Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Brown, Margaret Wise

(1910-1952) US author who wrote also as Timothy Hay, Golden MacDonald and Juniper Sage. Although she worked in a frequently ignored area of literature – picture books for young children – MWB has slowly gained recognition as a major writer for The Runaway Bunny (1942 chap) and Goodnight Moon (1947 chap). The Runaway Bunny, an Animal Fantasy, might serve as a textbook illustration of the purposes of fantasy. A boy rabbit envisions how he might transform himself and travel through various places to escape his mother, who responds to each suggestion by describing how she would transform herself to follow him. Finally realizing he can never be separated from his mother, he agrees to stay at home with her. Here, fantasy initially functions as a means of Escapism but ultimately serves to reconcile the individual to the real world. MWB's masterpiece was Goodnight Moon, where a similar bunny sits on his bed in his room and slowly says goodnight to every item in his little world. His refusal to distinguish between Animate/Inanimate – his insistence that all the objects he sees merit recognition – reaffirms a childlike form of animism and, in effect, transforms a mundane world into a fantasy world.

Discovering MWB is one of the secret joys of parenthood. [LL]

further reading: Over 100 picture books for small children are listed in Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon (1992) by Leonard S Marcus.

Margaret Wise Brown


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.