Sunday, June 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Maurice Sendak - June 10

Happy Birthday Maurice Sendak- Born June 10, 1928

Maurice Sendak has written and illustrated children's books that have been subject to controversy and challenged because of scary monsters, dark themes, and even some nudity. Yet, his books have been loved by children for decades.  Where the Wild Things Are was initially challenged by librarians for having images that they believed were too frightening for children.  In the Night Kitchen appears on the ALA List of Top 100 Most Challenged Books mainly because the young boy in the book, Mickey appears without his clothes for a large part of the book. Yet, both of these books received Caldecott recognition. I felt I could have written two separate posts to celebrate Maurice Sendak's birthday. One post focusing on the weird, bizarre, and controversial. Another focusing on the magical, imaginative, and respected.

Most people are familiar with Wild Things and Night Kitchen. However, if I were to ask my daughter, what her favorite Maurice Sendak books are she would say, "Chicken Soup with Rice and Pierre," which are both from Nutshell Library.  My daughter's preschool class celebrated the end of each month eating a bowl of chicken soup with rice at snack time while reading the book and discussing the characteristics of the current month. (Now you know the purpose of the picture at the top of this post!) She also watched Pierre on a Scholastic Storybook Treasures DVD, which features the Nutshell stories.  Nutshell Library is a four book set made up of an alphabet book (Alligators All Around), a book about the months of the year (Chicken Soup with Rice), a counting book (One Was Johnny), and a book with a moral for a misbehaving child (Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue). Below are links to animated videos on YouTube with Carole King singing the words. Warning: The words will get stuck in your head. Also, I apologize that I couldn't find Pierre online, but it is on the Scholastic DVD.

I knew very little about Maurice Sendak before I began preparing for this post.  Luckily, I found the book, Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation by Gregory Maguire.  I read the book right after watching the movie Where the Wild Things Are. By the time I was done it was one o'clock in the morning and my brain was on overload.  The emotions of the movie coupled with the sophisticated world of Maurice Sendak's art and illustrations kept me awake even after I crawled into bed.  I gleaned from this book two important things about Sendak.  First, he is extremely well-studied. His artwork and books are full of influences and inspirations from many artists and writers.  Additionally, many other sources point to Sendak's heroes as Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, and Mozart. Secondly, Sendak is in tune with the emotions of a child.  He hasn't been afraid to explore tough emotions like fear, anger, and grief.

It was probably foolish of me to discuss Sendak's authored books before his illustrated books. He started his career as an illustrator and actually has illustrated more books than he has written himself.  He has illustrated books for authors such as Ruth Krauss, Else Holmelund Minarik (Little Bear), and James Marshall. Sendak has described that his success at illustrating books for many years allowed him to later write books himself.

To celebrate Maurice Sendak's birthday I encourage you to revisit his first book, Where the Wild Things Are.  Interestingly, the "Wild Things" were originally depicted as horses, but Sendak struggled with drawing horses and settled on drawing "things". The "things" or monsters we are now familiar with were actually illustrated to resemble his creepy aunts, uncles, and cousins that would come visit him when he was younger. This story of the mischievous and courageous, Max, who is sent to his room without supper and finds his way to a land where he becomes king, will forever be recognized as an important book in the history of children's literature.

Many of you may know that Where the Wild Things Are was made into a movie which was released in 2009.  I watched this movie, but certainly felt unqualified to discuss it with you.  Therefore, I have called in reinforcements.  This week, I am very excited to introduce you to my friend, Paul Wulff.  He will be reviewing and discussing the film in his first ever post at Happy Birthday Author on June 10. I hope you can stop back here to share your thoughts on this controversial movie. It should be a fun way to celebrate Maurice Sendak's birthday.

Click here for this week's Library Checklist.

Links:

1. Where the Wild Things Are Activity Book - HarperCollins, Reading Rockets, Library Lessons
2. Chicken Soup with Rice from Nutshell Library - YouTube
3. Where the Wild Things Are Book Video - YouTube
4. Maurice Sendak Video on YouTube - from Rosenbach Museum
5. Maurice Sendak on Where the Wild Things Are Movie - YouTube
6.  Alligators All Around from Nutshell Library - YouTube
7. One Was Johnny from Nutshell Library - YouTube
8.  Maurice Sendak's 90 Minute Talk - Descent into Limbo - April 5, 2003 - MIT World
9.  Little Bear, illustrated by Maurice Sendak - Nick Jr. Website
10.  Where the Wild Things Are Study Guide based on Theatre Production - Lorraine Kimsa
11. Carole King Sings Really Rosie and Other Music about the Nutshell Kids - Amazon.com
12. Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, PA (Home of Sendak Repository) - Look for Upcoming Events
13.  HBO Synopsis of Documentary on Maurice Sendak - Tell Them Anything You Want
14.  Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop Opera - YouTube
15.  Maurice Sendak on PBS NOW - PBS
16. Parade Restored, Sendak Mural Goes from Bedroom to Gallery - NPR
17. Family Literacy Bag: Where the Wild Things Are - Reading Rockets

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