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Museum brings ‘Goodnight Moon’ to life

Rhode Island exhibit goes inside the world of Clement Hurd's illustrations
/ Source: The Associated Press

Countless children have been lulled to sleep by the dreamlike pictures and soothing words of “Goodnight Moon,” a bedtime story about a little bunny who says goodnight to just about everything he knows.

Fans of the book can now see the colorful illustrations from “Goodnight Moon” brought to life in an exhibit at the museum of the Rhode Island School of Design.

The show called “From Goodnight Moon to Art Dog: The World of Clement, Edith and Thacher Hurd,” features the artwork of Clement Hurd, the illustrator whose work in “Goodnight Moon” and more than 100 children’s books has fascinated generations of young minds.

Since “Goodnight Moon” was first published in 1947, it has sold more than 11 million copies. Hurd’s other books include “The Runaway Bunny,” “The World Is Round,” and the Johnny Lion series.

“Lots of children grew up reading these books in America,” said Museum Director Hope Alswang.

The exhibit, which ends July 23, also features work by Hurd’s wife, Edith, and his son, Thacher, and displays 70 original illustrations by the Hurds altogether. Providence is its final stop after touring the country, including shows in Vermont, Michigan, Florida and South Carolina.

On view are three-dimensional life-size displays that re-create scenes and objects from the books — like the “great green room,” of “Goodnight Moon,” the recurrent scene where the bunny says his goodnight to the moon, the stars, the air, a mouse and a little toy house.

The show is aimed at families, and the museum has organized reading sessions and other programs for children. To draw in the youngsters, some of the exhibits are interactive, such as the 16-foot-long “brushmobile,” based on the vehicle shaped like a paintbrush in “Art Dog,” by Thacher Hurd.

Children can climb into a life-sized version of the car, a big thrill for 3½-year-old Nick Joss, who climbed in and out of the red brushmobile and pretended to paint it with a brush.

“He could be in there all day,” said Nick’s father, Steve Joss, a teacher, who said he reads “Goodnight Moon” to Nick at least once a month, and the little boy has memorized most of the words.

Thacher Hurd, who attended last week’s opening, said he enjoys observing the reaction of the children when they see the exhibit, especially the well-known room of “Goodnight Moon.”

“They’re just sort of thunderstruck that the room they’ve been looking at is suddenly real,” Hurd said. “But they’re 2 years old, and to them, the room is real anyway.”