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Well, as everyone knows, Maurice Sendak is no more - at least in physical form. Two years ago I wrote a column for The Critical Masses about three Sendak books which are - perhaps - not as well known as some of his others. I thought I would reproduce them here, one at a time, beginning with one of my absolute favorite picture books of all time, Outside Over There (1981).
Illustrated by K.Y. Craft
Oil over watercolor
Text type is 14-point Adobe Bernhard Modern with 10-point leading
Book design by Mahlon F. Craft
While the author looked to Nathaniel Hawthorne's retelling of the ancient Greek myth for inspiration, the illustrator has been influenced by other sources.
So writes the illustrator, employing the third person in a brief note at the onset of this beautiful edition of the classic myth, Kinuko Craft, who has surely bought her way into heaven with these stunning, elegant paintings which seem like artifacts from long ago, when illustrating classic myths was a task on par with designing castles and painting the ceiling of chapels.
"According to some scholars, the Phyrgian King Midas on whom our present-day version of the myth may have been based appears to have lived in the 8th century B.C.," she continues. "I chose to set the main stage for my paintings somewhere in the Middle Ages, through, to bring the take just a bit closer to our own century." But lest we think she wantonly inverted the myth for her own pleasure, she also informs us that "geometric motifs taken from artifacts discovered in the archaeological dig [of the burial site thought to be King Midas in Anatolia] were incorporated into some of the scenes." Well, I daresay that's the least she could do!
There are many stunning illustrations - the glowing visage of the angelic visitor appearing to Midas in his gold-filled dungeon. At first glance, it could be mistaken for the archangel appearing to certain shepherds. My favorite is the two-page wordless spread of Midas running maniacally down the winding staircase of his palace, everything behind him shining golden, as though the "golden touch" is a living virus spreading out - soon to encompass everything and everyone.
"Well, King Midas, are you not the happiest of men?"
"Oh, no! I am the most miserable of men!"
Part of the Greek Mythology series.
Links: K.Y. Craft, Charlotte Craft, Harper Collins