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Celebrate Maurice Sendak

Your students might not know exactly who Maurice Sendak is, but it’s more than likely that they’re familiar with the legacy he’s left behind. Maurice Sendak is the author of the much beloved 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. This bizarre and enchanting tale of the mischievous boy Max who imagines that he is king of the Wild Things has sold over 20 million copies to date. The story is known for the way it conveys important themes of imagination, heroism and courage into a whimsical fairytale, as well as for the dark but fascinating illustrations of the lovable monsters.

Most children know Where the Wild Things Are, and if they don’t, introducing this timeless story to your younger students is a great way of inspiring their imaginations and bringing a new element to the classroom. Sadly, Maurice Sendak passed away on May 8, 2012, but there is no better way to honor his contribution to literature than by celebrating his birthday on June 10.

The following are five fun ways to celebrate Maurice Sendak’s birthday.

1. Read Where the Wild Things Are

Whether or not your students have read it before, they’re likely to enjoy reading it again. Gathering the class together and reading to them is a great way to share this story with younger students. If you have access to multiple copies, you can also have them take turn reading passages to practice their literacy skills. You can discuss the book as a group to talk about some of the important themes. Book reports are also a way to make students engage with the book, but they don’t have to be boring: Have your students write an alternative ending or discuss their favorite character.

2. Watch the Movie

Watching the 2009 film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are can also be educational and fun. The movie adds some elements that aren’t in the book, but the visual effects are faithful to Maurice Sendak’s illustrations, so it’s exciting to watch the pictures come alive. You can watch the movie as a treat for your class or as an opportunity to stimulate further discussion about the themes or the differences between the film and the book.

3.Create Wild Things

Where the Wild Things Are is known as much for its illustrations as its story. Maurice Sendak’s drawings of the Wild Things were initially controversial because of how bizarre and menacing some of them look, but over time, the monsters grew to become lovable and familiar characters. The way the Wild Things look is key to the story, and students can look to them as an example of the power of imagination. Have your students draw their own creatures inspired by the creativity of Maurice Sendak, so they can explore their own fantasies. They can create a story about their Wild Thing and share it with their classmates. When they’re all done, you can hang the drawings and stories up and transform your classroom into the Land of the Wild Things!

4. Reenact the Story

Students who love the story can connect with it in a more meaningful way if they are allowed to participate in it. You can divide students into groups and have them reenact particular scenes from the book or even create their own scene based on the characters. If you have the supplies, they can create props and visual components. Once each group has put together their skit, they can perform it in front of the class for everyone to enjoy.

5. Read Other Works by Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak’s career spanned 50 years, and though Where the Wild Things Are is his most famous work, there is a vast array of other works he has either authored or contributed to. He has been an illustrator of dozens of cartoons and children’s books, but he has also authored numerous books. Three of his other well-known books are In the Night Kitchen (1970), Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life (1967) and Outside Over There (1981).