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New Park Slope School Named After Maurice Sendak

By Leslie Albrecht | February 7, 2013 9:52am

PARK SLOPE — The wild things are coming to Park Slope.

P.S. 118, the new school opening this fall on Fourth Avenue and Eighth Street, will be called the Maurice Sendak Community School after the famed children's author, said Elizabeth Garraway, the new school's presumed principal.

Garraway and parents who will be sending their kids to the fledgling school chose the moniker together. She said the author's imaginative spirit fits in with what she hopes to accomplish at P.S. 118, which will have a multicultural curriculum.

"We want to be a place where kids are flexible thinkers and they step outside of the box, and Maurice Sendak was known for his creativity," Garraway said.

Sendak — best known for creating fanciful worlds where little boys play with monsters or visit magical kitchens in books like "Where the Wild Things Are" and "In the Night Kitchen" — was born in Brooklyn and died in Connecticut in May 2012.

P.S. 118 isn't the first institution of learning named after Sendak. A school in North Hollywood, Calif., was named after Sendak in 2005. In New York, schools can't be named after people unless they're dead, and the move requires special permission from the Department of Education, Garraway said.

Sendak's estate was "elated" by the honor, and the DOE approved the name quickly, she said.

The name isn't the only news about P.S. 118. Garraway confirmed that the new school will have two pre-K classes. The school, which was created to ease overcrowding at nearby P.S. 321, will be inside the former St. Thomas Aquinas school building at 211 Eighth St., which is currently home to P.S. 133.

Sendak, who was gay, didn't have any children of his own, but was keenly aware of children's perspective on the world. He once told NPR's Terry Gross that he modeled the monsters in "Where the Wilds Things Are" after his older adult relatives, and that he had stopped visiting schools because he knew children were ordered to behave for his sake.

"It's such a paradox that I, who adore them, and I'm interested in their welfare, should become their enemy," Sendak said. "...If I'm to visit a school, they're all warned, threatened and browbeaten for three days before I get there."