Program ideas for adults and young adults

In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak
Site Support Notebook

Program formats:

  • Host an exhibit “teaser” event one to two months before the exhibit arrives to generate interest—possible events include lectures, films and readings from Sendak’s works, including Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen.
  • Sponsor a One Book, One Community program during the exhibit using one of Sendak’s popular books - the program can be presented as a family program, where adults, young adults and children are encouraged to read the book together.
  • Create displays or related exhibits of photos, oral histories and other display items documenting immigration in your community.
  • Find people in your community who have family stories, diaries, and/or artifacts documenting the Jewish experience locally or elsewhere in the US. Create related exhibits or ask them to speak at a program. Tape their stories.
  • Bring in professional storytellers to read one or more of Sendak’s works – such as Where the Wild Things Are or Outside Over There – along with European folktales of goblins, changelings and other fantastical creatures, to illustrate some of Sendak’s inspiration when creating his works.
  • Sponsor a book discussion group, using books from the lists in the resources section or others you think will be well received.
  • Invite local artists to visit your library and host a discussion on Sendak’s artwork – its influences, its place in American art history, and its legacy.
  • Present a music program featuring Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern and other Jewish songwriters from the era of Sendak’s childhood and early adulthood (1930s – 1950s).
  • Host a film screening of the 2009 Spike Jonze adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, along with a discussion of the film.
  • Create intergenerational programs for community members to discuss and learn about: Jewish history and culture, or how Sendak bridged two worlds with his artwork and stories, or another related topic.
  • Create a public forum for discussion by making library space available for written exhibition feedback. For example, pose a question to library visitors and make a bulletin board/wall space available for public feedback and comments, or encourage visitors to contribute their comments in an exhibit guestbook. 

Program topics:

  • Compare Sendak’s more fantastical works, such as Outside Over There or Where the Wild Things Are with that of the brothers Grimm and other European folklorists – how are the goblins and other creatures similar?  How did they each relate to popular culture at the time?  What were the undertones?
  • Create a program which considers the role of parents (especially mothers) and family in Sendak’s works – often portrayed as strange, cross, even monstrous, yet ultimately comforting for the children protagonists.
  • Explore Eastern European shtetl life through letters, film, photographs and other resources.
  • Further explore Sendak’s childhood, political beliefs and/or fascination with popular culture and current events, and how they might have inspired his whimsical artwork and stories.
  • Look at the contribution of Jewish Americans to our society, exploring biographies, films, diaries and other materials for inspiration.  Bring in a local scholar to discuss particular individuals in depth, especially those that had an influence in your library’s community.
  • Host a discussion on children and their resiliency throughout history.  Potential topics to focus on could include the children of the Holocaust, children in America during the Great Depression, or immigrant children.  Include readings of Sendak’s works, such as We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, Kenny’s Window, Outside Over There, and others.
  • Lead a discussion on the concept of immigration and assimilation.

 Program ideas for younger audiences

  •  Host a “Monster’s Parade,” encouraging children (and their parents!) to dress as monsters, ending with a reading of Where the Wild Things Are
  • Hold story time sessions for young people using Sendak’s picture books.
  • Develop a teen poetry slam. Have teens write and perform poems that creatively express their thoughts and raise awareness of issues related to immigration, Jewish culture, childhood, or war – or another theme raised by one of Sendak’s works.
  • Have children write postcards or letters – or create artwork – to send to Sendak.  Display copies of their letters and postcards – with permission from children and their parents – in your library.
  • Enlist a Teen Advisory Board to help plan and promote “Sendak” programs for young adults.
  • Partner with a local children’s museum on programs about immigration to your area, or Jewish culture in your community.
  • Create a documentary shorts contest. Teach youth video production software and invite them to explore exhibition themes via images and sound.
  • Invite local artists to host a talk with children about how art can tell stories, using Sendak’s artwork as a guide. 

Program ideas with schools

  • With a lead teacher or teachers, sponsor a “In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak” curriculum workshop for teachers in your area, using various curriculum materials.
  • Enlist a teacher or librarian to present a curriculum activity to a library audience of young people.
  • Encourage teachers at local schools to use Maurice Sendak, Jewish culture and life, and immigration themes in the curriculum during the exhibition.
  • Schedule school field trips to see “In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak.” Create an educational activity guide for young people to use and discuss while viewing the exhibition.
  • Partner with area elementary schools to host a story writing and illustration contest.  Have children create stories and drawings in the vein of Sendak’s tales, culminating with an award ceremony for the winning child/children.