My Brother’s Book

The death of Maurice Sendak in 2012 removed from our midst one of the key figures in contemporary children's literature. As the creator of a number of strikingly inventive and frequently controversial picturebooks – we are this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild Things Are – he came to occupy a central position in any discussion of the genre. Such discussions are likely to continue with the appearance of what now, sadly, must be seen as a posthumous work, the elegant and beautifully produced My Brother's Book

Arranged on its 32 pages as a blank-verse poem of 64 lines and incorporating 13 watercolour paintings, the book is in essence a tale of two brothers, Guy and Jack, their separation and their eventual reunion. As such, it begins to take on a mythic dimension, fuelled primarily by Sendak's sense of pain, loss and anger on the death of a much loved brother of his own, Jack, in 1995. The prevailing tone is elegiac, the language poignant and mesmeric, effects enhanced by the book's wealth of literary and artistic allusion. Where the latter is concerned, the prime influence is that of the William Blake illustrations for Songs of Innocence and Experience. Literary echoes – of Keats, Dickinson and, above all, the Shakespeare of The Winter's Tale – are everywhere. It is a richly beguiling tapestry of a book, one which constitutes a memorable coda to Sendak's work. It could easily become a collector's item and is, perhaps, most likely to appeal to the adult, rather than to the young, reader.