Books | January 13, 2020 11:16 am

The Bizarre Reason “Goodnight Moon” Didn’t Make the NYPL’s Top 10 Checkouts List

It's strange yet simple tale of a particularly choosy librarian

Goodnight Moon
The book fell into disfavor with the wrong librarian.
Harper Collins

When you think of books likely to have sparked ire among the librarians in power throughout the 20th-century, a number of racy titles may come to mind: Lady Chatterley, LolitaUlysses, etc. One book that probably doesn’t? The seemingly harmless children’s picture book, Goodnight Moon. And yet, according to an addendum to the New York Public Library’s newly released list of the most checked-out books of all time, the almost aggressively innocuous children’s book was the subject of a decades-long gripe held by one librarian that ultimately kept the classic off the list.

Slate has the full story, which essentially boils down to a simple matter of dislike for the book on the part of the NYPL’s reigning power librarian of the 20th century, Anne Carroll Moore. The influential children’s librarian was well known for her discerning taste in literature for young people, to the extent that a recommendation from Moore was said to make or break a book’s chances of success.

“If Anne Carroll Moore didn’t like a book, she could effectively kill it,” children’s book blogger and former NYPL librarian Betsy Bird told Slate. Unfortunately, the choosy Moore found Margaret Wise Brown’s then-progressive Goodnight Moon to be a bit low-brow for the class of young readers she sought to raise on traditional narratives like The Velveteen Rabbit, and effectively kill it she did — for a time, anyway.

By the book’s 25th anniversary in 1972, Goodnight Moon had finally made it onto the shelves of the NYPL, and since then, the library estimates it’s been checked out about 100,000 times. This still places it somewhat below the number 10 entry on the list, released today in honor of the library’s 125th anniversary, but the NYPL estimates that were it not for Goodnight Moon‘s decades out of Moore’s favor, the book would’ve easily made the top 10. Hopefully by the time the library’s 150th anniversary roles around, the children’s classic will claim its rightful ranking.

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