“Goodnight stars, Goodnight air, Goodnight, noises everywhere.” Concluding Goodnight Moon, those hushed, quietly famous last words promise a peaceful end of the day for sleepy, stressed parents, offering comforting reassurance to caregivers that all’s right in their child’s world, a neatly wrapped Amen. On the other hand, those same youngsters were probably clamoring for another round of Where the Wild Things Are, where a defiant Max has a tantrum and then proceeds to travel to his own, more unsettling fantasies.

When the book was released, many psychologists criticized the glorification of Max’s behavior, not to mention their fear of traumatizing images. Unapologetic, the author Maurice Sendak was firm. “I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence… I am trying to draw the way children feel.” Basically self-taught, Sendak got his start looking outside the windows of his Brooklyn home, drawing kids at play, and those sketchbooks became the foundation of his later work. Now, in conjunction with an exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art, Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak, 248 pages of unpublished sketches, storyboards and paintings shed light on how he was able to draw the wild and wonderful with such perception. Past collaborators like filmmaker Spike Jonze and choreographer Twyla Tharp are just a couple of contributors who share an appreciation for the artist who wrote and illustrated over 150 books over his sixty-year career. An art collector and enthusiast of Mozart, Shakespeare, and Melville, he also understood cozy comforts, wise (and warm) enough to write those immortal words, “Happy once, happy twice, happy chicken soup with rice.” —GV

Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak is published by Delmonico Books.

Review originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine.