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Beyond Wild Things: 5 Maurice Sendak Stories You Should Read

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Yslee.com

While Where the Wild Things Are is Maurice Sendak’s best known book, it’s not his only notable one. In honor of the author/illustrator's birthday—he would have been 85 today—here are five other Sendak masterpieces you should read (and after that, check out today’s awesome Google Doodle). Let the wild rumpus start!

1. In the Night Kitchen

This 1971 children’s book might be Sendak’s most controversial story: In it, a little boy named Mickey, who is disturbed by noises on a lower floor, has a dream in which all of his clothes disappear and he takes a fully naked romp through a place called the night kitchen. He’s almost baked in a pie by three bakers, makes an airplane out of dough, and slides down a giant bottle of milk—all in the nude. Libraries refused to carry the book, or drew diapers over Mickey.

“It’s one of my favorite works, and it’s a rather complex work,” Sendak told NPR’s Terry Gross in 1993. “And to have it all reduced, so to speak, to a child’s penis, is embarrassing. It’s silly. And the fact that anyone could carry on about such an issue does not speak well for our culture.”

The book was #25 on the American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000, and, in 1981, was turned into a trippy, wonderful short film. You can also listen to James Gandolfini read the story at Sendak's 80th birthday in 2008:

2. Chicken Soup with Rice

Teachers use this story—in which kids sip chicken soup with rice every month of the year, as described in rhyming verse—to teach younger students about poetry (and, probably, about how delicious chicken soup with rice is).

In 1975, Sendak collaborated with Carole King to create a half-hour musical TV program, Really Rosie, which incorporated several of Sendak’s stories from 1962’s The Nutshell Library—including Chicken Soup with Rice:

3. Outside Over There

This 1981 book—in which a young girl must rescue her baby sister, who was kidnapped by goblins—was inspired by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. In fact, one of the illustrations of the lost baby is actually a portrait of Charles Lindberg Jr. In the 2009 documentary Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak, the author talks about how the kidnapping influenced him and the book (Sendak starts discussing it at around the 20 minute mark in the video below):

4. Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue

“There once was a boy named Pierre, who only would say ‘I don’t care!’” Sullen Pierre doesn’t even care when a hungry lion comes over and threatens eats him—and then actually does. Thankfully, spending some quality time in the lion’s tummy teaches Pierre to care.

The story first appeared in 1962’s The Nutshell Library.

5. Kenny’s Window

Kenny’s Window was Sendak’s first book, published in 1956. In it, a young boy wakes up from a dream about a garden, where he would like to live forever. In the search for the garden, he learns about himself.

The Christian Science Monitor dubbed it “a classic (meaning that adults, who are the only ones to give a hoot about ‘classics,’ will like it, too—and for a long time).”

What's your favorite Maurice Sendak story?

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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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