Over the course of his life, Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated over a dozen widely acclaimed books, and illustrated almost eighty more. Although Sendak passed away last May at age 83, Harper Collins published his final volume in the US earlier this month, due out in the UK later this month.
My Brother’s Book, regarded by Sendak as “his most important,” according to Harper Collins, was written as a tribute to Sendak’s late brother, Jack, who died eighteen years ago. According to Sendak’s close friend, playwright Tony Kushner, My Brother’s Book “Is a goodbye from him to everybody who loved him—which was a lot of people”.
Kushner continues to say that the book is “probably the only thing Maurice wrote and published that is perhaps more for adults than for children. It’s a poem that he wrote and then kept in his drawer, waiting for what he felt would be the right time to turn it into a book. It’s a very simple and also a very mysterious story. There are two brothers, Jack and Guy . . . It has the logic of a dream. I really feel that in a way, it’s a book that he intended for those of us who grew up reading Maurice and who loved his work. It’s a kind of a farewell for us.”
My Brother’s Book, largely inspired by Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, was also heavily influenced by the drawings of William Blake. It is the story of two brothers, Jack and Guy. The brothers become separated from each other when the sky’s brightest star smashes, sending brother Jack to “continents of ice” and brother Guy to the “lair of a bear.”
“‘Just lost—when I am saved!’ Jack sighed. / And his arms, as branches will, / Wound round his noble-hearted brother, / Who he loves more than his own self,” writes Sendak. “And Jack slept safe, / Enfolded in his brother’s arms. / And Guy whispered, ‘Good night / And you will dream of me.'”
Sendak left behind an impressive body of work including Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and, his most recent, Bumble-Ardy. Sendak has been described by the author Neil Gaiman as “unique, grumpy, brilliant, gay, wise, magical,” continuing to explain that Sendak “made the world better by creating art in it.”