I first became aware of Margaret Wise Brown’s work a few years after graduation, while browsing in a New York bookshop where copies of Goodnight Moon were stacked high on a table. As I read the book for the first time, unaware of the author’s legendary status within her field (or indeed anything about her) I was forcibly struck by the realization that the quietly compelling words I was saying over in my head were poetry and, what was more, poetry of a kind I prized: accessible but not predictable, emotional but purged of sentiment, vivid but so spare that every word felt necessary. Her words seemed to be rooted in the concrete but touched by an appreciation of the elusive, the paradoxical, the mysterious. There was astonishing tenderness and authority in the voice, and something mythic in it as well. It was as though the author had just now seen the world for the first time, and had chosen to honor it by taking its true measure in words.
Leonard S. Marcus, writing about Margaret Wise Brown, from the introduction to his biography on the Goodnight Moon author, Awakened by the Moon
If there’s a better definition for the quality of writing that makes a picture book great, I’d like to hear it.