Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Margaret Wise Brown - May 23

Happy Birthday Margaret Wise Brown- (May 23, 1910 - November 13, 1952)


You may have read the books The Runaway Bunny,  Goodnight Moon, and Big Red Barn. Did you know that Margaret Wise Brown was the author?  She claimed that the author is not what is memorable to a child but the story itself.  However, Margaret Wise Brown's legacy to the world of children's literature is far from unforgettable.  It was the work of Margaret Wise Brown that shifted the focus from fairy tales and fables to books involving topics closer to the lives of a child.

I was fascinated to find out about Margaret Wise Brown's experience at the Bank Street College of Education which began as The Bureau of Educational Experiments in 1916.  Here, teachers, psychologists, and researchers met to observe how children learn.  It was the work at this school that helped urge early reform of how children were taught in schools. Brown began her time at the Bank Street program in 1935. She spent time with the school's founder, Lucy Mitchell, who felt that Brown could write books for children.  Brown quickly proved that her mentor was correct when she published her first book, When the Wind Blew, in 1937.  Lucy Mitchell taught Brown to pay attention to children and the words they use. Brown talked to countless children, yet had her favorites (one child was actually in her will to receive royalties from Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny), to find out their interests, struggles, and experiences.  From this careful observation Brown was able to publish over a 100 books. However, her career was cut short when she died suddenly at the young age of 42 from an embolism after a surgery. Many people share the opinion that her early death prevents her from being remembered as one of greatest children's writers of all time.

My favorite book by Margaret Wise Brown is The Important Book, which stems from my days as an elementary teacher.  It is a great book to teach main idea and paragraph formation.  There are links below to use the book for other purposes such as character analysis and biographies.  This week I used the book with my preschool daughter to make an end of the year gift for her teachers. We used the pattern from The Important Book to write about each one of her teachers.  Click here to download the template we used.  We cut the pages in half, assembled them into a book, with two staples on the side.  After you cut the sheets in half there will be a blank page and we used this for the cover.  After completing the writing portion of our Important Book there was room to illustrate each page. It was a simple project but a great end of the year activity to reflect on everything her teachers did for her.

Click here to download the template we used

One of Margaret Wise Brown's most popular books is Goodnight Moon.  Below is an animated version of the book that was posted on YouTube.
Lastly, my daughter's favorite book that we read this week was Mouse of My Heart.  It is a collection of short stories and poems that are wonderfully illustrated by Loretta Krupinski.  After reading this book the past few nights I became more aware of many techniques that made Brown successful.  She writes using simple words, patterns, and repetition of phrases.  She writes about animals and has characters that are animals.  These animals encounter child-like dilemmas that she must of learned from those conversations with children when she was working so diligently early in her career.  Her writing engaged my children for every second of our before bedtime reading session.

Goodnight Moon has been one of my favorite books to read to my son since he was a baby.  The Runaway Bunny is one of my favorite audiobooks to listen to in the car. However, I enjoyed exploring new titles by Margaret Wise Brown this week.  Try downloading this week's Library Checklist before you go to the library and check out some new books from Margaret Wise Brown.

Links:

1. Margaret Wise Brown Website
2. Awesome Goodnight Moon Printable Packet - HarperCollins
3. Runaway Bunny Performance by Ittai Shapira on Violin - Runaway Bunny Music
4. Goodnight Moon - Lesson Plan for a whole week
5. The Big Red Barn - Penn State Better Kid Care
6. Using The Important Book for Character Analysis and Biographies
7. Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny Packet - Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia , Another Version

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