Picture Book Month: Classic and Contemporary

In honor of Picture Book Month, I thought it would be fun to compare a classic picture book to a more recent one. I happened to be shelving Goodnight, Goodnight,  written and illustrated by Eve Rice, when it occurred to me the cover was very similar to the 2009 Caldecott Award-winning book, The House in the Night, written by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes.

Goodnight, Goodnight, which was first published in 1980 by Greenwillow Books, takes place in an urban setting. The reader sees members of the neighborhood community wishing each other goodnight as they go about their evening routines. There’s the chestnut vendor, the baker, the fireman, the policeman, ordinary people, and a little cat that isn’t quite ready to go to bed.

This is an excellent bedtime story. It’s calming, and the text is simple. The book allows youngsters to become an active part of the story as they repeat the word, goodnight.

The illustrations are done with a minimal use of color – black, white, and yellow. A lithographic crayon, black pencil, and pen and ink were used by Rice. She added yellow to each page, which gives the windows, the lights, and the moon a glow that evokes a feeling of warmth. She has included a multitude of details that children can point out at each page turn.

The House in the Night, published in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Company, is another bedtime story with simple text that is also calming. In comparison to the previous book, this book takes place in a suburban setting. It’s a cumulative story that begins with a simple object – a key – that is given to a child.  The story continues with the inclusion of other simple objects – light, bed, book, bird. When the bird takes flight with the child, an entire world of whimsy opens up and then circles back to the simplicity of the beginning.

Once again, the use of color is minimal – black, white, and yellow. Beth Krommes used a scratchboard technique with the addition of yellow to effectively create a feeling of coziness and warmth on each page.

Both of these books are delightful. The simplicity of the texts encourages children to read along, and the illustrations beg for children to point out details found on each page. Goodnight, Goodnight and The House in the Night make perfect lap books or bedtime books. Make it a good night and read one!

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2 Comments on “Picture Book Month: Classic and Contemporary”


  1. Goodnight, Goodnight looks great. My son is only 1 but he loves to read. I’m always looking for new books to entertain him (and me). Thanks for the review!


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