I grew up with some rather conventional children's books. Essentially, if it wasn't a standard Golden book, it was either something crazy from my older siblings (yes Spider, it's all YOUR fault for giving me Dr. Suess books for Christmas) or hand me downs. Discovering Maurice Sendak on my own opened up a whole new world of imagination for me.
It's no surprise that my children, nieces, nephews and other little ones received lots of Sendak (and others) from me. One of my sons decided he was going to learn German at an early age after I read him "Wild Things" in German. I'm not surprised to see inspiration from those books I read the boys long ago in another son's artwork and secretly suspect that he will eventually find himself immersed in the world of children's literature and art. (When you have mentor like Tony DiTerlizzi, how can you not?)
Recently I introduced "Pierre" to a room of first graders who were studying folk tales. It fit the lesson in when we discussed what made a folk tale, the kids listed talking animals and a moral lesson. I absentmindedly replied, "There once was a boy named Pierre, who only could say, 'I don't care.' So read his story my friend and, you will find in the end, a suitable moral lies there." The kids all looked at me and I asked, "Have none of you heard of Pierre?" They all said no. Off to the internet to find Carole King singing the nutshell library and, as a reward for good behavior, I showed them the video of "Pierre."
The kids were so enchanted, the asked to watch it again.... and again. I instructed all of them to look for the Nutshell Library the next time they were in a bookstore.
I am known for my reciting of "Where the Wild Things Are." I make the kids put on and zip up their invisible wolf suits, we have a wild rumpus and I point out how the illustrations grow and grow like the jungle in Max's room and shrink as he returns to his world. I use it as a lesson that, no matter how big our imaginations grow, we need to write within constrained spaces. The magic comes from transporting your reader to your wide open imagination. It's a lesson that older kids love and gets younger kids thinking.
But right now, I'm feeling the need to dig out my copy of "Higgelty Piggelty Pop or There Must Be More To Life." A book Sendak wrote to deal with his grief in losing his beloved dog, Jenny. I hope that he is now happily playing with her and feeding her salami. I need a way to deal with my broken heart in losing a man who changed my life.
Higgelty piggelty Pop, the dog has eaten the mop. The pig's in a hurry, the cat's in a flurry. Higgelty piggelty pop.