Maurice Sendak: “Let the wild rumpus start”

If you spent any time on the internet today, you probably noticed that the latest Google Doodle honors legendary children’s author Maurice Sendak’s birthday. Sendak illustrated more than 100 picture books, including Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, and Little Bear.

Maurice Sendak (June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012) was born in Brooklyn to Jewish-Polish parents. Sendak described his childhood as a “terrible situation” because of his extended family’s dying in The Holocaust. His love of books began at an early age when he developed health problems and was confined to bed. He decided to become an illustrator after watching Walt Disney’s film Fantasia at age 12.

Sendak’s book illustrations are populated with the sights, sounds, and smells of New York in the 1930s. At the same time, Sendak was drawn to his family heritage and he became fascinated with the world of European Jews, whose influence can be seen in his imaginative works. Sendak was also a fan of comic artist Winsor McCay (who created “Little Nemo in Slumberland”). In the Night Kitchen, a mash-up of comic strip hilarity and surrealist absurdity, was his stylistic homage to McCay.

Sendak received the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are. He also received the 1970 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for illustration, the only American ever awarded this honor; the1983 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association; and a 1996 National Medal of Arts. In 2003 Sendak received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children’s literature established by the Swedish government.

“My books are really books that are impressed and loved with the memory of comics, and how important they were to me as a child.  You know, I did live across the street from the Baptistery; I didn’t live near any famous person; I didn’t see Michelangelo go to work in the morning  I just lived in Brooklyn, where everything was ordinary, and yet enticing and exciting and bewildering.  The magic of childhood is the strangeness of childhood; the uniqueness that makes us see things that other people don’t see.” ~Maurice Sendak, December 2011 (Source: TateShots: Maurice Sendak )

Maurice Sendak Resources:

A biography and timeline for Sendak – part of the Rosenbach Museum & Library website.

Author biography from PBS’s American Masters – Maurice Sendak has captured the imaginations of young readers for many years.

Wildly wise Sendak respected kids’ experiences – Learn how Sendak’s childhood experiences influenced his illustrations.

A slideshow of some of Sendak’s most influential prints – plus an in-depth and chronological look into Sendak’s life and works, from the National Gallery of Australia’s Kenneth Tyler Printmaking Collection website.

Maurice Sendak: Imagination and Art – This American Master’s series lesson for teachers contains activities for both elementary and middle school students. Early elementary students will read books written and/or illustrated by Maurice Sendak, learn what reading was like at Sendak’s elementary school, and write a class book based on one of Sendak’s stories. Middle school students will learn how Sendak not only wrote and illustrated children’s books and created works in the field of ballet, but also turned his book Where the Wild Things Are into an opera. They will also work in groups to produce an opera.

An entire unit of work based on Where the Wild things Are – a number of free resources with a description of how you might use them in the classroom, from Edgalaxy.

Chicken Soup With Rice Extension Activities – activities to teach the calendar and months using Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak.

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