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To say "Sendak" is to conjure up busy pages of bossy children, oversize creatures, and small rooms filled with homely furniture. His final work is absent of all of these. Instead, a series of small, jewel-like watercolors shows two brothers, lithe as acrobats, floating through a desolate world of murky forests and starry skies. The brothers' names are Jack and Guy. Sendak's beloved older brother, Jack, the brother of the title, died in 1995. (The two also share their names with the homeless brothers in We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy.) In this story, Guy is Sendak's stand-in, and his journey to the underworld is an allegory of Sendak's own approaching death and the fraternal reunion for which he longed. In order to find Jack, Guy must offer himself to Death, a huge, slavering polar bear whose massive paws hold him fast. He slips into the great beast's mouth, "Diving through time so vast-sweeping past paradise!" and arrives at last in a clearing where Jack lies imprisoned, like Ariel from The Tempest, "Deep-buried in veiled blossoms." The brothers are permitted one brief exchange before their tranquil end: "Jack slept safe,/ Enfolded in his brother's arms." The scale of the work is compact, but its antecedents are noble. Guy's conversation with the bear ("Come on then! Give it quick in mine ear!") gestures toward the sweet exchange between mother and son from The Winter's Tale, but the gently teasing lines are darkened by the bear's menace and Guy's fear. The paintings, with their luminous colors and weightless forms, suggest Blake's-especially his illustrations for Milton's Paradise Lost-while the taut verse recalls, in places, Emily Dickinson's. The start of Guy's riddle plays on Sendak's own Chicken Soup with Rice: "In February it will be/ My snowghost's anniversary." To read this intensely private work is to look over the artist's shoulder as he crafts his own afterworld, a place where he lies in silent embrace with those he loves forever. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* In his foreword, Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt describes Sendak's last, posthumously published book as something rich and strange. And so it is. Combining lushly beautiful art in the manner of Blake and Fuseli with a text reconfigured from Shakespeare's Winter's Tale, Sendak's richly imagined book offers a magical and mysterious tribute to his beloved older brother, Jack, who died in 1995. The story follows the respective plights of two brothers, Jack and Guy, who are seemingly separated by a new star's smashing into the earth. Jack is catapulted into a continent of ice and stuck fast in water like a stone. Guy, meanwhile, is plunged into the dangerous lair of a bear that threatens to consume him. Will the brothers survive to be reunited in love and peace? Distinguished by its pervasive sense of longing and informed by extraordinary art some of Sendak's most beautiful My Brother's Book is a celebration of the enduring love of two brothers. One's first impulse is to marvel at the exquisite art and then to turn to the Shakespearean text to understand how the two seemingly disparate elements harmonize. Inviting reading and rereading, Sendak's tribute to his brother is also a final tribute to his own genius. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Is there a children's author whose name has been more enduring and recognizable than the late Sendak's?--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 7 Up-In Sendak's final opus, as in his life, a youth yearns to be with his beloved brother. A cosmic cataclysm has divided them, leaving Jack ensconced in "iced eternity." Guy is prepared to join him-whatever the risk. While this sounds dire, the author's synthesis of ideas from a wide span of literature and art, combined with exquisitely illuminated scenes, conveys instead a quest in which the ultimate sacrifice leads to complete fulfillment. Free-verse narration accommodates the breadth of referents. The Winter's Tale inspires a dialogue that occurs after Guy has floated into Bohemia, where his body is inserted, head first, into a bear's gigantic jaws (minus the violence in Goya's similarly posed Saturn Devouring His Children). Sendak softens the potential terror with a proposition from the protagonist: his life for an answer to a winter riddle: "In February it will be/My snowghost's anniversary/.Bear!-Tell me!-Whither?-Where?" Guy then "slipped into the [bear's] maw" and dissolved "into springtime." The bear is a complex character that uses strong language, yet his final stance suggests a capacity for gentleness. Stylistically, the three-quarter-page paintings reveal the artist's admiration for Samuel Palmer (a student of William Blake), particularly in the tender conclusion: two figures in peaceful repose under a leaf-drenched landscape, streams of dazzling watercolor erupting before a glow that warms the once-frozen setting. The frontispiece version of this scene indicates that the story is ".two brothers, dreaming the same dream." One last example of Sendak's daring, poignant, mysterious storytelling.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.