Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Literary Birthdays: Margaret Wise Brown

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Margaret Wise Brown was born on May 23, 1910 in Brooklyn, NY.  Brown studied English in college, and after she graduated in 1932, she worked as a teacher in New York City. It was at this point that Brown began writing books for children. In 1937, Harper and Brothers published her first book When the Wind Blew.

Brown was said to have had a “flamboyant lifestyle.” From the mid 1900’s societal viewpoint, this was defined as having numerous relationships, engagements, affairs, and cohabitations.  Brown was involved with various well-known men and women, including the Prince of Spain, John Barrymore, and one of Barrymore’s wives, Michael Strange.  Brown also spent money extravagantly on clothes, travel, parties, and her dogs. Brown never had any children of her own, and it was said by one illustrator that “she liked children in theory, but in person it was a different story.”

Brown was an extremely prolific writer, and one who brought new ideas to the children’s publishing world. Specifically, she held the belief that children would prefer to read about things relevant to their own lives, rather than the fairy tales and fantasy stories that children’s literature was mostly comprised of. Throughout her life she wrote and published many books and articles, including the still popular The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon. Brown died unexpectedly in 1952 from an aneurysm.

Brown’s legacy has continued on. She left at least 70 manuscripts behind, which her sister attempted unsuccessfully to sell. In 1991 the papers were rediscovered and several have been published posthumously.

Margaret Wise Brown’s legacy lives on at Literary Mama as well. A search for Goodnight Moon turns up numerous essays, columns, and stories which reference this popular children’s book.
Stephanie Hunt was inspired to use Goodnight Moon’s Great Green Room as the title of her column about living an environmentally-friendly life with her children.
Also, Rebecca Schumejda wrote a short but sweet poem called Runaway Women based on The Runaway Bunny.

Read more about Margaret Wise Brown at the author’s official website

Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer living in Ithaca, NY. Her essay “Blood Mountain” won the 2017 Notes From the Field contest at Flyway Journal. Other work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including, NewfoundLife in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University.

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My all time favorite Margaret Wise Brown book is The Little Fur Family. I have given it as a gift to many babies and children! It is odd, even eerie, and wonderfully poetic. Illustrated by the great Garth Williams. Buy the small edition that is covered in fur for best effect.
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