So, I thought I’d start this blog off with a post about Maurice Sendak who died last month. It goes without saying that he was bloody marvellous and it’s a great loss to the world etc. But scanning through the obituaries you’d be mistaken for thinking he only produced two books, Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, when in fact there were hundreds of them. So I thought I’d flag up a little gem that I rediscovered in the potting shed a few months ago: The Big Green Book.
Written by the also great Robert Graves – not an author best known for his children’s books, The Big Green Book is a deliciously transgressive story of a spoilt little lad who decides he’s had enough of his annoying aunt and uncle, and more annoying rabbit bothering dog.
Seeking refuge from one of their interminable walks he takes refuge in the attic where he finds the Big Green Book. It’s packed with useful spells including one which turns him into a whiskery old man. Transformed, he takes his revenge on his guardians who are only really guilty only of being a little bit dull.
If some of the locations in the book appear familiar to Japanese readers it’s because Sendak based them on various real life locations made famous by Beatrix Potter, as this fascinating article from the V&A shows. Pictured above are Sendak’s versions of the Potting Shed at Bedwell Lodgeas featured in Peter Rabbit and below the unmistakable front porch of Potter’s home at Hilltop. Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked writes, ‘No other children’s book artist has had the nerve to borrow with the abandon and playfulness of Sendak. His use of borrowed imagery is vigorous, transforming, never slavish.’
I absolutely love this kind of effortless meta-textual stuff. If you’ve never ventured beyond Wild Things etc, The Big Green Book is a great place to start exploring Sendak’s world.