Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sendak, Seuss, and Silverstein: Back in the Game

Who says childhood can't go on forever? New books by beloved authors Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, and Shel Silverstein have recently been published. Of the three, only Sendak is around to see his newest book hit stores. But all three new reads have excited fans and been well received.

As with many authors in the past and present, Sendak, Seuss, and Silverstein have seen their fair share of support and disapproval, during their lives and posthumously. Sendak, for instance, met strong criticism with his 1963 classic Where The Wild Things Are. Adults roared that the picture book was too scary for youngsters, even after it won the annual Caldecott Medal in 1964. "It is always the adults we have to contend with," said Harper & Row editor, Ursula Nordstrom. "Most children under the age of 10 will react creatively to the best work of a truly creative person."

Sendak, now 83, just published Bumble-Ardy, about a nine-year-old pig who has never had a birthday party. The opening illustration shows the enthusiastic main character proudly showcasing a newspaper with the top headline: "We Read Banned Books!" Time Magazine calls Bumble-Ardy "yet another mildly subversive children's book by a writer known for pushing - if not the absolute limits, at least poking around their edges." This is Sendak's first written and illustrated book in almost 30 years.

As for Seuss and Silverstein, readers are happy to see the collection of old and dusty words back out in the world. Seuss' new The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories includes seven short stories that were first featured in magazines in 1950 and 1951, and are newly illustrated. Fans can read "Steak for Supper" and "The Strange Shirt Spot," among others.

Silverstein's Every Thing On It features 145 previously unpublished poems. The collection closes with a bittersweet couplet called "When I Am Gone," which resonates differently now that the well-known author has passed:

"When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter - someone new?
Someone better --maybe YOU"

All three authors have contributed in major ways to the scope of children's picture books. They have inspired readers and writers, and will continue to do so as their books live on. As Seuss wrote in I can Read With My Eyes Shut!, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

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