In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak Traveling Exhibit Coming to PPL March 9 - April 20

New traveling exhibition explores the influence of Jewish culture and history in the work of renowned illustrator Maurice Sendak

In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak,” a traveling exhibition opening at the Providence Public Library on Friday, March 9, reveals the push and pull of New and Old Worlds in Sendak’s work and shows how Sendak’s artistic journey has led him deeper into his own family’s history and his Jewish identity. The exhibit will be open to public Friday, March 9 – Friday, April 20 during normal Library hours.

Maurice Sendak is best known as the illustrator of more than 100 picture books, including Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. He was born to Polish immigrants in Brooklyn in 1928, and his childhood was typically American in a number of ways. At the same time, he became fascinated as a child with the worn black-and-white photographs of his European relatives, and the influence of both of these worlds – the threads of Jewish family, geography, and culture – can be seen in his imaginative works.

The exhibit is an exploration of Sendak’s illustrations and picture books, revealing connections between these iconic works and Sendak’s childhood, family, and the popular culture of the time. The colorful exhibit panels feature illustrations of ferocious creatures, curious children and vibrant neighborhoods, alongside thematic explorations of the Jewish culture and history – and Sendak’s own family experience – that influenced Sendak’s work. 

“We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Dale Thompson, library director. “A study of Sendak’s work proves that his illustrations and stories aren’t just for children. He explores immigration, urban life, nostalgia, the New World versus the Old World, even the legacy of the Holocaust, weaving these seemingly adult themes into his imaginative and playful illustrations. Our library is thrilled to host this exhibition and present a more thorough look at the life of a talented author and illustrator beloved by fans young and old.”

“In a Nutshell” was organized by the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia, and developed by Nextbook, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Jewish literature, culture, and ideas, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The national tour of the exhibit has been made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, and an anonymous donor, with additional support from Tablet Magazine: A New Read on Jewish Life. The exhibit was curated by Patrick Rodgers of the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

The Providence Public Library is sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition, beginning with an Opening Reception on Sunday, March 11 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm.  All are invited.  Mike Fink, Professor of English at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), will deliver the keynote address: Genius is the Memory of Childhood. Contact PPL Program Coordinator Louise Moulton at 455-8134 or visit for more information.

Additional programs scheduled at the Library in conjunction with the exhibit include:

Sunday, March 18 – 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Film Screenings (Library Auditorium, 3rd floor)
Animated Version Where the Wild Things Are (Scholastic)
Where the Wild Things Are (2009) Director, Spike Jonze

Sunday, March 25 – 2:00 – 3:30 pm
Responses to Maurice Sendak's Picture Books:  Giggles, Gasps and Garlands
Joan Glazer, Professor Emeritus, Rhode Island College

Sunday, April 1 – 2:00 – 3:30 pm     
Sendak and Illustration
Judy Sue Goodwin Sturges, Professor of Illustration, Rhode Island School of Design