Thursday, May 31, 2012

Maurice Sendak and Leo Dillon : a tribute

Two notable illustrators, both Caldecott award winners, passed away this month. One is also a writer, and almost a household name for those who know their picture books. Maurice Sendak, who passed away on 8th May 2012 at the age of 83 and Leo Dillon who passed away yesterday, 30th May 2012 at the age of 79..

Do a google-search for Maurice Sendak, and the first few links thrown up (other than the recent obits) will be for his Caldecott winner book Where the Wild Things Are (1963) This book, along with In the Night Kitchen (1970) and Outside Over There (1981), formed a sort of trilogy. I say a 'sort of trilogy' because they do not comprise parts of a contiguous story. Authored and illustrated by him.

All of these can be read aloud to children as young as 3 years old, and older. The kind of classics that can be read over and over again, well into adulthood and beyond, and we can gain at every reading. They deal with the dark side of little children, the side that is real, but which we, as a society, are often in denial about. Or if we do recognise it, we can only deal it by doling out punishment. When all it takes is a little bit of validation from a parent, and treating it as the grey area that it is. After all, all human beings have some good along with some bad. Grown-ups are just that much more able to keep it in check.

Published by HarperTrophy 
 Max is your regular, mischievous little boy, with an active imagination, and a penchant for getting into trouble. Sent one day to his room without any supper. A room that magically transformed into a forest- where the wild things were! Giving Max a chance to work off his angry feelings. A chance to send these wild things off to bed without there supper. Letting him come back to the reality of the safety of his room and a hot supper; the parent too has had a chance to cool off!

Sounds familiar? The book has been made into a lovely movie, that reads between the lines of the very spare text, and gives us the back story on Max. Watched it recently on DVD, and is worth every rupee spent on it!

Published by Red Fox books
Random House
I was reminded of the chapter in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' as I read this one. The way, we are told, of handling the boggart that frightens you, is to laugh at it, to recognise the ridiculous in it - which changes it to something we can have control over.

Children are characteristically afraid of the dark, and of things that go 'bump' in the night. In this story, we see Mickey coming face-to-face with his fears - of the dark, and of being mixed into the batter for tomorrow's cake and baked - and his gaining of an upper hand. Happens a lot of time, doesn't it? Maybe a story that the child has read/ has been read to, or something that it has seen or heard, gets into the dark recesses of the subconscious, only to surface in a dream. Happens to us adults too!

Published by Red Fox books
Random House 
Which first-born child hasn't wished the next-born away? There is no doubting the bond between siblings, but there is always sibling rivalry. Ask any parent of more than one child.

Ida has been asked to keep an eye on her little sister while her mother is a little busy. Something that she does because she has to do.

"Ida played her wonder horn to rock the baby still - but never watched."

The goblins come in and snatch the baby away. So now Ida goes to the rescue. She goes all the way outside over there, where the goblins have taken her baby sister away, tricks the goblins, and gets the baby back home.

Here is a review of another notable book by him at Saffrontree.


Our other Caldecott winner is Leo Dillon, who is one half of a team with his illustrator wife, Diane Dillon. Their illustrations are larger than life, with a lot of detail, rooted in African culture. The couple is the only recipient of the award two years in a row.

The first was awarded in 1976 for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears,  reviewed here on Saffrontree by Tharini. (Do click on the link to read). We loved this tale from West African folklore, which goes on and on from one animal to another, in the fashion of a neverending tale, coming full circle finally to the mosquito.

Their book that won the Caldecott the following year, 1977, is
Ashanti to Zulu : African Traditions.
Written by Margaret Musgrove
Published by Puffin Pied Piper
Ages: 8+

An alphabet book with a difference - for older children who already know their alphabet. The book takes one African tribe for each alphabet, and gives us a peek into their culture, traditions, lifestyle and history. With vibrant, richly detailed illustrations.

As we read through the book, we realise how varied life is for people fairly close in geography, and yet human beings are so much the same all over the world.

Two more books illustrated by the couple have been reviewed on Saffrontree here and here. Do hop over and read.

Pics courtesy flipkart. Crossposted here.       


Choxbox said...

Excellent quality reviews S. You should so take up a doctorate in children's literature.

And Outside Over There did not work for younger child. Too distraught at the goblins taking child in the book away. But that was some years ago, should try again now.

Choxbox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheela said...

Thank you for the lovely tribute to two greats, Sandhya!

Like Choxie, Outside Over There did not work for the then 6-yr-old child at home, but, will pull it from the bookshelf and read again soon.

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