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Say goodnight, MOON


By Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Clement Hurd

HarperTrophy, $3.95


Written by Sean Kelly and illustrated by Ron Hauge

Dell Publishing, $7.99


By Berkeley Breathed

Little, Brown, $15.95

Say goodnight, Moon

By Bill Adair

Every night for nearly a year, my daughter Molly has said goodnight to a comb, a brush and a bowl full of mush.

The mush is on page 8 of Goodnight Moon, the classic children's book by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. But page numbers really don't matter. My wife Katherine and I have read the book so many times that we've got the whole thing memorized.

The book is the main attraction in our daughter's goodnight routine, a 15-minute drill that involves several books, two songs and kissing a herd of stuffed animals. Molly, who has just turned 2, can even finish sentences from Goodnight Moon.

It is the story of a bunny who goes to bed in "the great green room" and says goodnight to kittens, mittens and a cow with an anatomically incorrect udder. (Hurd was instructed to blur the udder so the book would not offend sensitive librarians.)

The drawings are simple, the rhymes soothing. If you're a 2-year-old, it's great literature.

But for me, Goodnight Moon has become as tedious as the Barney theme song. The repetition that Molly finds so reassuring drives me nuts. I keep hoping that the kittens in the great green room will suddenly get into a nasty fight. I'd like to see the mouse sneak onto the table and steal the brush. Or have the bunny start crying out,"MOMMY! DADDY! WATER!"

So I was glad to find two parodies of the book that were published last year: Boom Baby Moon and Goodnight Opus. They lampoon the book for being a bowl full of mush.

Boom Baby Moon, written by Sean Kelly and illustrated by Ron Hauge, is what Goodnight Moon would have been if Margaret Wise Brown drank too much espresso. The room has turned blue and become a hyper place with a toy S&L on the floor and a drawing of a BMW on the wall. The child says:

Goodnight intercom in my crib

Goodnight fireproof feeding bib

Goodnight mobile of abstract shapes

Goodnight dozens of Raffi tapes.

In Goodnight Opus, cartoonist Berkeley Breathed uses Goodnight Moon as a launching pad to send Opus on a wild adventure to the Lincoln Memorial and the Milky Way. Opus has heard the book 209 times and decided he's ready for a story that's a little more lively. Hanging on his wall is the Goodnight Moon painting of the cow jumping over the moon, but it is signed "PICASSO."

I'm not being critical of Goodnight Moon. It is one of the bestselling children's books of all time (more than 5-million copies sold) and an important bedtime routine for countless 2-year-olds. At Haslam's Book Store in St. Petersburg, they sell an average of three copies a week. Co-owner Elizabeth Haslam said the book "has a sense of rhythm which is very appealing to children."

Brown was a prolific author who wrote more than 90 children's books before she died at age 42 after complications from a routine appendectomy. She never had any children of her own, but she had a keen sense of what they like to read. Hurd, the illustrator, called her the most creative person he'd ever met.

Breathed calls Goodnight Moon "a brilliantly conceived book. It sends kids off to bed with a good feeling about their environment." Brown's biographer Leonard Marcus said the book is "a poignant evocation of a small child's reality."

Hurd's illustrations in the book, a mixture of simple color paintings and scratchy black and white sketches, also appeal to a toddler's more basic tastes. The drawings gradually get darker as the bunny says goodnight to everything in the room. By the time the bunny gets to "Goodnight noises everywhere," even the kittens are asleep.

It was a great book _ the first 200 times I read it. But I've come to dread it as much as Lamb Chop's Play Along. The book has become more tranquilizer than literature.

Kelly, the author of the parody, has read Goodnight Moon to all five of his children and says it does not get any better with age. "There aren't many other books out there that are as pared down as Goodnight Moon," he said in a telephone interview. "The fifth read you don't start picking up on any nuances."

Kelly said you could shuffle the pages and not do any harm to the story. "Why say goodnight to the balloons after the mouse?" he asked.

The illustrations don't help much. Breathed said they're "surprisingly ugly."

Still, I'm glad that we own a copy of Goodnight Moon. It was Molly's introduction to the world of reading, a book that's falling apart because we've read it so often. But I'll be happy when she's ready to move onto something new, a book with a little more depth.

And one where the cows have more lifelike udders.

Bill Adair is a staff writer for the Times.