Color Lithograph. Printed for Reading is Fundamental, Inc. in collaboration with the Mattel Foundation, 1979. 1st Edition. Fine.
Color Lithograph, 35 ½ x 23 inches. Printed for Reading is Fundamental, Inc. in collaboration with the Mattel Foundation, 1979. Signed and inscribed by the artist for his friend and contemporary children's author & illustrator James Marshall: "For Jim / With love! / Maurice Sendak / Mar. '79". Image depicts three characters from Where the Wild Things Are (1963): Max sits in his wolf costume reading Where the Wild Things Are, while two Wild Things sit behind him- one is sitting on a book, wearing a party hat, and holding cutlery above his head in preparation to eat a feast of books (including Picture Books by Randolph Caldecott, Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, and a volume of nursery rhymes), and the other is wearing a book as a hat and holding a goblet with a book topped with a cherry. In the background, a crescent moon is nose-deep in a book. Below the image is the capitalized serif text: "READING IS FUN!," along with publication information and the artists' inscription. Near fine and bright, with slight rippling and a few faint traces of light smudging to the foot of the poster. In a silver metal frame. A lovely copy with a warm inscription. This poster is inscribed to James Marshall, children's author and illustrator, best known for his 1972 story about two hippopotami, George and Martha, as well as other unique, lovable characters. Sendak and Marshall were close friends with similar interests. Although they had hoped to work collaboratively, Sendak and Marshall's joint works were all published posthumously after Marshall's death in 1992. In addition to an introduction he wrote for the collection of George and Martha stories, George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends, Sendak also created illustrations for Marshall's unpublished manuscript Swine Lake, which was later published by Harper and Collins in 1999. In addition to enjoying their friendship, Sendak revered Marshall's creative abilities, writing in his introduction to George and Martha: "Marshall is the last of a long line of masters that began in the late 19th century with the pre-eminent English illustrator, Randolph Caldecott…settled finally, splendidly, on the judicious, humane, witty and astonishingly clever head of James Marshall." In an effort to increase children's welfare and draw attention to social problems such as malnutrition, education, and child labor laws, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared 1979 the "International Year of the Child" in a proclamation signed January 1, 1979. In the same year, Maurice Sendak created an original illustration for Reading is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), which collaborated with the Mattel Foundation on specific projects relating to the International Year of the Child. While the Mattel Foundation supports children's early learning and development in a variety of fields, RIF is specifically focused on children's literacy and access to books. In 1979, RIF created the event "Reading is Fun Day," as "a time to recognize the pleasures found in books and to mark the start of summer reading" and as the high point of the organization's initiative for the International Year of the Child. On October 11, 1979, schools around the United States received new books for their students, along with Reading is Fun posters and bookmarks designed by Sendak. While the physical poster is indicative of RIF and UNESCO's projects, Sendak's original illustration is a testament to the importance of children's books and illustration. Aside from the obvious allusion to his Wild Things, Sendak references the historical importance of Randolph Caldecott and the brothers Jacob and Wilhem Grimm. While the Grimms' fairy tales "led to the birth of the science of folklore" as well as the genre of children's literature, Randolph Caldecott similarly revolutionized children's literature with his renowned and beloved illustrations, which inspired the Caldecott Medal for children's illustrators. Like Sendak's own work, the work of the Brothers Grimm and Caldecott addressed children both as critical readers and as complex individuals. In stark opposition to the tendency to label watered-down adult literature as "for children," the Grimms, Caldecott, and Sendak write and illustrate from a child's perspective without over-simplifying the subject matter. A recipient of the Caldecott Medal himself, Sendak credits Caldecott with "the beginning of the modern picture book…Words are left out-but the picture says it." The recently deceased Sendak, dubbed in his obituary by The New York Times as "the most important children's book artist of the 20th century," has left a similarly resounding mark on the world of children's literature, as one "who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche."