Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Maurice Sendak

So there goes another of the greats then. Unlike Ronald Searle, though, I never grew up with Sendak. I grew up with the likes of Richard Scarry and the much underrated Victor Ambrus. Like Dr Seuss or Edward Gorey he was a writer and artist I discovered in later life. But unlike Gorey he never quite felt like a missing piece of my personal make up that I'd been waiting to find, but that's probably because of the crazy diversity of Gorey's art and that strange *something* that his pictures had that Sendak didn't.That's not to say anything bad about Sendak because how could you really say anything bad? In the field of children's books he's basically unparallelled - the books not only look beautiful, but they're also gorgeously written. A Sendak book is a thing to treasure and rediscover again and again. There's so much to discover on each reading of one of his books.

So I feel a little guilty that the first thing I thought of when I heard his death was nothing to do with Sendak himself... but James Marshall. I picked up my first "George and Martha" book on something of a whim because I'd read something of Sendak's praises of his friend's books (and they were collaborators too!). This was when I was starting to build up a proper picture book collection about three years ago. And while many of those books - including Sendak's - were brilliant, beautiful and funny nothing quite had the same effect that "George and Martha" had. They are among the funniest, wittiest, silliest and warmest books ever written. The one with George's gross story at dinner time is one of the apexes in the history of mankind, and I am not saying this for hyperbolic effect. It is simple, funny and endlessly witty. And truly speaks to you about the nature of friendship. So, no offence Mr Sendak but while I'll treasure your work for so many years to come, I'll treasure you most for introducing me to those two great hippo friends the most...

Coming next: a precursor to "Cosmo Mandinsky" - the juvenilia of the very earliest incarnation of the Common Swings. Yes... bad musical puns a go go as we look back at what I was doing way back in 1999....

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