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Rare collection of children's books discovered at NMSU library

Worn but still intact, a rare boxed set of children's books illustrated by "Where the Wild Things Are" author Maurice Sendak stood hidden for more than 40 years on the shelves of the New Mexico State University Branson Hall Library.

But in January, NMSU Library specialist John Freyermuth noticed that a first edition collection of books, "Seven Little Stories on Big Subjects," was designated to a "problem shelf" because of its worn condition. Freyermuth speculated that the set could be rare.

He was correct. The books are held by only eight other universities and sell for between $1,000 and $2,000 on Internet auction sites.

The set, authored by Gladys Baker Bond and illustrated by Sendak, was published in 1955 for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. Stories in the set include "Johnny Red Feather," "The Crankiest Man on Main Street" and "Jacob's Friendliest Town."

Sendak, who will be 71 June 10, is known for his Caldecott Award-winning "Wild Things" book about one boy's attempt to defy his parents and slip into his own world of wild, roaring monsters. Sendak first began illustrating comics while in high school. Since then, he has won every major book award for children's literature.

"He is so loved by generations of children that it's nice to find some of his original work," said Jean Dickinson, NMSU assistant collection services librarian.

Although worn, the library has no intention of altering the condition of the set.

The books can be viewed at the NMSU Library Special Collections on the second floor of the Branson Hall Library.