To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild Things Are, the Toronto Reference Library is hosting an exhibit featuring original artwork by Maurice Sendak. I’m lucky enough to live close by, so I went to check out the exhibit as soon as it opened. You can get through the whole thing pretty quickly and it’s free, so if you’re in the area I recommend popping in to have a look. The exhibit features original illustrations from Where the Wild Things Are and other popular books, plus costume designs and sketches Sendak drew for his friends and fans.
Where the Wild Things Are came out at a time when children’s books really played it safe. So in contrast, Sendak’s book showed the real side of being a child, which can be dark and even scary. Of course, many people thought kids couldn’t handle the book, but it still went on to be a huge success. It won the 1964 Caldecott Medal and is considered one of the best and most beloved children’s books of all time.
I found it interesting to learn that when Sendak initially pitched the book in 1955, he tried to draw it with horses but couldn’t and switched to monsters instead. The inspiration for this classic book came from a childhood memory about his European Jewish aunts and uncles:
“These people didn’t speak English. And they were unkempt. Their teeth were horrifying…And they’d pick you up and hug you and kiss you, ‘Aggggh. Oh we could eat you up.’ And we know they would eat anything, anything. And so they’re the wild things.”
Maurice Sendak: 50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons will be at the Toronto Reference Library until January 31, 2016. If you can’t make it to the exhibit but are interested in learning more about Sendak’s work, these books look pretty promising:
Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work
by Justin G. Schiller and Dennis M. V. David
The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 to the Present
by Tony Kushner
Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation
by Gregory Maguire