Goodnight, Sleep Tight.
Goodnight, Sleep Tight was first published in 1988. It had seven nursery rhymes woven into its structure because I’d heard at a literacy conference in South Africa in the early 90s that children who know six nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four are usually in the top reading group at the age of eight. I wanted to make that goal a reality for as many children as possible. (I thought seven rhymes was safer than six!)
But for one reason and another the book was badly produced by a publisher who has since gone out of business. 10,000 copies of the original were pulped, which I found to be a truly horrifying waste, but I wasn’t consulted; nor was I even asked if I’d like to buy any of those copies. And the book was out of print for twenty years.
In late 2010 I was asked to participate in a literary event at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. The convener, Michael Williams, had grown up with the rhymes and repetitions of Goodnight, Sleep Tight. His mother had read it to him endlessly. He told me he no longer had a copy but he now had a baby son of his own and was keen to find a copy of the book. Did I have one he could buy? I said I was sorry but I didn’t. I had only two copies left: one for me and for my own grandson.
He was so desperate he asked if I could at least type out the text for him. I said I’d be happy to. I’m a slow typist so as I was typing it out I was able to stand back, as it were, and see it afresh. I loved it! Hah! What a great text! What if I sent it to my agent again, after all these years in the wilderness?
The long and the short of it is that I re-wrote it slightly (there are now two children, not one) and the magical Judy Horacek agreed to illustrate it very much in the manner of Where Is The Green Sheep? making Goodnight, Sleep Tight into a companion book for that best seller. One of the final illustrations looks as if it’s leapt from the pages of Green Sheep into the new book, thereby making a lovely connection between the two.
Scholastic has been enormously happy to publish Goodnight, Sleep Tight, for which a certain Michael Williams and I will be eternally grateful! I hope, like Rumpelstiltskin in the fairy tale, I have been able to weave straw into gold. I’ll leave you to be the judge of that!