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Maurice Sendak: Chapter books and intermediate

It’s a shame that Sendak’s only extended prose work for children is the wonderful Higglety Pigglety Pop, but his tender illustrations for novels by Randall Jarrell and Meindert DeJong demonstrate the artist’s reach beyond the picture book.

Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to LifeSendak’s daring imagination weaves a simple rhyme into the complex and brilliantly original tale Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life (1967).Sealyham terrier Jennie, convinced that “there must be more to life than having everything,” packs her bag and confidently goes forth into the world. The fantasy is ordered and controlled, full of allusion, wisdom, and flashes of wit. The story is enormously extended by the pictures, each one a masterpiece of impeccable drawing, restraint, and emotional depth. (7–10 years)

The Animal FamilyAt the start of the 1966 Newbery Honor Book The Animal Family (1965), written by Randall Jarrell and illustrated by Sendak, the Hunter lives alone in his log house. In time the mermaid comes to live with him; then he brings home a bear cub and a lynx kitten. The lynx finds a little boy whom the sea had cast ashore, and the family is complete. In so simple a thread of story, but in singing words, is caught the essence of family. Harmonious landscape drawings are a tribute to the sensitivity of the artist; they decorate and set a mood without trying to illustrate a story so universal in its emotion, yet so personal in its meaning. (7–10 years)

The Wheel on the SchoolSendak illustrated several novels by Meindert DeJong, among them the Newbery-winning The Wheel on the School (1954). The setting is the Dutch village of Shora, a place that’s always passed over when storks come to nest in neighboring villages. Young Lina and her classmates wonder why the storks (which bring good luck) don’t come to Shora — and as they wonder, things begin to happen. As always in this collaboration between masters, simple, atmospheric pictures add greatly to the mood of the book. (9–12 years)


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