My Brother’s Book, Maurice Sendak’s posthumously published last work, appears 50 years after Where the Wild Things Are. Through poetry and watercolours it tells a magical and wholly original story.
On a bleak midwinter’s night, the newest star in the sky smashes and separates brothers Jack and Guy. Jack gets catapulted to continents of ice where his nose freezes, while Guy wheels about the air before falling into a polar bear’s lair. In exchange for his life, Guy asks the bear a riddle about his frozen brother. Swallowed whole by the bear, he descends to an underworld. Eventually, however, he finds Jack, buried in veiled blossoms, saved by the brother “he loves more than his own self.”
Heavily influenced by William Blake (the brothers look like dancing Albions) and Samuel Palmer’s mystical green lands, the drawings are as beautiful as one would hope. It’s also a stellar lesson in the pairing of text and image; the poetry and drawings have complimentary roles, taking turns to lead. It’s a sad, dark and in some ways difficult tale about losing the one you love and finding reunion a long time later. It’s also tender and uplifting – full of verdant forests, icy drifts and snowy cliffs, and dotted throughout with multicoloured stars.
Maurice Sendak’s My Brother’s Book is out now, published by Harper Collins.