Children's museums can be just the ticket for family vacations, a rainy day, or just plain fun

Please Touch Museum

There is good and then there is exceptional. The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia just hit exceptional with the introduction of its newest exhibition, "Sendak in Philadelphia." The Wild Thing and other creatures of artist Maurice Sendak came to life April 29.

The interactive displays transport youngsters into the imagination of one of America's great children's book authors. Sendak's four most popular books, "Where the Wild Things Are," "In the Night Kitchen," "Outside Over There," and "We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy" provide the exciting backdrop in which children can develop a love of literature and art, while still learning about important social issues.

One reason for the exhibit's success, says marketing manager Scott Bluebond, is that Sendak has played an integral role in the creation of the displays.

Children can become the characters of Sendak's mind, romping on beds, banging pots, and dressing up as the Wild Thing. However, what makes this exhibit special is its depth.

In the area dedicated to "In the Night Kitchen," Sendak and the development team at Please Touch created a cake in the oven that rises when the door is opened twice. Children can also crawl under trees, climb through books, and completely immerse themselves in the imaginative world of Sendak.

The only words in the exhibition are those from the books. Since there are no arrows pointing the way, "Sendak in Philadelphia" is an interactive exhibition in which the children create their own experience.

Attendance has been up at the museum, in part because of 40,000 tickets donated to the Philadelphia School System in exchange for a neighboring building. The museum was named one of the top children's museums, of which there are approximately 300, by USA Today.

A recent convention of the Association of Youth Museums in Philadelphia has flooded Please Touch's office with requests for more information on the Sendak exhibit. Mr. Bluebond and others are now researching a possible touring Sendak exhibition.

This permanent exhibition is a collaboration with the Rosenbach Museum, which has displayed the works of Sendak in Philadelphia since the 1960s.

210 N. 21st St., Philadelphia, PA 19103; (215) 963-0667

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