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Friday, May 16, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Editorial Notebook

Editorial Notebook -- Happy Birthday, Moon.

PARENTS didn't decide "Goodnight Moon" was a classic of children's literature. Kids did.

If it had been up to me, my 3-year-old's favorite would have been "Cat in the Hat" or "In the Night Kitchen" - something we adults can understand and appreciate. But, nestled beside me at the magical bedtime moment, my guy had no doubt which story he wanted in his soul as he drifted off to sleep.

"Moon," Dad. Read "Moon." So, of course, I did:

"In the great green room

There was a telephone

And a red balloon

And a picture of -

A cow jumping over the moon . . ."

Perhaps it was the gentle rhythm of the language. Or the serenity of the "quiet old lady whispering `Hush!' " Or the mouse who keeps disappearing and reappearing in different corners of the room.

All I know is that "Goodnight Moon" became nightly must-reading at the Anderson household. It kept its magic when it was dog-eared and splotched with dried kid-drool. Before long, I didn't have to read because my guy had committed it to memory: "Goodnight stars . . . Goodnight air . . . Goodnight noises everywhere."

Fifty years after its publication by Harper & Row, Margaret Wise Brown's classic bedtime story has wended its way into the nation's soul. To us mere adults, it's not at all clear why. "Moon" is not so much a story as a mood, a gentle journey of the imagination, an elegant appreciation of all that is simple and good.

So happy birthday, Moon. And you too, Cow Jumping Over the Moon.

- Ross Anderson

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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