Caldecott and Co.
Adult lovers of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (1963) and IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN (1970) will be interested in this assortment of reviews, speeches, prefaces, and interviews for the view they give of the mind of the artist. In CALDECOTT AND CO.: NOTES ON BOOKS AND PICTURES Maurice Sendak appreciates the work of other writers and illustrators and articulates his own artistic values. Along the way, he gives readers glimpses of experiences that were formative for him.
Sendak was born in 1928, the same year as one of his favorite cultural figures, Mickey Mouse. In his growing-up years as the son of Polish-American Jews in Brooklyn, he was not exposed to art books or museums; instead, his inspirations were Walt Disney films--PINOCCHIO (1940) is his favorite--Charlie Chaplin, and Winsor McCay’s comic strip, LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND. Later, William Blake became a central influence, as did the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner.
It is significant that Sendak opens this collection with an essay titled “The Shape of Music,” for musicality is one of his chief goals in illustration. In fact, he remarks that one of his unrealized ambitions was to be a composer. For some time it was his practice to sit before the record player and draw in response to music. One sequence of sketches produced thus is reproduced in the essay titled “Fantasy Sketches.” A whimsical yet slightly nightmarish portrayal of a small girl’s encounter with three vaguely threatening figures, it is reminiscent of the simple yet expressive drawings of Blake.
Sendak’s cherished goal in writing and drawing for children--an audience he respects deeply--is to communicate truthfully and to reflect life’s essential mystery. In exploring that mystery he has not hesitated to confront the fears and anxieties that he remembers experiencing as a child. For this he has been taken to task by overprotective parents. He believes fantasy to be a healthy way for children to handle fear; thus he is staunch and eloquent in defending their ability to face and tame their own “wild things.”
In CALDECOTT AND CO., Sendak reveals himself, as he does in all of his creative works, as an artist-writer who is “interested in small, quiet dilemmas of childhood: in the unspoken but deeply felt and often neglected pain of children, in the grave, uncomplaining nature of that pain or confusion, ... in the simple heroism of children and their touching efforts at concealment, as though to shield the grownups from too much pain.”