Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak was born in New York in 1928. He decided to become an illustrator after watching Disney’s Fantasia when he was twelve years old. I can understand that. It is a pretty inspiring movie.

Before he began writing his own books, he made a name for himself by illustrating children’s books written by others. You may have read some of the Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik. Sendak illustrated those books!

He then began writing and illustrating his own books. There were (and are) people who didn’t think his illustrations were appropriate for children and some of his books have been banned or challenged.

Maurice Sendak has also helped design sets for major ballets and operas.

He won several awards, including the Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are.

Which brings us today’s first book review. I hope you have all read Where the Wild Things Are, but if you haven’t, there’s still time! Where the Wild Things Are was published in 1963 but hasn’t lost any of its appeal in the 45 years since. In this tale, Max, dressed in a wolf suit, makes so much trouble that he is sent to bed without supper. But a magical thing happens when his room becomes a forest with an ocean rolling by. Max hops in his private boat and sails away to where the wild things are. He is made the king of the wild things and he has a fantastic time making trouble with the other wild things. Soon, though, he misses his real home.

Next up, Chicken Soup with Rice. This is perhaps the best children’s book for learning the months of the year. Each month gets its own rhyming poem about chicken soup with rice and its own illustration, colored in yellows, blues, grays, and greens. Sounds like a boring book, you say? Not so! During the winter, soup is eaten to celebrate a snowman’s birthday. In the spring, soup helps cure roses that have begun to droop. Who could write twelve fun and whimsical poems about chicken soup with rice but Maurice Sendak?

Sendak has also illustrated several simple nursery rhymes, like We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, and Hector Protector and As I Went Over the Water. His illustrations bring new meaning to these short stories. In the Hector Protector nursery rhyme, all we know about Hector Protector is that he is dressed all in green and when he goes to the queen she doesn’t like him so she sends him home. Sendak shows us that Hector Protector doesn’t want to be dressed in green. He also doesn’t want to go see the queen so he throws the cake he is supposed to take to her in the dirt, hops on the back of a lion, and delivers a snake instead. No wonder the queen sends him home!

And finally, Maurice Sendak recently published a pop-up book called Mommy? which he wrote and illustrated with Arthur Yorinks and Matthew Reinhart. Reinhart is one of the greatest pop-up artists out there and this book is a masterwork. In this fun story, a toddler wanders into a haunted house in search of his mother. He asks the creatures, Frankenstein, an Egyptian mummy, and others, if they are his mommy. When they try to scare him, he pulls pranks on them. The toddler pulls the pins out of Frankenstein’s neck, for instance. This book is so much fun. Kids could certainly destroy this pop-up with over-use but it is well put together. I highly recommend it.

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Lisa said...

I love Maurice Sendak and even have his "Where the Wild Things Are" in Czech...since I also speak Czech. Have you seen the work of another Czech author...Peter Sis? I have "The Wall", "Starry Messenger-Galileo Galilei" and "The Three Keys".

Just wanted to thank you for thinking of me and awarding me with the "Wonderful Blog Award"! Thanks for your support!


Jessica said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Lisa. I have never seen any of Peter Sis' books but my library has quite a few. Many of his books seem very serious, or at least discuss serious topics. I'm excited to learn more about him!

Crafter5 said...

Ah, Stirring once, stirring twice, stirring chicken soup with rice! I love that book - a must have!

Anonymous said...

Peter Sis, yes. Definitely check out Madlenka. It's about a little girl who has a loose tooth, and goes around the city block visiting all her friends (adults of many different ethnicities) to show them. There's a lot going on in the pictures, and some pages you have to turn to see from different angles so you can see everything.