Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown (The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown)


An exceptional picture book biography of Margaret Wise Brown, the legendary author of Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other beloved children’s classics, that's as groundbreaking as the icon herself was—from award-winning, bestselling author Mac Barnett and acclaimed illustrator Sarah Jacoby.

What is important about Margaret Wise Brown?

In forty-two inspired pages, this biography artfully plays with form and language to vividly bring to life one of greatest children’s book creators who ever lived: Margaret Wise Brown.

Illustrated with sumptuous art by rising star Sarah Jacoby, this is essential reading for book lovers of every age.--from the publisher

48 pages                   978-0-06-239344-9                Ages 4-8

Keywords:  author, biography, informational picture book, individuality, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old


“Isn’t life strange

A turn of the page

Can read like before

Can we ask for more”

-- John Lodge, “Isn’t Life Strange” (1972)


I have some experience with picture book biographies. I’ve read hundreds of them and have written about dozens of my favorites. I also spent several semesters teaching a library school class on picture books for older readers, in which picture book biographies was a principal category.


THE IMPORTANT THING ABOUT MARGARET WISE BROWN could well be the most memorable picture book biography I’ve ever encountered. It’s compelling, bizarre, subversive, perplexing, and moving, and it shakes up some of what I thought I knew.


Readers paying attention will note that, at the outset, and again at the conclusion of the story, Mac Barnett tells us that, “The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown is that she wrote books.” This means that all the quirky stuff in the book about Margaret Wise Brown--and this is the quirkiest picture book biography you’ll ever encounter--is not as important as the fact that she wrote books by which, generations later, we still know of her.


But the other stuff is incredibly interesting. And sometimes bizarre. Like how, when she was little, Margaret had a population explosion of pet rabbits, and when one of them died, she skinned it and wore its pelt. Like how librarian Anne Carroll Moore (a deity to library science students) totally blew it and dismissed GOODNIGHT MOON and other Margaret Wise Brown titles.Or how Ms. Brown and her editor, the legendary Ursula Nordstrom, after being excluded from a tea party for authors and illustrators at the NY Public Library, held their own tea party outside on the steps.


Mr. Barnett concludes his story with useful advice for  reading any biography:


“Lives don’t work the way most books do.

They can end suddenly,

as fast as you kick your leg in the air.

Lives are funny and sad,

scary and comforting,

beautiful and ugly, but not when they’re supposed to be,

and sometimes all at the same time.

There are patterns in a life,

and patterns in a story,

but in real lives and good stories

the patterns are hard to see,

because the truth is never made of straight lines.

Lives are strange.

And there are people who do not like strange stories,

especially in books for children.

But sometimes you find a book that feels as strange as life does.

These books feel true.

These books are important.”


Many picture book biographies are ultimately forgettable. You may gain snippets of information, but there’s no real story to enjoy and share. Some picture book bios are written by gifted storytellers, such as a recent favorite of mine, SO TALL WITHIN: SOJOURNER TRUTH’S LONG WALK TO FREEDOM by Gary D. Schmidt. That can make all the difference in the world.


THE IMPORTANT THING ABOUT MARGARET WISE BROWN stands on a whole different level. You have the storytelling talents of Mac Barnett, who is both a wiseguy and a wise guy. You have top-notch illustrating by Sarah Jacoby. You have a subject whose name is universally recognized yet whose life included some aspects that one would never expect. The result is an off-the-chart picture book biography that I’ll not soon forget.

48 pages                   978-0-06-239344-9                Ages 4-8

Keywords:  author, biography, informational picture book, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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