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Classic Picture Books Written and Illustrated by Maurice Sendak


The children's picture books of Maurice Sendak, particularly those he both wrote and illustrated, have had a profound impact on children's literature. Prior to his children's books, dealing with the dark emotions and fantasies of children was almost unheard of in children's literature, especially in picture book format for young children. However, what has kept children's picture books by Maurice Sendak popular is the way young readers have embraced them.

1. Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak cover art

Maurice Sendak received the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are. Both the text and the illustrations brilliantly capture an angry little boy's feelings and fantasies upon being sent to bed without any supper. This book has become a favorite read-aloud for 3-6 year olds, who love to hear it again and again. (HarperCollins, 1988; ISBN: 9780060254926) Read my review of Where the Wild Things Are.

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2. Nutshell Library

This boxed set of miniature books is wonderful. The strong rhythms and rhymes, the witty illustrations, and the amusing stories please both small children and adults. The four little hardbound books are Chicken Soup with Rice, One was Johnny, Pierre, and Alligators All Around. You may remember them as song lyrics in the musical Really Rosie. (HarperCollins, 1986. ISBN: 9780060255008)

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3. In the Night Kitchen

Illustrated in a style reminiscent of comic books, this is the exuberant story of a little boy and his nighttime adventures. Mickey is awakened by a noise, falls out of his clothes, and "into the light of the night kitchen." This fantasy is very appealing to small children. A 1971 Caldecott Honor Book, it has become a classic. (HarperCollins, 1995; ISBN: 9780060266684)

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4. Outside Over There

While telling the story of a little girl who saves her baby sister from the goblins by playing her wonder horn, Sendak sheds light on children's deepest fears and feelings. He received the American Book Award in 1982 for the book, which was also a Caldecott Honor Book and won the 1981 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Illustration. (HarperCollins, 1981. ISBN: 9780060255237)

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5. Higglety Pigglety Pop!

Jeannie the dog is pampered, but unhappy. She leaves home to find more and discovers a wonderful opportunity to be an actress. However, she needs experience and goes on to have some very disconcerting experiences. This clever story is also interesting as an account of the lure of an artist's true vocation, even in the face of obstacles and discomfort. (HarperCollins, 1999; ISBN: 9780060284794)

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