3 Maurice Sendak Books You Probably Don't Know About, But Should

Maurice Sendak is well known for his masterpieces of children’s literature, all featuring his edgy voice and playfully precise drawing style. But before he hit the big time, Maurice Sendak worked mostly as an illustrator, collaborating with authors on some truly incredible books that are virtually unknown today. If your kids are fans of “Where The Wild Things Are” or “In the Night Kitchen“, check out what Maurice Sendak was doing in his early career. Bonus: Sendak worked a lot with female authors, which I always appreciate, especially when my daughter asks me to “pick a book that a girl made” from her bookshelf. We have a pretty classics-heavy collection,which means, sadly, that’s not always as easy as I would like!

Though you can definitely see the seeds of the style that made Maurice Sendak famous, it’s fun to see how much variation there was in his work in these early projects. They are all quite different from an illustration perspective, which gives them each a unique feel, and may give you new respect for Maurice Sendak’s unique artistic vision.

1. I Want To Paint My Bathroom Blue

Pictures: Maurice Sendak

Words: Ruth Krauss

This dreamy book, written by once popular and currently under-appreciated children’s book author Ruth Krauss, is a fantasy of kid power with awareness of adult boundaries. Sendak’s watery watercolors add to the poetry.

2. How Little Lori Visited Times Square

Pictures: Maurice Sendak

Words: Amos Vogel

A small boy decides to go to Times Square and takes matters into his own hands, attempting various means of transport with limited success. The book has an ambiguous ending which is uncharacteristic of modern media for kids. This was my son’s favorite book for a long time. It has all the freedom of Where the Wild Things Are…without the monsters.

3. Mr. Rabbit and The Lovely Present

Pictures: Maurice Sendak

Words: Charlotte Zolotow

This was the one that really impressed me from an illustration standpoint. Sendak’s watercolors here are remarkably beautiful. The look of this book really appeals to my kids, as does the fantastical story about a girl who encounters a talking, bipedal rabbit in a dappled forest. Though the look is much more “pretty” than Sendak’s own books, it’s easy to see the beginnings of Max and Sendak’s later characters in this little girl’s squat physique and facial expressions.

All these books have been recently reissued and are available on Amazon. You may also be able to find used copies inexpensively online…I saw a few for $1.

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