“The more I saw, the more impressed I was … and especially with the fact that virtually each book had a disparate style, but no matter how much he modified his style or invented a new style to go with the text, you could always tell it was Sendak.” That is Michael di Capua, the legendary children’s-book editor and art director, describing his first impressions of Maurice Sendak, most of whose books di Capua helped shape in one way or another, beginning with the 1963 landmark Where the Wild Things Are.

Di Capua is quoted in an exquisite new book, Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak, which also serves as the catalogue to an exhibition opening next month at the Columbus Museum of Art. (If Ohio isn’t in your travel plans, don’t worry; in April, the show moves on to the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, in Paris.)

Book and show backstop di Capua’s observation. Sendak worked in a protean range of styles, crosshatched here, fluid there, cartoony on occasion, rococo when he was feeling it, with influences ranging from William Blake and Winslow Homer to Winsor McCay and Walt Disney—and that’s just the W’s. Yet Sendak never lost his own singular eye … or I, first-person singular, because no children’s-book creator ever revealed more of himself than this one, who seemed to peel back another layer with each new work.

A 1950 self-portrait in ink.

There are so many treasures here it’s hard to know where to begin. Feast on lavishly reproduced illustrations from the biggies, including Wild Things and In the Night Kitchen, but also lesser-known gems such as The Moon Jumpers, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, and The Miami Giant, all collaborations with other writers. Sendak’s plentiful theatrical work is well represented, too, including his spectacular watercolor designs for scrims used in productions of The Magic Flute and Idomeneo—Mozart being another Sendak passion and muse.

Masterworks aside, my favorite piece in the show is an early storyboard-like sketch for what at the time was called “Where the Wild Horses Are.” Sendak often claimed he switched to big, furry monsters because he couldn’t draw horses. I’m sorry, Mr. Sendak, but based on the delightful evidence at hand, I call bullshit. Even your little sketchy horses jump off the page. —Bruce Handy

Wild Things Are Happening is out now. The corresponding exhibition opens at the Columbus Museum of Art on October 21

Bruce Handy is a journalist and the author of Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult