “O Mother of Perpetual Help / To thee we come imploring help.”

  7. During the three hundred and thirty-third time reading “Goodnight Moon” I finally realized that stuff was “happening” between the pages. Amazing! The moon rises, the room darkens ever-so-slowly, and even the clock on the mantle reports a later and later time as the story progresses. Oh, and one of the pictures on the bedroom wall is from “Runaway Bunny”. Fun. But MOST fun for the kids was finding the little mouse in each scene.

    Speaking of recurring characters–seems like in “The Big Red Barn” that there’s a butterfly in ALMOST every scene. Drives me nuts that we can’t find a butterfly in every single one.

  8. Want some really strange Margaret Wise Brown? Try “My World.” We’ve only gotten the board book version from the library, so maybe the full-sized one is different, but It is one of the most pointless, bizarre kids’ book I’ve ever read, and it annoys me with it’s random rhyming. Also, it finally ends on a nice cadence and then adds another page for some odd reason, which makes me crazy.

  9. You haven’t experienced “Goodnight Moon” until you’ve heard it read, several times, in Mandarin (in a record-your-voice version) on a long-distance flight to a Chinese two-year-old. Wan an!

  10. I think the biggest attraction of the egg book is Leonard Weisgard’s beautiful illustrations. He improves everything! I didn’t have much issue with Goodnight Moon, but Good Dog Carl drove me to distraction (what? the dog is the babysitter? argh!!)

  11. I haven’t even heard of The Golden Egg, but from how you describe it, I can see kids finding it hilarious with the right pictures.

  12. No one ever remembers my favorite Margaret Wise Brown: Pussy Willow. It’s about a little fluffy gray kitten who names himself Pussy Willow, for the little gray flowers that look just like him. Then when the flowers go away for the season, he searches for them until they come back again next year. 🙂 Some of her BEST work!

  13. Margaret Wise Brown wrote a lot a lot a lot of children’s books–try her pseudonym, Golden MacDonald (really). We have quite a few, and they do vary in quality, but we were big fans at the right age–which ends around 6, mostly. Some others: The Color Kittens, The Important Book, Red Light Green Light (almost eerie, as the sun sets and the traffic lights are the only colors), Little Lost Lamb, The Little Island (really lovely, set in Maine, I think).
    Now Dr. Seuss, OTOH……

  14. Why is the Golden Egg Book comedy gold?!!
    Simcha, because the bunny throws ROCKS at the egg and rolls it down a hill!!! And then the duckling does the SAME THING to the bunny! Ahahahaha!
    (Cracks me up, too, every time.)
    Could it be that our/my kids secretly think about doing the same things to their siblings? Or that they already have, or are about to, as soon as I put the book down….?

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