Showing posts with label Maurice Sendak collection at the Rosenbach Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maurice Sendak collection at the Rosenbach Museum. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start


Leonard Marcus's presentation on Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) concludes in Part Five of this series from my notes taken at the Highlights Foundation workshop, "Books that Rise Above," that I attended in Honesdale, PA last October. Today, the focus is on Leonard's explanation of how Sendak wrote Where the Wild Things Are.

Leonard pointed out that Sendak looked at every part of life for ideas and inspiration; he read widely, not limiting himself to children's books. In children's literature, some of Sendak's influences were:

*Lewis Carroll's, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Makes fun of every kind of authority
*Charles Perrault's Puss in Boots: Is far from a sweet rendition of childhood
  • The cat bags a rabbit in the forest and presents it to the king as a gift from his master
  • He orders the country folk along the road to tell the king that the land belongs to the "Marquis of Carabas", saying that if they do not he will cut them into mincemeat. (You get the picture!)
*A. A. Milne's, The Story of Babar: The mother of Babar, a young elephant, is shot and killed by a hunter on the first page
*Beatrix Potter's, The Tale of Peter Rabbit: On page 1 Peter's father is turned into a pie

Sendak's Deductions
  • Children's bad behavior is fun
  • Children like to be scared
  • The intense feelings wrought by these books are beautiful
  • Sendak wanted to knock art off its pedestal and instead, foster what the average child cared about
Some of Sendak's Innovations

Sendak's innovations in Wild Things can be summed up in two words: No rules. His illustrations get bigger and bigger until they push the words off the page, before shrinking back. Max does not appear on the cover. The title page gives the story away: that Max is in charge, not the monsters-- he kicks them away. As Leonard explained, we are tipped off that the scary things are Max's creations, that maybe Max is the scary one. Indeed, Max is dressed in an original costume that makes him look different than an ordinary boy. Thus, his playful animal-like appearance may be safer for children when dealing with their own monsters and demons than a normal boy's appearance would. The monsters themselves are presented in a way we can handle; perhaps helping children make their own monsters and demons less scary.

Wild Things Pierces the Soul

To find his story, Sendak wrote a different version every day for a month. Little by little the story evolved. But, he got stuck in the middle. He had to ask himself: why would a child like Max choose to go back home when being sent to bed without supper? Sendak knew every child is hungry for the love of his mother; that it is a deep-seated need. Max struggles with his desire for freedom, but finds he can't do without the ordered (and warm and loving) structure of HOME, represented as a hot meal. So, as Leonard so eloquently stated, the most brilliant ending (the last line) in all of children's literature is that supper awaited Max when he got home (he woke up), "and it was still hot." Thus in the end, children can confront the Wild Things and feel good about them.

Leonard's take-away: Everything today rests on the effort Sendak made in children's literature. He used his opportunity to speak out for children, to support children's First Amendment rights. My take-away: Learning about the time and care Sendak spent in his creations has helped me revisit time and again my own current creation. Also, how my own expereiences can better serve children, of course, in an entertaining and fun way. In a nutshell, to stamp out any triteness in my own work.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:


Next month: Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman
In future posts: A link to the complete list of "Books that Rise Above" will appear at the end of this series. Then look out, more to come!
Sources: Google searches to complete references to Sendak's influences from children's literature.



Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Leonard Marcus: Maurice Sendak, Storyteller and Artist

Photo: Maurice Sendak at the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia.© 1985 by Frank Armstrong

Part four in this series is based on my notes taken at the Highlights Foundation workshop, "Books that Rise Above," that I attended last October in Honesdale, PA. Today I am privileged to touch on parts of Leonard Marcus's talk about Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) and how he changed children's literature forever.

What We May Know about Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak was self-taught; he did not attend college. He is known as the most original picture book artist of our time. The reasons are many and varied. A few from my notes are that he had important mentors. He knew more about the history of children's books than anyone, which Leonard pointed out is crucial. His childhood was filled with emotion, which is what he was good at. He and his brother made their own fun; they started with nothing and found a lot.

What We May Not Know

In the chapter on Leonard's interviews with Sendak in Leonard's book, Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter, Sendak said he and his older brother held newspaper comics up to the glass window, traced the characters then colored them. They built a miniature of the 1939 World's Fair out of wax. He was an unhappy child, said he made everybody else unhappy, too, except his brother. He adored his brother and felt he saved his life. The illustrator of more than fifty books, author of seven by 1964 when he won the Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak transformed himself with each book. He did not want to be known for one type of book.

How Maurice Sendak Revolutionalized Children's Literature

Leonard discussed earlier children's books and those written by Sendak's contemporaries to help shed light on the landscape in which he worked. Prior children's stories portrayed a romantic image of childhood, i.e., happy young Dick and Jane-types running through fields of flowers; and such contemporary books as Robert McCloskey's Time of Wonder. Sendak understood that children take  books to bed with them and read stories to their cats; also, that children's feelings run deep. He believed children can't be protected from how they feel. And, children's books can help them be honest about even their worst feelings. His direction, instead, was toward works like Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown published in 1946, which was presented in an experimental format, and tuning in to how children learn and what children enjoy, which Ruth Krauss, author of The Carrot Seed, did by visiting preschools and listening to what children say.

Leonard's take-away: Sendak wanted to express himself as much as he could. He used his fame as an opportunity to be a spokesman for children, to broadcast the idea that adults aren't the only ones who have First Amendment rights. Children do, too. How I benefited from Leonard's talk: I am touched by Maurice Sendak. Not only by becoming more familiar with his works, what they mean to the world and how they were created. But also, perhaps I benefited most by learning about Sendak's life, which is illuminated so vividly in Leonard's book, Show Me a Story!. I was amazed to find quite a few parallels to my own life, as I imagine might be true of most of us, which has helped me better analyze my own childhood.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader
Part Two: Nouns Need to be Concrete and Appear More than Once
Part Three: Tent Pole Structure
 
Next month: Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start
In future posts: A link to the complete list of "Books that Rise Above" will appear at the end of this series.
 
Sources: Photo: Many thanks to Patrick Rodgers, Curator of the Maurice Sendak Collection at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia for putting me in touch with photographer Frank Armstrong, who took the above photo at the museum and graciously allowed me to include it in my post. Books: Marcus, Leonard, Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2012; Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. New York: Harper Collins, 1963; Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed. New York: Harper Collins, 1945; and McCloskey, Robert, Time of Wonder, Viking Press, 1957. 
                                       
                                       
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook. 


 

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