cover image Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon

Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon

Leonard S. Marcus. Beacon Press (MA), $25 (337pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-7048-2

Brown (1910-1952) wrote some 100 children's books informed by her acute insights into their world. Among her classics, Goodnight Moon excited deep curiosity in Marcus, children's book reviewer for Parenting magazine, when he first read the ``concrete yet mystifying'' book. Thus motivated, he spent nearly 10 years researching Brown's life to produce this not altogether satisfying biography of an author who helped raise children's book writing to an art form. But those in the field will be interested, nevertheless, for a host of major figures are met here, including children's book editors Ursula Nordstrom and Charlotte Zolotow, illustrators Clement Hurd, Garth Williams and H. A. Rey. And there's much valuable background material on those who influenced Brown's writing, including Lucy Sprague Mitchell of Manhattan's Bank Street School and Anne Carroll Moore of the New York Public Library. Brown, however, remains in essence unknown: Why, for example, did she allow herself to be demeaned in a long relationship--a lesbian affair?--with self-promoting, overbearing socialite Michael Strange, former wife of actor John Barrymore? After that relationship ended, Brown fell happily in love with and became engaged to James Rockefeller, but she died of an embolism before they wed. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)