|Casper Journal Articles
From the Natrona County Public Library
Where the Wild Things Are
By Kate Mutch, Public Services Librarian
September 7, 2011
Who doesn’t remember Max and his wild rumpus in the classic book “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak? With over 100 picture books to his name, Sendak’s illustrations for books like “In the Night Kitchen” and the “Little Bear” series have delighted generations of children.
But Sendak’s art is not just for kids. The traveling exhibit “In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak” explores the influence of Jewish culture and history on Sendak’s work and shows grown-up themes woven into his stories and artwork.
The exhibit features illustrations of ferocious creatures, curious children and vibrant neighborhoods. Connections are revealed between Sendak’s iconic works and his childhood, family, Jewish heritage, and the popular culture of the time.
At the core of Sendak’s work is how children get through the day, how they cope with emotional isolation and their extraordinary heroism. His work is characterized by the constant push and pull between horror and beauty, acknowledging that many “wild things” ultimately remain untamed.
The exhibit will be at the Natrona County Public Library now through October 14. “In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak” was organized by the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia, and developed by Nextbook, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Jewish literature, culture, and ideas, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office.
The national tour of the exhibit has been made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, and an anonymous donor, with additional support from “Tablet Magazine: A New Read on Jewish Life.”
Raised in Brooklyn in the 1930s by Polish immigrant parents, Sendak became fascinated with the worn black-and-white photographs of his European relatives. Although his childhood was typically American in many ways, the threads of Jewish family, geography, and culture can be seen in his imaginative works, through which Sendak delved deeply into his family history and Jewish identity.
He explored topics such as immigration, urban life, the New World versus the Old World, nostalgia, and the legacy of the Holocaust, weaving these seemingly adult themes into imaginative and playful illustrations.
Much of Sendak’s artwork was an attempt to process the trauma of the Holocaust during which many of his family members were lost. His life’s work was to retrieve those lost Jewish souls and return them to the living through his art.
The library will present several programs to enhance the exhibit:
- An opening reception will be held Thursday, September 8 at 6:30 p.m., featuring Jewish folktales shared by storyteller Cherie Karo Schwartz.
- Holocaust survivor Jack Adler will speak at the library Monday, September 12 at 6:30 pm. Jack and his family were sent to Auschwitz/Birkenau; he was the only surviving member of his family.
- Casper College instructor Lance Jones will present “Understanding the Holocaust” Wednesday, September 14 at 6:30p.m., illuminating historical points related to Jack Adler’s story.
Whether you are familiar with Sendak’s work or this is your first introduction, the exhibit provides the rare opportunity to see how family and world events impacted Sendak’s art. The exhibit is open during regular library hours.
Beginning September 6, new fall hours at the main library will be: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. Branch hours will remain the same. Call 577-READ for more information.
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