Monday, March 12, 2012

Sendak Sunday

In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak, a traveling exhibit, recently came to my local library. Yesterday I went to see it and to hear a talk on how Sendak connects with his Easter European roots. The lecturer put Sendak's work in historical context, showing how Jewish immigrants (such as Sendak's parents) kept one foot in the old world, through memories and by keeping in touch with relatives who remained in Europe.

The exhibit and talk brought home what John Cech, a professor of children's literature and author of a book about Sendak, once said in an interview in the New York Times. "His whole life's work in some way is an attempt to understand and fathom the complexity of that heritage, with its almost unbearable legacy of loss."

Here's a sampling of the fascinating tidbits I discovered:

In Where the Wild Things Are, the spread of the wild rumpus is the only scene in which the monsters take their eyes off Max. Their eyes are fixed on the Moon, that mysterious orb that can change men into wolves and other beasts of the night.

The Lindbergh kidnapping always held a special horror for Sendak. During the time the story was in the news, young Sendak made his father sleep on the floor next to his bed, a baseball bat at the ready. An uncle, hearing this, inquired "Philip, who would want your children?" Sendak took offense at his uncle's remark, and years later took his revenge, turning the man into the ugliest of the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. Which one was that? He never said.

Sendak based the illustration of the character Atzel in Isaac Bashevis Singer's Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories on a photograph of Sendak's grandfather that once hung in his bedroom. While suffering the effects of scarlet fever as a boy, a delirious Sendak tried to climb into the frame. His mother snatched the photo of her father and, in her fear, tore it up to protect her son. Years later, after his mother had died, Sendak found the torn pieces stuffed into tissue paper and had the photo restored.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gallimaufry Friday

The past week has been a busy one as I scrambled to meet writing deadlines, prepared and taught my weekly fiction writing class, and packed for next Friday's big move. Even with so much going on, I managed to procrastinate, surfing the web for interesting tidbits. Here's what I found.

"Locked away for more than 150 years...." Doesn't that sound like the start to a fabulous fairytale? It is, in a way. A collection of 500 new fairytales, myths, and legends was recently discovered in Germany. Franz Xaver, a historian, gathered the tales around the same time the Grimm brothers were recording folklore. Here's an article from the Guardian, which includes a link to one of the tales, "The Turnip Princess."

Fans of Jon Klassen rejoice. Another picture book is due out in October, and this one also features a hat. Klassen's I Want My Hat Back won wide acclaim when it was released last year. The protagonist of This Is Not My Hat is a minnow sporting a snazzy bowler hat. Can't wait to read this one.

Ever wondered how The Hunger Games would look performed by the Muppets? No? Even if this strange pairing never crossed your mind, you should watch the Muppet's spoof on this modern classic.

Yesterday, March 7, was World Read Aloud Day, and from Mexico to India to NYC, you could hear the sound of presenters clearing their throats as they got ready to read to spellbound children.

And don't forget to cast your vote for this year's Diagram Prize. The award goes to the previous year's book with the oddest title. This year's shortlist includes:

A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two
(Hard to imagine the topic couldn't be concluded in one book!)

Cooking with Poo (Don't worry, poo is Thai  for crab.)

Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World

The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria (I wonder if this one needed to be cut?)

A Taxonomy of Office Chairs

The Mushroom in Christian Art (my personal favorite)

Although I voted for The Mushroom, I predict Cooking with Poo will win. The winner will be announced on March 30.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Golden Book Covers

This week's theme at The Broke and the Bookish is one I couldn't resist: Top Ten Covers. I narrowed my selections to Golden Books, that classic yet oh so affordable series started in 1942. A book cost 25 cents back then, quite a bargain. Through the years dozens of children's books top illustrators produced for Golden Books, including Garth Williams, Richard Scarry, Alice and Martin Provensen, and James Marshall. Below are some covers I particularly cherish. They are just the tip of the iceberg.

Which Golden Books are your favorites?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gallimaufry Friday

The past seven days have been busy ones for lovers of children's literature. Here are some of the highlights that kept me blogging and tweeting all week.

Last Sunday I stayed up past my bedtime to watch the Oscars to the end (11:30). Although much was ho-hum, Christopher Plummer and Meryl Streep gave classy acceptance speeches. I haven't had a chance to see Hugo (it's on my list), but I was still glad it snagged five awards. I did watch The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a short animated film by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, and you can too, here.

In sad news, Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan created the Berenstain Bears series, died last Friday at age eighty-eight.

I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of A Brief History of Picture Books.

Be sure to check out February's Carnival of Children's Literature over at The Fourth Musketeer, cleverly tied to Mardi Gras. It has a fantastic roundup from kidlit bloggers, including a post by yours truly.

Publisher's Weekly gives us a sneak peek of some upcoming fall  children's books.

Yesterday was National Pig Day. I have a fondness for pigs (surprisingly smart animals), as does my daughter. Imagine children's literature without pigs. Why, there would be no three little pigs, no Piglet, no Wilbur, no Mercy Watson.

And last, but by no means least, today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, born in 1904. Here are seven facts you might not know about the good doctor, courtesy of Huff Post. Back in 1997, NEA started Read Across American and tied it to his birthday. There are tons of events throughout the country. Check here to see what's taking place in your state. March 2 is also the day the movie The Lorax debuts. I've found other recent Seuss movies unwatchable (Jim Carey's The Grinch. Need I say more?), and unfortunately this one might be another, at least according to a review in today's NY Times.