Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

05 FEBRUARY, 2013

My Brother’s Book: Maurice Sendak’s Posthumous Love Letter to the World

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“Because love is so enormous, the only thing you can think of doing is swallowing the person that you love entirely.”

For those of us who loved legendary children’s book author Maurice Sendak — famed creator of wild things, little-known illustrator of velveteen rabbits, infinitely warm heart, infinitely witty mind — his death in 2012 was one of the year’s greatest heartaches. Now, half a century after his iconic Where The Wild Things Are, comes My Brother’s Book (public library; UK) — a bittersweet posthumous farewell to the world, illustrated in vibrant, dreamsome watercolors and written in verse inspired by some of Sendak’s lifelong influences: Shakespeare, Blake, Keats, and the music of Mozart. In fact, a foreword by Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt reveals the book is based on the Bard’s “A Winter’s Tale.”

It tells the story of two brothers, Jack and Guy, torn asunder when a falling star crashes onto Earth. Though on the surface about the beloved author’s own brother Jack, who died 18 years ago, the story is also about the love of Sendak’s life and his partner of fifty years, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, whose prolonged illness and eventual loss in 2007 devastated Sendak — the character of Guy reads like a poetic fusion of Sendak and Glynn. And while the story might be a universal “love letter to those who have gone before,” as NPR’s Renee Montagne suggests in Morning Edition, it is in equal measure a private love letter to Glynn. (Sendak passed away the day before President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, but Sendak fans were quick to honor both historic moments with a bittersweet homage.)

Indeed, the theme of all-consuming love manifests viscerally in Sendak’s books. Playwright Tony Kushner, a longtime close friend of Sendak’s and one of his most heartfelt mourners, tells NPR:

There’s a lot of consuming and devouring and eating in Maurice’s books. And I think that when people play with kids, there’s a lot of fake ferocity and threats of, you know, devouring — because love is so enormous, the only thing you can think of doing is swallowing the person that you love entirely.

My Brother’s Book ends on a soul-stirring note, tender and poignant in its posthumous light:

And Jack slept safe
Enfolded in his brother’s arms
And Guy whispered ‘Good night
And you will dream of me.’

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18 JANUARY, 2013

Bob Dylan’s 1974 Classic “Forever Young,” Illustrated

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“May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true… May you stay forever young.”

On January 18, 1974, the world welcomed Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves album. On it was “Forever Young” — one of Dylan’s most beloved songs, inspired by his four-year-old son Jakob.

In 2008, Dylan asked award-winning illustrator Paul Rogers, whose stunning covers for Hemingway classics you may have encountered and admired, to apply his signature mid-century aesthetic in reimagining the lyrics of the iconic anthem as a series of illustrated vignettes for young readers. Forever Young (UK; public library) was born — a charming children’s book about a little boy who embodies the heart of the Dylan classic: adventurousness, doing the right thing, and the eternal spirit of youth.

Rogers writes in the Illustrator’s Notes, before offering a page-by-page breakdown of some of the hidden stories in the drawings:

Listening to nearly every Dylan album while creating the illustrations for this book gave me time to think about the people who inspired him and how his music has inspired so many. These drawings include images from Dylan’s life and lyrics from his songs. Some are obvious and others are meant to be a bit of a mystery.

Forever Young is at once refreshingly unexpected and somehow completely natural — the lyrics, after all, are the perfect life-advice to youngsters:

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Open Culture

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15 JANUARY, 2013

The Night Riders

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A charming and unexpected adventure story by one of today’s most extraordinary young comic artists.

Much has been written about what makes a great children’s book, but at the end of the day, it’s like porn — you know it when you see it. That’s precisely what The Night Riders (UK; public library), the picture-book debut of comic artist Matt Furie, presents — the whimsical, imaginative story of a night frog and a mouse, who encounter a cast of wild and colorful characters on a dirt bike adventure.

Images via 50 Watts

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