Future Reflections         Summer 2011

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Goodnight Moon to Touch

Reviewed by Deborah Kent Stein

Goodnight Moon to Touch
Text by Margaret Wise Brown
Tactile illustrations by Irma Goldberg and Shirley Keller
National Braille Press
(800) 548-7323

My friend Cindy used to be a Girl Scout. "Be prepared!" was her motto when her children were growing up. Just in case the car broke down by the side of the road, she kept a box of emergency supplies in the trunk. She always had a flashlight, a couple of blankets, and a good supply of water and snacks. And, for rough moments when comfort was truly needed, she carried a copy of Goodnight Moon.

As a blind child I was never much impressed when I heard Goodnight Moon read aloud. It offered no adventure, no surprises, and none of the humor I enjoyed in other stories. I failed to understand why sighted children and parents loved the book so much, reading it at bedtime after bedtime. As far as I was concerned, once was more than enough.

Like many storybooks for very young children, Goodnight Moon succeeds because of its illustrations. The pictures interact with the simple text to form a seamless whole. Without pictures, however, the text falls flat. The words by themselves fail to tell a meaningful story.

Now at last the mystery of Goodnight Moon is revealed for blind children through Goodnight Moon to Touch, a wonderful creation from National Braille Press. By thinking about the original in innovative ways, the editor and illustrators have designed a book that is interesting and enlightening for blind readers of all ages.

Goodnight Moon is set in a Victorian bedroom referred to in the text as "the great green room." In the classic print edition, pictures of the great green room appear on nearly every page, rich with recurring images and shifting details. Since most blind readers have limited experience with pictures of any kind, it would be difficult to render these complex graphics in an understandable tactile form. Instead, tactile illustrators Irma Goldberg and Shirley Keller recreated only those images mentioned in the text--the bowl of mush, the comb and brush, the mittens and socks, the ticking clocks, etc. In addition, they faced another challenge--if the illustrations were repeated on each page where they are mentioned, the book would become too expensive and too bulky to be practical. To solve this dilemma, Goodnight Moon to Touch is packaged as two books in one. The larger volume contains the twenty illustrations on heavy-duty plastic sheets. Tucked into an envelope at the back of this volume is a separate print/Braille version of Goodnight Moon with the original inkprint illustrations.

The two volumes can be read individually or enjoyed together. A blind child can page through the book of illustrations and find the appropriate graphic while reading or listening to the story. Some blind kids, like their sighted counterparts, may prefer to put the text aside and simply look at the pictures.

The book will appeal to readers who have varying degrees of experience interpreting tactile graphics. Some of the illustrations--the comb, the brush, the balloon--are very simple and easy to recognize. Some may be a bit more challenging to understand by touch, such as the kittens, the bears in chairs, the old-fashioned telephone, and the cow jumping over the moon. A few of the pictures, such as the bunny sitting up in bed, employ techniques of perspective. These illustrations require careful examination and explanation, but they provide valuable information about how images in print are rendered. A text description accompanies each illustration, guiding the reader through many aspects of the picture.

As the editor points out in the introduction, very few "picture books" for blind children contain real pictures. Goodnight Moon to Touch is one of the rare exceptions. I'm pretty sure I would have loved Goodnight Moon if this version had been around when I was growing up. Goodnight Moon to Touch will make a great gift, and will be a fine addition to classroom libraries. It might even be a good idea to keep a copy in the trunk of the car along with the flashlight and extra water bottles. If you ever have a breakdown, you and your child can pass the time looking at the pictures till the tow truck comes. For now ...

Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight noises everywhere

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