Even Curmudgeons Love Curs

cabana as max the wild thing for halloweenOn Christmas day, my family and I visited the Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco, where they were having a Maurice Sendak exhibit. We love Sendak's work and totally enjoyed the recent Wild Things movie by Spike Jonze. Cabana couldn't go to the museum with us since she was already career changed--but she was Max for Halloween!

book cover illustration for outside over thereSendak had an unhappy childhood. Having been sickly as a young child, for the rest of his life, Sendak seemed to see the world as a scary place--which I think shows in his illustrations. That subtle eeriness is what makes Sendak's work so recognizable.photo of placard from museum with photo of sendak and his german shepherd, text says In this preliminary drawing, Ida returns with her baby sister, having rescued her from the goblin lair.  the german shepherd depicted here, who watched over the baby earlier in the book and failed to notice the goblins sneaking around, is modeled on Sendak's own dog Agamemnon

We also watched a documentary about Sendak, and it's clear that although he was a brilliant artist, he's also surly and reclusive. Wary and misunderstood, he doesn't let many people "in". Yet this man has loved dogs all his life. Though prickly with humans, he could let his guard down with these precious animals. In the watercolor of the golden retriever below, there's none of that charactistic eeriness that shows up in so many of his illustrations.

small watercolor painting of a smiling golden retrieverDogs made their way into many of Sendak's stories, some of which are based on his own dogs. Sometimes, they're heroic, while other times, they're naughty. Kind of like in real life!

sign from museum that talks about sendak's love for dogs, text says, Throughout his career, Sendak has included animal characters in his stories, in a variety of roles:  sometimes helping his children characters; sometimes working against them; and often representing the wild side of childhood.  Sendak has a particular love for dogs and often writes them into his books. On a personal level, the loyalty and playfulness of his own pets support Sendak during his darkest periods and most challenging projects. In his work, dogs are an expression of family, representing domesticity and a sense of kinship that many of his children characters lack in their own families but find with these furry friends. Although I liked dogs as a kid, I never paid any attention to them as an adult. They were completely off my radar--until about 2 years ago, when I first got the notion to become a puppy raiser. Since Cabana came into our lives, I now notice every dog passing by, whether I'm walking, driving, or shopping. I look at the breed, how it's walking on leash, and sometimes wonder if the dog is being trained for work. I'll watch any movie or read any book that has to do with a dog. It's crazy! But even crazier is that I didn't understand the beauty and power of having a dog in the family until so recently. Dogs bring out the best in all of us--even us curmudgeons. ;)

Katrin  – (January 13, 2010 at 8:23 AM)  

WOW that is really cool info to know. Thanks for passing it along! And yes I agree- dogs bring out the best in us.

Samantha  – (January 13, 2010 at 8:32 AM)  

Love Cabana's hat!!! Great info and pix you have about Maurice Sendak - and sad that he had such a scary kidhood. It's quite amazing when a person can utilize such emotions that are upwelled from the past to create works such as he did - our son loved to have me read Sendak to him before bed!!! Thanks for sharing...
Hugs xo
Sammie's ma

Alphini's Puppy Raiser  – (January 13, 2010 at 8:32 AM)  

Mimi, I seriously doubt that you are really a curmudgeon! :-) So interesting about Sendak. Dogs are definitely good for the soul! :-)

Ms. ~K  – (January 13, 2010 at 12:26 PM)  

As a retired first grade teacher, Sendak has always been one of my favorite authors...
Cabana makes a great Max!!
Hugs and belly rubs,
~K

Becky  – (January 13, 2010 at 7:05 PM)  

Oh Cabana you are such a cute Max! Interesting read too - thanks for sharing. Agree - dogs bring out the best in us.

Kari in WeHo  – (January 13, 2010 at 9:20 PM)  

I wish I had thought of that as a Halloween costume!

Megan, Fullerton and Paris  – (January 14, 2010 at 9:13 AM)  

That's funny that pictures of Adeline came up when you googled Cabana. :D I did chuckle a bit when you posted your pink nose post and it made me think of the one I did way back when. . . :D Glad you enjoyed the posts from the past.

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