‘Where the Wild Things Are’ author Maurice Sendak dies at 83

Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are,” has died.

Sendak, who wrote and illustrated more than 50 children’s books, died Tuesday at the age of 83. He reportedly had suffered a stroke on May 4.

[JewishJournal.com profiled Sendak in 2002, read it here.]

Sendak grew up in Brooklyn the son of immigrant Polish Jews and told the Associated Press that he spent his childhood thinking about the children dying in the Holocaust in Europe. “My burden is living for those who didn’t,” he told the AP.

Sendak, who did not attend college, became a window dresser for Manhattan toy store FAO Schwarz in 1948. A self-taught illustrator, he was commissioned to illustrate the book Wonderful Farm” by Marcel Ayme in 1951, and in 1957 began writing his own books.

In 1964, the American Library Association awarded Sendak the Caldecott Medal, for “Where the Wild Things Are. He received the international Hans Christian Andersen medal for illustration in 1970, and in 1983 he won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association. President Bill Clinton awarded Sendak a National Medal of the Arts in 1996 for his body of work.

Artist-Writer Maira Kalman creates illustrated memoir

When asked why she became a painter and writer, Maira Kalman, author of “The Principles of Uncertainty,” an illustrated memoir, says, “I can’t do anything else. I clean very well. I’d like to be a maid for the Duchess of Devonshire.”

That Kalman, who will be appearing Oct. 30 at Los Angeles’ downtown Central Library for one of its ALOUD events, would seek, even somewhat jokingly, a job outside the United States is no surprise. She has lived in Rome, was born in Israel to Russian-born parents and now lives in New York. She is also a Francophile, and the bold use of color in her exquisite paintings shows a clear connection to the work of Matisse and Cezanne.

As much as she is celebrated as a painter and illustrator — her work has adorned the cover of The New Yorker and has been exhibited at the Julie Saul Gallery in Manhattan — Kalman says, “I guess I consider myself a writer.”

“Principles” is not her first book. She has previously written and illustrated a dozen children’s books and, as befitting her New Yorker pedigree, she illustrated a new version of Strunk & White’s classic, “The Elements of Style,” a text whose introduction was first published by The New Yorker.

A series of ruminations on life and death, as well as desserts, hats and walking, “Principles” conspicuously invokes Proust in its stream-of-consciousness style. But Proust is not the only literary figure who turns up in Kalman’s text. She also writes about Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Kafka; visits a friend named Molly Bloom; calls her daughter Milton, and draws a painting of an androgynous Nabokov, wearing what appears to be lipstick and women’s shoes, while reading a book on the science of butterflies and moths.

In fact, Kalman only writes about one painter: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who painted as a hobby, but of course is better remembered as a wartime statesman, orator and writer, and who won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

There are occasions when Kalman suspends her penmanship, idiosyncratic in its inconsistent use of capital letters within words, a bit harsher than the soft lines that often characterize women’s handwriting and types captions for illustrations.

She explains that she typed the chapter on February because “I didn’t want the handwriting to be lyrical, since February is such an impossible month…. It’s cold and gray and sad and rainy.”

She also sometimes includes blurry photographs of people walking, instead of her gouache-on-paper paintings. “I take hundreds of photos a week,” said this cross-disciplinary artist, who also has designed fabrics, clocks and umbrellas and is now working on an opera of her book with composer Nico Muhly.

A strain of melancholy runs through “Principles” — in the tales of the death of her husband and aunt, the Holocaust and Israel’s recent war against Hezbollah. But Kalman, who was in Israel last year during the war, seems to be heartened by the rudeness of an Israeli, who in the midst of the conflict flicks the remains of rotting cherries off his car onto her shirt. And she notes that the ice cream man is still selling his wares on the beach, and the secondhand bookstore and flea market in Tel Aviv are still filled with customers.

The final illustration of a river rippling down a falls into a pool leaves us with an image of tranquility and vibrancy. On the flip side of the page is a message from a World War II poster that still resonates today, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Maira Kalman will appear in conversation with Louise Steinman on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7 p.m. For information call (213) 228-7025.

A Super ‘Schmooze’ Move

The unforgettable superheroes of comic strips became the stuff of endless Hollywood big-budget sequels. But more often than not, they began in the fevered imaginations of struggling young Jewish guys, whose wildest dreams could be hemmed in only by four panels and black ink.

“In June 1938, Superman appeared,” Michael Chabon writes in his 2000 novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.” “He had been mailed to the offices of National Periodical Publications from Cleveland, by a couple of Jewish boys who had imbued him with the power of a hundred men, of a distant world, and of the full measure of their bespectacled adolescent hopefulness and desperation.”

It’s not an insurmountable leap from those days to these, from the pioneers like “Superman’s” Joe Shuster and Jerome Siegel to masters like Art Spiegelman, to the talented Jewish comic strip artists of today.

In that spirit, we premiere this week, “Schmooze or Lose,” our first, weekly serialized comic strip. Read more about the creators, writer Jake Novak and illustrator Michael Ciccotello at www.jewishjournal.com, and follow the further adventures of their very L.A. Jewish characters in this space each week.


Not Just for Kids Anymore

Storyopolis, the children’s art gallery and bookstore, is kicking out children next week for a grownups-only project, an Artists’ Studio Series featuring the not-so-kid-friendly art created by children’s book illustrators they work with regularly.

While appealing to the 21-and-over crowd may seem a departure for the gallery, Storyopolis owner, Matthew Abromowitz, maintains it makes perfect sense.

“What I found out when I looked into the artists was that about 60 percent of them do editorial work for magazines and newspapers, too,” Abromowitz said. He said he believed their adult-oriented art deserved a forum as well.

Thursday’s catered exhibition will feature works by “Little Gorilla” author and illustrator Ruth Lercher Bornstein. Aside from “Little Gorilla” (Clarion Books, 2000), Bornstein is best-known for her books “The Dancing Man” (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) and “Rabbit’s Good News” (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). She has been a published children’s book writer and illustrator since 1972, but the septuagenarian also paints and does collage work inspired by her Jewish heritage and her personal experiences. The aftermath of World War II, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust are some themes she’s explored in her more adult work.

Launched on July 8, the Artists’ Studio Series will feature new art every two weeks in the store’s gallery space. One future exhibition will feature the work of Gennady Spirin, the illustrator of some 30 children’s books, including Madonna’s recently released “Yakov and the Seven Thieves” (Callaway Editions).

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Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 358-2509.

Storybook Chance

The trophy-hunting editor’s instructions were explicit: before leaving, take your handbag into the restroom and snag a napkin with a vice presidential seal.

Robin Preiss Glasser, a former ballet dancer forced by injuries into a second career as an illustrator, was first intent on pocketing a job during an August 2001 trip to Washington, D.C. Simon & Schuster’s children’s unit was hiring an illustrator for “America, a Patriotic Primer,” but not without the assent of its author, Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president, Dick Cheney. Nervously quaking alongside the publishers’ emissaries at a lunch “audience” in the vice presidential residence, Glasser managed to establish a rapport with Mrs. Cheney, who consented to the pairing.

With her own mission accomplished, Glasser excused herself to clandestinely fulfill her editor’s whim. She overlooked one directive, entering the restroom empty handed. Undaunted, she returned to her host openly holding a handful of souvenir napkins and asked if she might take extras. “I love your honesty,” Mrs. Cheney told her. “Half the time, people come out with them sticking out of their pockets or their sleeves.”

Glasser, 46, a member of Newport Beach’s Reform synagogue, Temple Bat Yahm, has seen little of Cheney since. Their project, which might have taken a year under normal circumstances, after Sept. 11 became a five-month pressure cooker of 15-hour days and e-mail exchanges.

“Now, everything is miraculously unbelievable,” said Glasser. “America” has remained on The New York Times best-seller list since its publication last May. Its finely detailed ink drawings portray American history by the alphabet. C is for Constitution, D for Declaration of Independence and J for Thomas Jefferson. Only G, for God, receives a double-page spread about religious freedom.

As part of the O.C. Jewish Community Center’s book festival, Glasser on Nov. 11 will share some of her secrets in a workshop for children, who will create their own storybooks.