May 8, 2012, the children’s book world lost an honored artist/author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak. Most people remember his book Where the Wild Things Are, but Sendak was by no means a one-hit wonder. He wrote and/or illustrated dozens of children’s books, so today, I’m mentioning a few of my favorites by the master from his 1962 collection, “The Nutshell Library”.

Pierre: a cautionary tale in five chapters and a prologue is a favorite from my childhood. Pierre is so apathetic that he answers “I don’t care,” in any situation, even when a lion asks, “Then I’ll eat you, if I may.” Don’t worry, Pierre is fine when he’s shaken out of the lion by the doctor, and his close call with death has made him realize that he does care after all.

Alligators All Around is Sendak’s clever, alliterative alphabet book. It is short and snappy enough to keep the interest of the littlest ones, but the humorous art is sly enough for older kids as well:
“A: alligators all around
B: bursting balloons
C: catching colds
D: doing dishes”
It’s a great writing prompt for a whole class or small group activity, writing two word alliterative phrases for each letter of the alphabet, choosing an A animal as the character to tie all the letters together.

“Whoopy once
whoopy twice
whoopy chicken soup
with rice.”
I adore Chicken Soup with Rice: a book of months. I visited a first grade classroom where the teacher had a poster for each month with the verse by Sendak for children to illustrate. Every month has the repetition of (something) once, (something) twice, (something) chicken soup with rice, so even emerging readers can chime in with confidence.

The “Nutshell Library” books were set to music by Carole King. You can find the songs on her cd “Really Rosie”, and you can find the animated television special made in 1975 on VHS if you roll old school. I love how kids instantly spot the similarities of Pierre and the boy on the cover of Chicken Soup with Rice to Max from Where the Wild Things Are. Share some Sendak books with your kids and talk about the similarities and differences in the art and in the plots. Play the music from “Really Rosie” and let your students sing the “Nutshell Library” books so your students can be, to paraphrase Alligators All Around, “S: singing Sendak!”

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