We lost one of the great poets of our age yesterday. Honestly, I am totally inadequate as a writer to express what needs to be said about Maurice Sendak.
All I can share are my personal memories.
Where The Wild Things Are was published in 1963. We had it around our house as long as I can remember. My mom was a mini-skirt wearing kindergarten teacher in 1963. She knew the value in controversial chidren's books.
I love what Sendak said about his books being children's books -- and I'm paraphrasing here but --
"I don't write children's books. I write books that people say are for children."
I think these wise words explain a lot about the broad appeal of his stories and his art. He wasn't drawing and writing for children. He was writing and drawing for people. Many of us forget that children are people.
Where The Wild Things Are is not my favorite Maurice Sendak work.
When I was a 'tween, I found a record at the library called Really Rosie. (Right next to Free To Be...You And Me probably.) It was an actual RECORD by the way. On vinyl! I'm old, ya'll.
I listed to Really Rosie over and over and over. It was probably geared for younger children: Alligators All Around is really just an ABC song and Chicken Soup With Rice accounts the month of the year. But Pierre is a timeless tale of a child being eaten by a lion and The Ballad of Chicken Soup is the timeless tale of death by choking on a chicken bone.
This is why Maurice Sendak is so awesome. He never thought, oh I better not write a poem about someone choking to death it might scare the little darlings. We have Really Rosie on my iPhone now and my kids LOVE IT. We listen to it in the car all the time.
Recently, my favorite Maurice Sendak book is Outside, Over There. I'm sure it's banned somewhere for naked babies, a depressed mother, and an infant being stolen by marriage-minded goblins. But the hero of the story is a girl -- and we all know that girl protagonists are few and far between in children's literature unless they're princesses.
Maurice Sendak's stories are captivating but his drawings really grab you. Even in the otherwise innocuous world of Little Bear, Sendak made Little Bear and his pals come alive with energy and delight. Which is funny because to hear Sendak speak, he was quite a curmudgeon!
Maurice Sendak, you made the world a better place. Thank you for your books, your art, and your presence among us.
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