I was today years old when I realized a lot of my favorite books from childhood were all written and/or illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I mean, we've got Little Bear, Where the Wild Things Are — definitely classics. While these are my favorites, especially for the illustrations, there are so many Maurice Sendak books that are practically art.
All of his books take on a whimsy, folklore look that just truly captivates children and brings them into the story — probably because the illustrations and storylines seem like they came right out of a child's brain and imagination. For example, though they're monsters, you totally want to be friends with the guys in Where the Wild Things Are and Seven Little Monsters. At least I did. They were the only monsters that didn't scare me.
Sendak's books are so good, they've made several of them into children's shows, like Little Bear and Seven Little Monsters, or musicals like Really Rosie. A cool fact about Sendak: a Brooklyn native, he started out working on window displays in famous toy store F.A.O. Schwarz in the '40s before he met Ursula Nordstrom, a "legendary children's book editor," according to Biography. She helped him "land his first job illustrating children's books." His first book he ever wrote himself and illustrated was Kenny's Window, which is a sort of dark and philosophical book (like most of Sendak's books) about love and loneliness, but appropriate for children. His whimsical books definitely all have a certain style to them, and you can tell it's a Sendak book by looking at the cover art. All of these following books are certainly a work of art, and it's apparent from the very first page.
1. 'Little Bear'
Sendak's Little Bear is definitely a much-loved series, especially by yours truly. It follows the life of "Little Bear" and his immediate family, while introducing other characters along the way who are also named after their species. There was also a TV series and movie created from these beautifully illustrated books.
2. 'Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months'
Not the "...for the soul" variety of Chicken Soup books, but Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months follows a little boy's love for soup as a way to teach kids about all of the months of the year. It's a rhyming good time, with Sendak's signature line drawings that are so much fun to take in.
3. 'Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life'
Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life has won several awards since its creation, and it's a super fun read about a terrier who wants to see the world and eventually become the star of the World Mother Goose Theatre. Hence "there must be more to life." A little dark for a kids book, but fun all the same.
4. 'The Sign on Rosie's Door'
The Sign on Rosie's Door was both written and illustrated by Sendak, and it was later turned into a musical called Really Rosie that was written by Sendak with music by Carole King. It actually encompasses several of Sendak's works, including Chicken Soup with Rice, Pierre, One Was Johnny, and Alligators All Around, according to a New York Times article.
5. 'Alligators All Around: An Alphabet (Nutshell Library)'
I loved this book when I was a kid. Alligators All Around teaches readers their ABCs in a hilarious way while reading about what these cooky alligators do.
6. 'One Was Johnny: A Counting Book'
7. 'The Big Green Book'
The Big Green Book is a book of whimsical magic, where a little boy named Jack learns spells and has magic powers. So of course, Sendak had to be the illustrator for such a magical and whimsical book.
8. 'Outside Over There'
Even though Outside Over There is decidedly scary and has a weird story (a little girl trying to save her baby sister from becoming a goblin bride), kids will love looking at the extremely detailed artwork of Sendak on every page.
9. 'My Brother's Book'
One of the final books Sendak completed before he died in 2012, My Brother's Book is just that — a book that "pays homage" to his late brother Jack, who Sendak credited his passion for writing, according to Amazon. This beautiful illustrated book of poetry is "an expression of grief and love" and would be a wonderful and important addition to your Sendak collection.
10. 'Seven Little Monsters'
In the original Seven Little Monsters, kids will learn their numbers one through seven via some really cool looking monsters doing some very silly things. The book was so popular, there is now a new series of the same monsters getting into all sorts of trouble, and like I mentioned before, even a TV show.
11. 'Pierre: A Cautionary Tale'
This is the story of Pierre, the boy who doesn't care about anything. While reading Pierre: A Cautionary Tale, kids will learn how important it is to not be so disrespectful and rude.
12. 'Where the Wild Things Are'
And you absolutely cannot have a Maurice Sendak list without including his most popular and beloved book of all — Where the Wild Things Are. This has been a beloved classic since 1963 when it was written, and has been adapted into movies, animated shorts, and live action feature films. It's also the theme of about 85 percent of all children's first birthday parties — it feels like it anyway. And who can blame parents when the story and illustrations are so good? You of course want to have it as a theme for your own little "wild thing."
In case you haven't read it (and if not, get on it), it's about a boy named Max who is sent to bed without supper because he creates pandemonium in his household after donning a wolf costume. He then goes to sleep and wakes up in a jungle where "wild things" live. He becomes king of the wild things and they're sad to see him go when he misses home.