5 Maurice Sendak Stories You Should Read

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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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June 10, 2013 - 4:00pm
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