Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A lullaby in text

Big Red Barn
By Margaret Wise Brown

Pictures by Felicia Bond

Text copyright 1956

HarperFestival board edition, 1995

The first time I read "Big Red Barn" to my daughter, I fell in love. Each word on each page is chosen perfectly, the resulting story as smooth and comforting as a baby blanket's satin edge, worn from sliding between tiny fingers.

From the pink pig who squeals in the opening pages to the little black bats who flee the barn at sunset, this quiet tale makes an ideal bedtime story. Its lulling rhythms can visibly sedate my pumped-up toddler. And in our board book edition, the illustrations grow progressively dimmer, so that the scarecrow on the final page is lit only by the moonlight that hits his shoulders and hat. (Even now, thumbing through the pages, I keep yawning).

Brown, I learned from her posthumous Web site, at one point had over 100 books in print, most of them for kids. She employed a half-dozen pen names and as many publishing houses, carried scraps of paper everywhere and sometimes awoke in the morning rushing to jot down stories that arrived in her dreams.

Brown is best known for "Goodnight Moon" and "Runaway Bunny," classics that all children should hear many times to awaken their imaginations and sense of wonder. If you would like your little one to also grow up with an ear for the beauty of words, repeat recitations of "Big Red Barn" could only help:

When the sun went down
In the great green field,

The big cow lowed,

The little pig squealed.

The horses stomped in the sweet warm hay,

and the little donkey gave one last bray...


Anonymous said...

My MIL recently sent us a copy of this book, and after reading your post, we brought it out into rotation. It was an INSTANT hit. After the 8th time through it on the couch last night, my husband was trying to steer our 2-year-old son to another book, but he would have none of it. Great recommendation!

Sara Steffens said...

I'm so glad it was well-received! Here's hoping you keep enjoying it as long as he does.