• Happy birthday Miriam Bourne (Dog Walk), Helen Frost (Keesha's House), Peggy Rathmann (Officer Buckle and Gloria), David A. Carter (Love Bug), and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants Series).
  • It’s the birth date of Johann David Wyss (1743–1818), Swiss Family Robinson, and Meindert DeJong (1906–1991) The Wheel on the School.
  • In 1791, John Adams is sworn in as the second ever United States president, succeeding George Washington.
  • Happy birthday Chicago, incorporated as a city in 1837.
  • In 1877, Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake" premieres at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Read Swan Lake adapted and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, Swan Lake retold and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, and Swan Lake by Mark Helprin, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.

Today marks the birthday of Peggy Rathmann. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Peggy studied commercial art and crafted picture books at the Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles. In 1991 she published her first book, Ruby the Copycat, and was immediately hailed by Publishers Weekly as a “Promising New Author.” Promising indeed. Within four years she would publish two books that have now achieved classic status: Officer Buckle and Gloria and our book of the day Good Night, Gorilla.

Bringing originality to preschool books is no mean feat. Because of the limited experience of the readers, preschool books often rely on formulas more than any other type of book. Stories, real stories, are rare. Hence Good Night, Gorilla excited everyone when it appeared—much in the way it still garners enthusiasm from young readers and parents.

In a story told in less than fifty words, a gorilla takes the zookeeper’s keys and lets the inhabitants of the zoo out of their cages. They follow him, only to be discovered and returned to the zoo—at least temporarily. The bright palette, engaging characters, and a satisfying story all have made this book one of the staples of any preschool collection, particularly for those who want a little livelier bedtime story than Goodnight Moon. But as spontaneous and lively as Peggy Rathmann made each page, she was a dedicated perfectionist in her art, going back and reshaping her books again and again. In the case of Good Night, Gorilla she labored to find an ideal ending. As she has said, “two years ten endings later” she had a picture book good enough for her to publish.

I myself owe Peggy Rathmann a personal debt of gratitude. As a young editor of The Horn Book Magazine, I wrote one of my first editorials about the Caldecott Award: “Could Randolph Caldecott Win the Caldecott Medal?” In a time period when high-art picture books were capturing this prize, I set forth my vision of picture books: one that embraced the lively interplay between text and art that Caldecott valued. Many took exception to my words. But when Peggy received the Caldecott Award for Officer Buckle and Gloria in 1996, she pulled me aside at ALA to tell me that she had tacked that editorial up on her bulletin board and had been grateful that someone understood the kind of book she was attempting to create. If in any way my words encouraged her to keep going on books like Good Night, Gorilla and Officer Buckle and Gloria, it was worth taking a stand.

In her creative career, Peggy Rathmann has fashioned a handful of books, all of them superb. Like Robert McCloskey she never aimed for quantity of output, only quality. So today from all of her many fans, I wish her a very happy birthday.

Here’s a page from Good Night, Gorilla:

Goodnight Gorilla image


Originally posted March 4, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Bedtime
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Good Night, Gorilla


  1. suzi w. says:

    Happy birthday indeed! When I was a bookseller, I hand sold as many copies of “Officer Buckle and Gloria” as possible.

    I do not always agree with picture books being made into board books, but “Goodnight Gorilla” is perfect in the diminutive size.

    Peggy is a treasure. May she enjoy every minute of her birthday, knowing that she has touched the hearts of many grateful booksellers, librarians, and her main audience, parents and children.

    Suzi W.

  2. McCourt says:

    We love Peggy Rathmann’s books! We especially love the interplay between her books – in 10 Minutes till Bedtime you can see the shadows of the zoo creatures from Goodnight Gorilla and the dolls of Officer Buckle and Gloria on the computer. Makes for a great grouping of books to read aloud, like there is a secret passing between the stories. So much fun! Happy Birthday Peggy!

  3. guy stewart says:

    I read this as a B&N bookseller years ago and fell in love with it. It is NOW my grandson’s favorite book. He brought it out for me to read a couple days ago. But at 2 and a half years old, he ALSO has an alternate text — which appeals to his two and a half year old’s sense of humor — which I might blush a bit to share here!

    My appreciation goes to this wonderful writer and artist!

  4. Alejandro Mazariegos says:

    I haven’t yet read ‘Goodnight, Gorilla’. But if it’s anything like ‘Officer Buckle and Gloria’, then I am in for a treat. ‘Officer Buckle and Gloria’ just had such a wonderful mixture of humor, heart, and intelligence. And I’m glad this entry remarked on its fantastic interplay between text and art: ‘Officer Buckle and Gloria’ shows that the picture book format allows so much imagination when given the chance.

    And a great day to Peggy for all her contributions!

  5. S.Matt Read says:

    The little details in this book do it for me. The banana, the balloon… all small things, but they add up. Great book.

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