My Brother's Book

My Brother's Book

by Maurice Sendak
     
 

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Fifty years after Where the Wild Things Are was published comes the last book Maurice Sendak completed before his death in May 2012, My Brother's Book. With influences from Shakespeare and William Blake, Sendak pays homage to his late brother, Jack, whom he credited for his passion for writing and drawing. Pairing Sendak's poignant poetry with

Overview

Fifty years after Where the Wild Things Are was published comes the last book Maurice Sendak completed before his death in May 2012, My Brother's Book. With influences from Shakespeare and William Blake, Sendak pays homage to his late brother, Jack, whom he credited for his passion for writing and drawing. Pairing Sendak's poignant poetry with his exquisite and dramatic artwork, this book redefines what mature readers expect from Maurice Sendak while continuing the lasting legacy he created over his long, illustrious career. Sendak's tribute to his brother is an expression of both grief and love and will resonate with his lifelong fans who may have read his children's books and will be ecstatic to discover something for them now. Pulitzer Prize–winning literary critic and Shakespearean scholar Stephen Greenblatt contributes a moving introduction.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Dwight Garner
This lovely if evanescent book—it deals with the great Sendakian themes of loss, danger and flight…contains some of Sendak's richest and most incantatory language…it's a book that rewards repeat readings. Its charms are simmering and reflective ones…Sendak's drawings in My Brother's Book have lost none of their surreal, unsettling potency.
Publishers Weekly
To say "Sendak" is to conjure up busy pages of bossy children, oversize creatures, and small rooms filled with homely furniture. His final work is absent of all of these. Instead, a series of small, jewel-like watercolors shows two brothers, lithe as acrobats, floating through a desolate world of murky forests and starry skies. The brothers' names are Jack and Guy. Sendak's beloved older brother, Jack, the brother of the title, died in 1995. (The two also share their names with the homeless brothers in We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy.) In this story, Guy is Sendak's stand-in, and his journey to the underworld is an allegory of Sendak's own approaching death and the fraternal reunion for which he longed. In order to find Jack, Guy must offer himself to Death, a huge, slavering polar bear whose massive paws hold him fast. He slips into the great beast's mouth, "Diving through time so vast—sweeping past paradise!" and arrives at last in a clearing where Jack lies imprisoned, like Ariel from The Tempest, "Deep-buried in veiled blossoms." The brothers are permitted one brief exchange before their tranquil end: "Jack slept safe,/ Enfolded in his brother's arms." The scale of the work is compact, but its antecedents are noble. Guy's conversation with the bear ("Come on then! Give it quick in mine ear!") gestures toward the sweet exchange between mother and son from The Winter's Tale, but the gently teasing lines are darkened by the bear's menace and Guy's fear. The paintings, with their luminous colors and weightless forms, suggest Blake's—especially his illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost—while the taut verse recalls, in places, Emily Dickinson's. The start of Guy's riddle plays on Sendak's own Chicken Soup with Rice: "In February it will be/ My snowghost's anniversary." To read this intensely private work is to look over the artist's shoulder as he crafts his own afterworld, a place where he lies in silent embrace with those he loves forever. (Feb.)
Booklist
Distinguished by its pervasive sense of longing and informed by extraordinary art—some of Sendak’s most beautiful—My Brother’s Book is a celebration of the enduring love of two brothers. Inviting reading and rereading, Sendak’s tribute to his brother is also a final tribute to his own genius.
Booklist (starred review)
Distinguished by its pervasive sense of longing and informed by extraordinary art—some of Sendak’s most beautiful—My Brother’s Book is a celebration of the enduring love of two brothers. Inviting reading and rereading, Sendak’s tribute to his brother is also a final tribute to his own genius.
VOYA - Judith Hayn
Maurice Sendak's posthumous and final book appears as an elegy for his brother Jack, who was the inspiration for the author's illustrious career. It can also be seen as an homage for Sendak's partner of fifty years, Eugene Glynn. The book is a flight of lyrical fancy that is, at once, harsh and yet celebratory. The story definitely requires more than one reading to even begin to understand the implications of the somewhat limited plotline and the elaborate, muted drawings. Two brothers, Guy and Jack, are separated by a star crashing to earth, and both are ejected from paradise. Jack remains stuck in a frozen realm while Guy tumbles into a voracious polar bear's den. Only when Guy is finally eaten, can he rejoin his brother somewhere beyond both places. According to Stephen Greenblatt's forward, the poem alludes to Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale with its images of evil and violence that threaten to destroy Jack and Guy. These themes, of course, permeate Sendak's children's books and continue here, when the brothers are reunited in safety wrapped in each other's arms. The illustrations are as strange and eerie as the tale itself; therefore, the text is not for young fans. Even older adolescents will find little here to remind them of the pleasure Sendak gave to them in other works, but the slim volume has its power as the last gift readers will receive from this multi-talented, extraordinary, and celebrated author. Reviewer: Judith Hayn
Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
In poetry and with pictures, Sendak embraces memories of his brother. The brothers become separated, Jack to a realm of ice where his nose freezes, and Guy to Bohemia and the lair of a bear. Guy offers a riddle to the bear who wants to eat him. Guy whispers to the bear, dives into the bear's maw, and lands in a springtime world. A meadow bird's song tells Guy about a boy entwined by a wild cherry tree. Guy discovers a cherry tree with Jack rooted in it. Guy bites Jack's nose and releases him. "And his arms, as branches will, Wound round his noble-hearted brother, Who he loves more than his own self." Jack sleeps enfolded in his brother's arms. Guy whispers that Jack will dream of him. The painting shows the two brothers entwined in sleep. A forward by Stephen Greenblatt draws parallels to work by Shakespeare. This tribute to Sendak's dead brother was published posthumously by Sendak's estate; Sendak died on May 8, 2012. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
Library Journal
Published by HarperCollins's children's division but for all ages, this last book completed by the Caldecott Award winner before his death blends poetry and artwork to honor his late brother, Jack, also a children's book author. Lots of promotion, including a special teacher/librarian blog feature; the 200,000-copy first printing is no surprise.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—In Sendak's final opus, as in his life, a youth yearns to be with his beloved brother. A cosmic cataclysm has divided them, leaving Jack ensconced in "iced eternity." Guy is prepared to join him-whatever the risk. While this sounds dire, the author's synthesis of ideas from a wide span of literature and art, combined with exquisitely illuminated scenes, conveys instead a quest in which the ultimate sacrifice leads to complete fulfillment. Free-verse narration accommodates the breadth of referents. The Winter's Tale inspires a dialogue that occurs after Guy has floated into Bohemia, where his body is inserted, head first, into a bear's gigantic jaws (minus the violence in Goya's similarly posed Saturn Devouring His Children). Sendak softens the potential terror with a proposition from the protagonist: his life for an answer to a winter riddle: "In February it will be/My snowghost's anniversary/…Bear!-Tell me!-Whither?-Where?" Guy then "slipped into the [bear's] maw" and dissolved "into springtime." The bear is a complex character that uses strong language, yet his final stance suggests a capacity for gentleness. Stylistically, the three-quarter-page paintings reveal the artist's admiration for Samuel Palmer (a student of William Blake), particularly in the tender conclusion: two figures in peaceful repose under a leaf-drenched landscape, streams of dazzling watercolor erupting before a glow that warms the once-frozen setting. The frontispiece version of this scene indicates that the story is "…two brothers, dreaming the same dream." One last example of Sendak's daring, poignant, mysterious storytelling.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
In his last finished work, Sendak tips a cap to intellectual and artistic influences, but he puts his own unique stamp on a lyrical flight that looks toward a reunion with Jack, his long-dead brother. As vivid and surreal as a dream, the narrative begins with the separation of Jack—catapulted to "continents of ice" where "[h]is poor nose froze"—and Guy, who lands "[o]n soft Bohemia" to be consumed by a hulking bear after posing his brother's fate as a "sad riddle." "Diving through time so vast—sweeping past paradise," Guy emerges at last into a mystical springtime where he finds Jack entwined in roots and "veiled blossoms." Guy bites Jack's nose "to be sure" and hearing his brother's sighed "Just lost—when I am saved!" enfolds him tenderly, whispering "Good night / And you will dream of me." In the small, loosely brushed paintings on each facing page, he depicts the brothers, reminiscent of William Blake's diaphanously gowned figures. Befitting the surreal textual imagery, they float in twisted postures amid stars and organic billows of moonlit clouds and landscape or lie together beneath canopies of greenery. The literary references (to Shakespeare, Keats, Emily Dickinson and others) may escape many, but they are secondary to the book's impact. The sharply felt humor and yearning that infuse both the verbal and visual narratives will kindle profound emotional responses in hearts of any age. (introduction by Stephen Greenblatt) (Illustrated poem. All ages)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062234896
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/05/2013
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
602,336
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
AD940L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

In addition to Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak's books include Kenny's Window, Very Far Away, The Sign on Rosie's Door, Nutshell Library (consisting of Chicken Soup with Rice, Alligators All Around, One Was Johnny, and Pierre), Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life, In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, and Bumble-Ardy.

He received the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are; the 1970 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration; the 1983 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, given by the American Library Association in recognition of his entire body of work; and a 1996 National Medal of Arts in recognition of his contribution to the arts in America. In 2003, he received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children's literature established by the Swedish government.

In addition to Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak's books include Kenny's Window, Very Far Away, The Sign on Rosie's Door, Nutshell Library (consisting of Chicken Soup with Rice, Alligators All Around, One Was Johnny, and Pierre), Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life, In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, and Bumble-Ardy.

He received the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are; the 1970 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration; the 1983 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, given by the American Library Association in recognition of his entire body of work; and a 1996 National Medal of Arts in recognition of his contribution to the arts in America. In 2003, he received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children's literature established by the Swedish government.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Ridgefield, Connecticut
Date of Birth:
June 10, 1928
Place of Birth:
Brooklyn, New York
Education:
Art Students' League

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