Goodnight Moon

Study Guide

Introduction to the Study Guide

YPT is proud to be able to offer this study guide content from Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT). It has been edited and adapted to suit YPT’s new online study guide format. To read SCT’s original guide please click here.

As you scroll through this online guide you will find the usual sections included in our guides: curriculum connections, notes from the creative team, discussion questions, and ideas for exercises. There is also background information on Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd the author and illustrator of the beloved classic, Goodnight Moon. Should you have any questions or feedback or have inquiries about the use of this guide (which is copyright protected), please feel free to contact Karen Gilodo, Associate Artistic Director, Education at Welcome to the Great Green Room!

Curriculum Connections

  • Kindergarten (Problem Solving)
  • Language (Storytelling, Poetry Rhyming)

Curriculum Expectations

This study guide responds directly to the following curriculum expectations as outlined by the Ministry of Education. By participating in the discussion of pre and post-show questions and exercises, students will:

  • Identify and use social skills in play and other contexts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to take turns in activities and discussions.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of ways of making and keeping friends (e.g., sharing, listening, talking, helping; entering into play or joining a group with guidance.
  • Identify and talk about their own interests and preferences.
  • Demonstrate a willingness to try new activities.
  • Communicate by talking and by listening and speaking to others for a variety of purposes and in a variety of contexts.
  • Explore sounds, rhythms, and language structures, with guidance and on their own.
  • Begin to use and interpret gestures, tone of voice, and other non-verbal means to communicate and respond.
  • Follow and provide one- and two-step directions in different contexts including music and drama activities.
  • Respond to a variety of materials read aloud to them.


Be warned: This is a complete synopsis of the play, so it is full of spoilers.

As little Bunny goes into his Great Green Room, the mantle clock announces it is seven o’clock and time for bed. The kind Old Lady reads to him from the book, Goodnight Moon. She reads of the wonderful things there, and Bunny says hello to them all: the telephone, the red balloon, the cow jumping over the moon, the three bears on chairs, two little kittens with a pair of mittens, clocks, socks, a little toy house, a mouse, a comb and a brush, and a bowl full of mush.

Bunny wants to play with each one. He still has lots of energy! The Old Lady whispers “hush” and takes up her knitting in the rocking chair. She tells Bunny to say his prayers and go to sleep. Bunny closes his eyes in his bed, but strange noises capture his attention. The Old Lady playfully tucks him in tight and wishes him sweet dreams.

Read more

Brown and Hurd – The Creators of Goodnight Moon


“One can but hope to make a child laugh or feel clear and happy-headed as he follows the simple rhythm to its logical end. It can jog him with the unexpected and comfort him with the familiar, lift him for a few minutes from his own problems of shoelaces that won’t tie, and busy parents and mysterious clock time, into the world of a bug or a bear or a bee or a boy living in the timeless world of a story.”
– Margaret Wise Brown

The Words

Margaret Wise Brown all but invented the picture book as we know it today. Combining poetic instinct with a profound empathy for small children, she knew of a child’s need for security, love and a sense of being at home in the world, and she brought that unique tenderness to the page.

Family daydreamer, prankster and storyteller, Margaret was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1910. After her graduation from Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia in 1928, she enrolled in the teacher training program at the Bureau of Educational Experiments (now Bank Street College of Education). There Margaret became a protégé of the founder of the program, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, who changed ideas about educating and writing for the very young, encouraging “here and now” stories for children six and under. Margaret became a charter member of the Bank Street Writers Laboratory, a training workshop for the here-and-now writers. There she began writing children’s books. She also worked as an editor for the William R. Scott publishing company, putting her in a position to publish her own work and champion the innovative work of others. Illustrators Clement Hurd, Leonard Weisgard and others joined her in an impassioned quest to renew the picture book genre.

She authored more than one hundred books but is famous for Runaway Bunny and “the great green room” of Goodnight Moon. Brown lived a glamorous, whirlwind private life and died suddenly of an embolism in the south of France at the age of 42 in 1952.

The Pictures

Illustrator Clement Hurd, born in 1908, was the son of a New York mortgage banker. Clement was educated at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire and studied architecture at Yale University. He was all set to become a banker like his father when in 1931 he followed his heart and got on a boat to France. In Paris he studied painting with Fernand Léger. Two years later, when he ran out of money, he returned to New York and got a job freelancing as a decorative artist.

As luck, or fate, would have it, Margaret Wise Brown saw two of his paintings and suggested he try his hand at children’s book illustration. When he hesitated, she wrote Bumble Bugs and Elephants (1938) for him to work on. That title became the first modern board book for babies and launched Hurd’s new career.

Many titles followed, including Gertrude Stein’s first children’s book The World is Round (1939), and numerous collaborations with his wife Edith Thacher including The Day the Sun Danced (1966) and Wilson’s World (1971). But he is best known for his illustrations in The Runaway Bunny (1942) and the beloved Goodnight Moon (1947). He passed away in 1988.

About the Set

From Jennifer Lupton

When we first started working on Goodnight Moon the script had not been created. I studied the book very closely and made lists of ideas about the Great Green Room and the objects in it. What could we do with the bed, the lamp, the fireplace and the vases on it, the little house and all the other wonderful things in the room? Then the director, the puppet master and I talked to the playwright about our ideas and how he could use them as building blocks for the script and songs. Since the Great Green Room is our world and acts as a main character, it was important to start from there. The playwright listened to all of our input and, guided by the book and its characters, wrote our play.

Let’s look at two different ideas, the little house and the Bunny’s bed. The big question about the little house was “what is going on in there?” We wanted to tie it into a story about Bunny’s loose tooth. How could the Tooth Fairy use the house? Maybe there could be a whole little world in there with tiny elf-like creatures working in a factory for the Tooth Fairy.

goodnight moon set
The set design model.
Goodnight Moon Set
The World is RoundThe finished set onstage. All production photos in this guide are from SCT’s 2009 Goodnight Moon —with actors Auston James, Sharva Maynard, Jayne Muirhead and Matt Wolfe—that used the same set, costume and puppet designs as this season’s production.

The second idea was about the bed. As Bunny is trying to fall asleep we thought it would be funny for the bed to get wild and start acting up, making it even harder for him to doze off. We put wires inside the mattress and bedding so that the bed can do tricks (with the help of people backstage that you can’t see).

My job as the set designer was to create a set that stayed faithful to the book, fit onto our stage and made the fun ideas the playwright used in the script actually happen. My challenge was to make the room come to life. I wanted each of you to walk into the theater and feel like you are in the book, and then settle into your seat and watch the magic happen. Welcome to the Great Green Room. I hope you have a wonderful adventure!

  • The dollhouse

  • The World is Round
    Sketch of the inside of the dollhouse

  • The dollhouse open for action. You can see the Tooth Fairy’s factory platform starting to come through the wall on the left.

  • The World is Round
    The Tooth Fairy’s factory in position, ready to start work

  • A sketch showing the overhead view of the factory

  • Sketch of the front of the factory

About the Costumes

From Catherine Hunt

Goodnight Moon is a sweet, picture-postcard lullaby that has been helping young children get to sleep for years. I wanted the costumes to blend that sweetness with a bit of whimsy.

My jumping-off points were vintage postcards from around 1900 and photos of early vaudeville performers. Those kinds of images have a fantasy feeling to them. There is something fun about the clothes that is unusual—either in color, pattern or shape that makes them different from what you see walking down the street every day.

In Goodnight Moon actors play characters who are animals—or even objects, like the Dish that ran away with the spoon. We also have puppet animals that look like animals (Mouse and the kittens). It made sense for us to place the actors playing animals in the same world as the animal puppets by having the actors wear animal ears.

  • Bumble Bugs
    This photograph of vaudeville chorus girls provided ideas for Cat’s costume

  • The World is Round
    Bunny ears!

  • Bumble Bugs
    A sketch of Cat’s costume

  • The World is Round
    Cat’s finished costume

  • The World is Round
    An ad from 1920 inspired the shape of Dish’s costume

  • Bumble Bugs
    Sketch for Dish’s costume

  • Bumble Bugs
    Dish in performance.

For the Dish, shape was one of the most important things to think about. Of course we wanted the audience to recognize she was a plate, but the actor also needed to be able to move and dance easily in the costume. Creating a skirt that would keep its round shape when she moves and repeating that shape in her hat makes it clear that she is a dish, while allowing the actor to move freely. It also makes her look very different from the animal characters.

The vaudeville research was especially great for the bear costumes. The striped tailcoats idea came from a photo of performers wearing similar coats. They seemed like the perfect thing for tap-dancing bears to wear.

  • The mix of patterns in the coats and pants of these vaudeville performers inspired the Bear costumes

  • Sketch of the Bear costumes

  • Musical Bears playing musical chairs.


About the Puppets

Goodnight Moon is full of puppets. For example, there’s a mouse, a cow, an elephant, kittens and some things that might surprise you, like a clock, a lamp and mittens. Douglas Paasch, who worked with SCT for many wonderful years, designed the puppets for the world premiere production in 2007.

There are many different ways to make puppets and to use them to tell a story. Let’s take a look at three kinds of puppets used in the show.

The Cow Jumping over the Moon

Clarabelle the cow is what is called a “rod” puppet. A rod holds the puppet up, and attached controls make her head and legs move. When this puppet moves, the person operating it is hidden behind the scenery so the audience can’t see her or him. This is perfect for a painting that comes to life—the painting becomes its own world.

The Bookcase Lullaby

Inspiration often comes from unexpected places. There is a big puppet festival in Bulgaria every year and one year Douglas got to go to it. It was his first time in Bulgaria and he fell in love with the music. He used a folk song he brought home from Bulgaria for the music we hear when the stuffed toys—the Giraffe, Elephant, Girl and Boy—play on the bookcase. There is nothing Bulgarian about the book Goodnight Moon, but the music created the perfect mood for the action between the toys.

The stuffed toys are “object” puppets—puppets that don’t have specific controls like strings or rods. You just put your hands on them and move them. Because of this we see the actors when they are manipulating the puppets, and that adds the right touch to a sweet little story about cooperation on the bookcase.

The Lamp

The lamp is a special kind of puppet. There are cables inside it that run down through the table on which the lamp sits, under the floor and behind the wall. Then behind the wall, the cables connect to a handle that controls how the lamp moves. A TV monitor shows the onstage action, so the person puppeteering the lamp can see what Bunny is doing and make the lamp react, surprising Bunny and the audience, too.

Photo credits (L-R): 20. The lamp behaving itself; 21. The lamp playing with Bunny; 22. Designer Douglas Paasch working on the lamp’s tricks.

The Value of Picture Books in Fostering Creativity and Learning

When children ask us to read a picture book, it is less of an opportunity to “read” than it is an opportunity to engage in the book—to explore it and perform it and creatively elaborate on the words and pictures. A masterfully created book makes a passive reading almost impossible.

Goodnight Moon, for example, allows the reader and audience to create a story together which comes from them as much as from the pages.

“In the great green room
…there were three little bears sitting on chairs”

The reader has an opening to invite the listener/looker to explore more deeply and “read” the images:

Do you see the three little bears? What do you think they’re doing?

The rhythm of the book and its pictures leave space for a young listener/looker to “fill in the blanks”—to add characters, plot, subplots and context inferred from details they see:

The three bears are waiting for their friend! And they’re tired, so that’s why they’re sitting down.
Their friend is the bunny—and he can’t go to sleep because he misses them.

In this way, Goodnight Moon gives adults the chance to model creative thinking and let the child be the storyteller.

Every child benefits from creative play. They need activities which encourage all aspects of creativity: elaboration, abstract thinking, the creation of unique and unusual ideas, curiosity and open-mindedness. Picture books and the act of storytelling are both profoundly effective in engaging these skills. Current K-12 standards are recognizing the value of developing “visual literacy”—the ability to comprehend, make meaning of and communicate through images.

Picture books are also effective in developing literary skills. In a study of students with developmental disabilities, parents and their children responded to wordless picture books by creating a narrative that used more diverse vocabulary and more complex sentence structures.

We are just now beginning to fully appreciate the power of books like Goodnight Moon, which was originally published in 1947. But regardless of which title is in hand, remember that when children ask us to read them a picture book, they are inviting us to help them prepare for the future. Every child needs the opportunity to be audience, interpreter and storyteller. Engagement with a picture book with an adult creates these roles organically and simultaneously, and plants the seeds for creative thinking — along with priceless memories of reading with someone special.

Rhythm and Rhyme: The Goodnight Sounds of Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon is a book. And a play. It is also a poem. In a poem, the way words sound is important. It is as important as what they mean.

The first part of Goodnight Moon sounds jumbled and exciting. We are meeting the jumbled and exciting things in the great green room.

The second part of Goodnight Moon sounds more soothing. Bunny says “Goodnight” to the exciting things. He’s getting ready to sleep.

Read aloud the first words of Goodnight Moon. The accents are underlined. Listen to how the accents jump all over the place:

In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of
The cow jumping
Over the moon

In the second part, we hear many of the same words. But the pattern of accents soothes us. The rhythm repeats over and over:

Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight cow jumping
Over the moon
Goodnight light and the
Red balloon

Rhymes in ,Goodnight Moon work the same way. As we begin the book, we might think that there will be no rhymes. But then a rhyme sneaks in—“balloon” rhymes with “moon.” The second part has lots of rhymes. The rhymes follow the same soothing pattern as the rhythm:

Goodnight bears
Goodnight chairs
Goodnight kittens
And goodnight mittens
Goodnight clocks
And goodnight socks
Goodnight little house
And goodnight mouse

At the very end of Goodnight Moon, the sounds become “soft.” Sounds that explode out of the mouth, like “k” and “t” are “hard” sounds. Sounds you can hold out for a long time are “soft” sounds. Like “zzzzzzzzz.”

These are the last words of the book:

Goodnight stars, Goodnight air
Goodnight noises everywhere.

The last two words have no hard sounds at all—“noises everywhere.” Even though one of the words is “noises,” they sound very soft. If you say them softly, they sound like a whisper sending Bunny off to sleep.

Pre-Show Questions and Exercises

Ask children the following questions and encourage them to try some of the exercises. Better yet, do the exercises together!

  • Do you do the same things every night before you go to bed? What are they? Make up a song about them.
  • Do you know any lullabies? Sing them.
  • Look around the place where you are. Can you find things that rhyme with each other?
  • What do you see and hear as you are falling asleep?
  • Not everyone sleeps at night. Do you know any jobs where people work at night?
  • How is night different from day?
  • Is it hard for you to go to sleep at night? Why?
  • Walk across the room getting sleepier with each step. When you are all the way across, pretend to fall asleep. Then wake up and do the opposite, getting more wide awake with each step.
  • What can you see from your window at night?
  • What is your favorite bedtime story? Tell it.

Post-show Questions and Exercises

Ask children the following questions and encourage them to try some of the exercises. Better yet, do the exercises together!

  • How many things can you remember that Bunny says goodnight to?
  • Who are you going to say goodnight to tonight?
  • What could the Old Lady do to help Bunny get to sleep sooner?
  • Would you like to go visit the Moon and stars? What would you do when you got there?
  • What does The Cow learn from trying to jump over the moon?
  • Why are Bunny and Mouse friends?
  • Draw the room where you sleep. Do you have any of the same things there that
  • Bunny has in his room?
  • Goodnight Moon in French is Bonsoir Lune. Do you know how to say Goodnight Moon in any other languages? Do you know someone who might be able to tell you how?
  • Do you have a favorite nursery rhyme, poem or song? What would happen if it came to life in the Great Green Room? Do you think you could act it out?


Booklist suggestions provided by Jennifer Borkowski, Children’s Librarian, Toronto Public Library.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson. 1955
Book, DVD, eVideo, CD

Bumble Bugs

Follow Harold and his purple crayon along an imaginative moonlit walk, where he eventually draws himself right to bed. Wherever Harold goes, the moon goes with him, magic crayon in hand.

“Corduroy” by Don Freeman. 1968
Book, Audiobook, eAudiobook

Bumble Bugs

Corduroy searches the department store for his lost button and finds a friend instead. Illustrated in a similar palette to Goodnight Moon, this story is a classic nighttime adventure.

“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” by Eugene W. Field. 2008

Bumble Bugs

In this picture book rendition of the Dutch lullaby, a wooden shoe becomes a fishing boat in the middle of the night with three fishermen aboard: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. Familiar actions and objects adopt a whimsical quality.

“A Book of Sleep” by Il Sung Na. 2009

Bumble Bugs

It’s bedtime for the animals and owl watches over the different ways they go to sleep: standing up or laying down, together in a huddle or cozied up alone. Everyone has a unique bedtime routine.

“The Quiet Book” by Deborah Underwood. 2010
Book, eBook

Bumble Bugs

Explore many kinds of quiet in these pages, from the top of a roller coaster to a sweet bedtime kiss goodnight. It is a thoughtful reflection on the moments that make us say “hush.”

“The folk tale classics treasury : six cherished stories in one keepsake volume” by Paul Galdone. 2013

Bumble Bugs

“Goodnight bears, Goodnight chairs, Goodnight kittens, And goodnight mittens.” These references to folk tales comfort children and create the warm atmosphere found in Margaret Wise Brown’s great green room.

“Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey” by Emily Winfield Martin. 2013

Bumble Bugs

Imagine that animals, inspired by starry constellations in the sky, carry you away to dreamland each night. Furred, finned, or feathered – what is your dream animal and why?

“Goodnight Songs” by Margaret Wise Brown. 2014
Book, Audiobook CD

Bumble Bugs

Listen to these lullabies or read them like poetry. Each has a dreamy cadence paired with sights and sounds of nighttime.

“Thank you and Good Night” by Patrick McDonnell. 2015

Bumble Bugs

Step inside a slumber party, complete with balloon bouncing and stargazing. The party doesn’t end until each guest shares a moment of mindful gratitude. Can you spot the allusions to Goodnight Moon in the illustrations?