Illustrators to Pay Tribute to Maurice Sendak at Children’s Book Art Auction

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The Annual Children’s Book Art Silent Auction and Reception at BookExpo America to benefit the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression will feature a special tribute to Maurice Sendak, the beloved author and illustrator of classic children’s titles and a passionate defender of free speech. Sendak died on May 8, 2012, at the age of 83.

Children’s book illustrators will be donating pieces created in tribute to Sendak, who mentored and inspired many artists. A special auction area will be devoted to their works.

Bruce Degen, Ruth Sanderson, and Abigail Halpin are among the artists donating original art to the Maurice Sendak Memorial.

Degen, known for his illustrations for the Magic School Bus series and author and illustrator of his own titles including I Gotta Draw and Jamberry, has painted an image of children dressed up in costumes playing on a brownstone stoop with characters from Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are watching from the windows. While Degen and Sendak did not know one another save for a single meeting, they shared the same childhood experience of being raised in Brooklyn and both incorporated the classic brownstone stoop in their works.

“A stoop in Brooklyn is a playground, a stage, a public forum, and for a young child, an entire world,” Degen explained. “Soon enough the world expands. We leave the stoop, we go and play in the alley up the street, around the corner, out in the world. And once gone, you might never come back. I wondered if it was possible to share memories a little with Maurice Sendak. I tried to combine the characters from I Gotta Draw and The Wild Things in this drawing, as a way to get me and Sendak on the same stoop somehow.”

Sanderson’s piece, titled The King of the Wild Things, is done on scratchboard and features a portrait of Sendak along with characters from Where the Wild Things Are. Sanderson has drawn the covers for numerous titles, including books in the Nancy Drew and Bobsey Twins series, as well as classics like Heidi and Goldilocks.

“Maurice Sendak is probably the illustrator most universally revered by other illustrators working in the field today. He has been the gold standard by which all others are judged, and by which we judge ourselves,” said Sanderson. “I have enjoyed all of Maurice Sendak’s books, but Where the Wild Things Are is my favorite. Every one of us has a ‘wild thing’ within us, a dark side, which we must embrace and come to terms with, not run from. He created the perfect metaphor for this in his story, and I was trying to echo this theme in my tribute to him, and to share my appreciation and great respect for this master storyteller.”

Halpin, who is the illustrator of several titles, including The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng, The Melancholic Mermaid by Kallie George, and Bella’s Rules by Elissa Haden Guest, has created a pencil and watercolor piece in honor of Sendak. When she was 11, Halpin picked up her younger sister’s copy of Dear Mili and found the illustrations so powerful, they brought her to tears.

“I think that experience had a huge impact on me as both a reader and an illustrator,” Halpin said. “Maurice Sendak drew fun, beautiful books, but he wasn’t afraid to show the darker side of things. Life can be frightening and dangerous, but it’s also full of beauty and adventure. And I’m grateful for having learned that from his work.”

Sendak fought vigorously against censorship when In the Night Kitchen was contested for its content and removed from shelves. Proceeds from the auction will underwrite projects that support freedom of speech, including the Kids’ Right to Read Project, Banned Books Week, and other ongoing efforts to maintain First Amendment rights.

Illustrators interested in submitting artwork to honor Sendak or general artwork for the auction should contact ABFFE auction manager Kristen Gilligan Vlahos.

The auction at BEA will be held on May 29 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the River Pavilion of the Jacob Javits Center and will be hosted by bestselling authors Jack Gantos and Lauren Myracle, whose books top the list of the country’s most challenged titles.

Auction tickets are $99 and are on sale now. There is no charge for bookseller members of the ABC Children’s Group at ABA. Anyone interested in joining the ABC Group should contact Group Manager Shannon O’Connor.

In addition to the auction at BEA, there will be a seven-day online auction featuring different works of art. It will open Saturday, May 18, at 9:00 a.m. and close on Friday, May 24, at 9:00 p.m.  Details about the online auction are available here.