Step Inside the Colorful Pages of ‘Goodnight Moon’

As the book turns 75, a new immersive exhibition brings the beloved children’s story to life

Goodnight Moon immersive exhibition
A scene from the Goodnight Moon immersive exhibition Courtesy of TELUS Spark Science Centre

For 75 years, parents and children alike have enjoyed winding down for the night with author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrator Clement Hurd’s Goodnight Moon.

Readers can now become part of the story, thanks to a new Goodnight Moon immersive exhibition at the TELUS Spark Science Centre in Calgary, Alberta, on view through February 2023. The 32-page book’s rich green, red, yellow and blue hues come to life inside a 3,000-square-foot pixelated space that features animated set pieces as well as wall and floor projection technology.

The digital experience is part of a broader initiative about the science of sleep, which asks visitors to contemplate questions about nightmares, sleeping in space and the lunar cycle’s impact on circadian rhythms, to name a few.

“This book has been such a great asset for parents throughout the generations to help young ones prepare themselves for sleep and get into that kind of mind frame,” says Roderick Tate, chief experience officer at TELUS Spark Science Centre, to the Calgary Citizen’s Leanne Murray. “So we share a little bit about the importance of sleep and advancements in sleep science and things like that as part of the overall package that we have.”

Goodnight Moon Teaser - TELUS Spark Science Centre

“Goodnight Moon” is similar to other immersive art installations—like “Immersive van Gogh” and “Immersive Frida Kahlo”—which have recently skyrocketed in popularity. It is also not the first immersive experience centered around the beloved children’s story. Last year, the New York City art studio Fort Makers invited artists to create furniture and objects from the book; their works became the exhibition “Goodnight House.”

The new Goodnight Moon exhibition takes visitors through the entire story from start to finish during an eight-minute presentation. Guests wait in an adjoining room, then enter when the story begins. They can stick around and experience the exhibition as many times as they’d like.

For now, the exhibition is only available at the science center in Calgary, but a tour through other cities is possible, reports TravelAwait’s Greg Robertson.

Goodnight Moon rabbit
An eight-minute presentation takes visitors through the classic children's bedtime story. Courtesy of TELUS Spark Science Centre

First published on September 3, 1947, Goodnight Moon follows a bunny as he says goodnight to objects and animals in his room. As the time grows later and later, the moon outside the bunny’s window gets higher and higher in the sky. As Amy Crawford wrote for Smithsonian magazine in 2017, the plot came to Brown in a vivid dream she had as an adult, during which she recalled saying goodnight to the toys and other objects in her childhood nursery.

The popular book has been translated into more than 25 languages and has sold more than 40 million copies.

“It mirrors what’s happening for the child, but it also gives them a feeling of some other world, something else that’s sort of a larger, more peaceful world,” says Thacher Hurd, Clement's son and a children's book author and illustrator, to NPR’s Elizabeth Blair.

Many have strong memories attached to the bedtime story, which has persisted through generations of children, parents and grandparents. After the New York Times’ Elisabeth Egan published an essay about Goodnight Moon’s significance earlier this year, the publication received hundreds of comments from readers of varying ages, all sharing their relationship with the book.

“Now that our youngest is almost 4, I recently got rid of most of our baby books—but I couldn’t even imagine parting with this one,” wrote Abby Cooper, a reader from Bergenfield, New Jersey. “It’s been through five babies and its cover is long gone, and it’s held together by packing tape—but it’s perfection. I just have so many memories of my kids adoring it, I’m keeping it forever.”

Goodnight Moon” will be on view at the TELUS Spark Science Centre in Calgary, Alberta, through February 2023.

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