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How is 'Goodnight Songs' being Published 62 Years After Margaret Wise Brown Died

This is the story of how the lullaby book Goodnight Songs: Illustrated by Twelve Award-Winning Picture Book Artists could come to be published by Sterling Children's Books, with a release date of March 4, 2014, sixty-two years after the authoress died of an embolism while on a publicity tour in France. Seemingly every American born in the last two generations has read (or had read to them) Goodnight Moon, written by Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952) and illustrated by Clement G. Hurd (1908-1988). Millions of copies of that book alone have sold since 1947.

Over 100 of Ms. Brown's children's books had been published by the time she died in 1952. Not only did she write under her own name, but also under the pen names including Golden MacDonald, Juniper Sage, Kaintuck Brown, and Timothy Hayso.

She had two writing retreats, The Only House in Vinylhaven, Maine and Cobble Court in New York City. She kept six publishers busy. This being the case, it is difficult to understand why her sister, Roberta Brown Rauch, was unable to elicit interest from any publishers in the seventy-three unpublished manuscripts Margaret Wise Brown left behind.

As reported by Suelain Moy in Entertainment Weekly in 1991, this led Mrs. Rauch to keep the "paper-clipped bundles of the more than 500 typewritten pages in a cedar trunk, where they remained until Amy Gary, publisher of Montevallo, Ala.-based WaterMark Inc., rediscovered them" in '91. "Gary, who is handling the sale of the stories to publishers, says some new Brown books could be in stores next year."

Ms. Gary had already had good luck in selling re-print rights to three of Ms. Brown's previously-published books to Hyperion Books for Children (an imprint of The Walt Disney Company's publishing arm). At the time, there was an expectation that sixty-seven books would be forthcoming because five of the manuscripts were unfinished.

What Ms. Moy did not disclose in her article is that Roberta Brown Rauch was a professor at Middlebury College in Vermont and Ms. Gary did not so much discover the trunk as rekindle Professor Rauch's hope that some of her late sister's unpublished manuscripts might get published. Ms. Gary had approached Professor Rauch about re-publication rights of Ms. Brown's out-of-print books when, after a six month delay, Ms. Gary's question if there were any unpublished manuscripts led Professor Rauch to show her the above-mentioned cedar trunk.

Margaret Wise Brown was a graduate of Hollins College (class of 1932), as was her mother (class of 1902), but Professor Rauch had attended Vassar. Today, Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia has a girls-only undergraduate program and a co-educational graduate program.[1]

Fonnie Foy Strang, who was part of the Hollins College class of 1928, was Ms. Gary's grandmother-in-law, and when she heard about the manuscripts, she approached Hollins College President Maggie O'Brien to suggest Professor O'Brien would be in a good position to ask Professor Rauch to donate the papers of Margaret Wise Brown papers, including the manuscripts, to Hollins College, as Hollins College Professor Jake Wheeler recounted in 1995.

Like Professor Rauch, Professor O'Brien had attended Vassar and taught at Middlebury. After three years of negotiations, Professor Rauch agreed to donate her sister's personal papers to Hollins College.

In 1995, Professor Wheeler was able to "announce that Professor Rauch has included a bequest in her will to turn over a percentage of the royalties from (many of) Margaret Wise Brown’s works to Hollins." [Note that Ms. Brown had bequeathed the royalties to her best-known books, Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, to a neighbor child.] After Professor Rauch's death in 2001, Hollins University received her collection of her sister's books and manuscripts, along with rights and royalties to many of Margaret Wise Brown's books.

The Margaret Wise Brown Papers, 1938-1960 is housed in the Hollins University's Wyndham Robertson Library.[2] It includes literary manuscripts, correspondence, legal papers, biographical information, periodical publications, sound recordings, ephemera, and clippings. This collection is divided between twelve boxes.

The collection falls under the heading Manuscripts in the Wyndham Robertson Library's Special Collections. Beth Harris is the Archivist and Special Collections Management Librarian.

Other records related to Margaret Wise Brown can be found in the University Archives (student records, student publications, sound recordings, Marguerite Hearsey correspondence) and the Hollins Authors Collection. There are also Margaret Wise Brown materials in the Westerly Public Library, located at 44 Broad Street, Westerly, Rhode Island 02891; in the Kerlan Collection, Andersen Library, University of Minnesota; and in the de Grummond Children's Collection, University of Southern Mississippi Libraries.

The Margaret Wise Brown Papers in the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection of The University of Southern Mississippi consists of a manuscript, typescripts, and printed material created and accumulated by Ms. Brown roughly between 1937 and 1944. These papers are related to her composition of two published books and one unpublished work.

Hollins University celebrated the year-long Margaret Wise Brown Festival (2011-2012) starting in June of 2011. Events included a series of Saturday Morning Story Hours with local celebrities reading Ms. Brown's classics, a Goodnight Moon lullaby concert by the Hollins University Concert Choir and the Valley Chamber Orchestra, a stage production of the musical Goodnight Moon at the Hollins Theatre, a Roanoke Symphony Orchestra production of The Runaway Bunny at the Taubman Museum, in the style of Peter and the Wolf, and the two-part exhibit Goodnight, Hush: Classic Children’s Book Illustrations at Hollins University’ Eleanor D. Wilson Museum.

The Margaret Wise Brown Festival’s start date coincided with the 20th anniversary of the start of Hollins University's Children’s Literature graduate program, the 2011 conference of the Children’s Literature Association being held on the Hollins University campus June 23-25, and the opening of Goodnight, Hush in the Wilson Museum. Thacher Hurd, son of the aforementioned Clement Hurd, and an author and illustrator of children’s books in his own right, read to children on the morning of Saturday, June 25, 2011, and later that day gave a lecture on the exhibit.

Returning to Ms. Gary, before she could publish the lullaby book, she had to do research into which publishers had the rights to which of Ms. Brown's books, because Ms. Brown reused turns of phrase from several of her published works in the twelve lullaby poems contained in her unpublished manuscript. Finally, in 2011, Ms. Gary placed the book with Sterling, as recounted by Sally Lodge in Publisher's Weekly. Laura Stampler summarized Ms. Lodge's article for TIME's Web site.

Bill Luckey was the editor who acquired the manuscript for Sterling. After he left the publishing house in 2013, Executive Editor Meredith Mundy saw the project through to completion.

Ms. Lodge wrote, "Twelve children’s book illustrators contributed art to the book, which is packaged with a CD featuring the lyrics put to music and performed by Emily Gary and Tom Proutt. Comprising the roster of artists are Jonathan Bean, Carin Berger, Sophie Blackall, Linda Bleck, Renata Liwska, Christopher Silas Neal, Zachariah O’Hora, Eric Puybaret, Sean Qualls, Isabel Roxas, Melissa Sweet, and Dan Yaccarino." One of these illustrators, Linda Bleck, had previously illustrated another hitherto-un-published manuscripts of Margeret Wise Brown's, The Moon Shines Down, which Thomas Nelson published in 2008.

Originally, as Art Director Merideth Harte explained to Ms. Lodge, a single illustrator was supposed to work on Goodnight Songs, but she and Bill Luckey had a "vision of the book, and how we could make it as original as possible." Eventually, it occurred to her to have a different artist illustrate each poem/song, and in the fall of 2012 she saw an exhibition where most, if not all, of the twelve illustrators she would recruit for the project were recognized.

This was what Ms. Lodge described as "The Original Art, a juried exhibit celebrating the art of children’s book illustration, held annually at Society of Illustrators exhibit space in Manhattan." Amy Gary was pleased with the list of potential illustrators Ms. Harte presented.

Nine of the illustrators - Johnathan Bean, Carin Berger, Sophie Blackall, Linda Bleck, Zachariah O’Hora, Christopher Silas Neal, Sean Qualls, Isabel Roxas, and Dan Yaccarino - will be present at the Goodnight Songs launch event and book signing at BookCourt in Brooklyn on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Emily Gary and Tom Proutt will perform the songs they recorded for the accompanying CD, and Amy Gary will give a presentation on Margaret Wise Brown’s manuscripts.

The ISBN for Goodnight Songs is 978-1-4549-0446-5. The suggested retail price is $17.95.

[1] Founded in 1842 as Valley Union Seminary, a co-educational school, in 1851 Principal Charles Lewis Cocke effectively made it a women's college when he dissolved the men's department. In 1852, it became Roanoke Female Seminary. The named changed again to Hollins Institute in 1855 as a result of a gift that year (and subsequent bequests) from John and Ann Halsey Hollins. The name changed to Hollins College in 1911 and Hollins University in 1998. Cocke saw it as his life's work to teach genteel young ladies and prepare them to run grand households. Possessing an independent income, he took no salary from the school, but the board of trustees owed him so much money by 1900 that they transferred ownership to him. He and and his family owned the college between 1900 and 1932. A mathematician, Cocke had rigorous educational standards, but his family's private ownership of the college in the early 20th Century made it difficult for the school to raise money, which made it difficult to attract pay, and thus attract, well-known scholars, and that made it difficult for Hollins College to get accredited. The Hollins College Quadrangle is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wyndham Robertson Library is an American Library Association literary landmark.

[2] Note that it can also be accessed from Roanoke College's Fintel Library. Roanoke College is a four-year liberal arts college located in Salem, Virginia, founded by two Lutheran pastors in 1842 as the Virginia Institute, a prep school. As both Hollins University and Roanoke College are small, liberal arts schools in the Roanoke Valley, it is logical for their libraries to be affiliated.