Review of Making Mischief, by Gregory Maguire

Making Mischief

A Maurice Sendak Appreciation

by Gregory Maguire

William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2009. 200 pages.
Starred Review.

Lavishly illustrated with Maurice Sendak’s creations, Making Mischief is based on a symposium on Maurice Sendak’s work which Gregory Maguire presented in 2003. He goes into far more depth than I expected, and gives the reader a whole new appreciation of Maurice Sendak as an artist.

The approach Gregory Maguire takes is much more interesting than a simple chronological summary of Sendak’s work. He begins by discussing Maurice Sendak’s artistic influences, with fascinating examples from his artwork.

Next, he looks at four motifs that appear throughout Sendak’s work: Flying, reading, children, and other monsters. He approaches Sendak’s life work “as if it were a single creative act,” looking at it as a whole.

Then he looks at some unifying factors, such as the way his paintings so often look like a scene on a stage, with a traveling ensemble of characters.

I especially enjoyed the last two chapters. In Chapter Four, he shows us his personal answers to the following question:

“Suppose all of Sendak’s artwork were hanging in a museum on the corner, and the building caught on fire. You have the chance to save only ten pieces of artwork for posterity. Which ten do you save, dear?”

The final chapter, Chapter Five, I found especially delightful. He presents the complete text of Where the Wild Things Are, illustrated with wholly different illustrations from Maurice Sendak’s work, including eleven different images for the phrase, “and it was still hot.” Almost as much fun as a wild rumpus!

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