Maurice Sendak


It’s terrible that it’s taken the death of Maurice Sendak to make me post again. I do have a lot to post about, but it’s been a tough year in some ways: illness and the work of day to day living make it easy to forget to do the things we love. I’ll try to confine this post to just remembering Sendak and get to other stuff later.

book cover from Maurice Sendak

My oldest son especially loved Pierre (A Cautionary Tale), both the book and the cartoon video, but all the kids loved the entire Nutshell library. I loved reading Sendak to my kids and giving voice to the monsters in Where The Wild Things Are, the Bakers of In The Night Kitchen and to the goblins of Outside Over There (which inspired Jim Henson’s movie, Labrynth).

I’ve posted on Where The Wild Things Are, both the book and the movie (and here and here), and on In The Night Kitchen. They are amazing, and work on so many levels. Where The Wild Things Are, by the way, started life as “Where The Wild Horses Are” in its first draft. I’ve not been able to find any of those illustrations on line, though I did once see them in a course on kidlit.

Book cover from Wikipedia–Maurice Sendak

Sendak had a deep understanding of the fears of children, and he wrote and illustrated  those fears with a clear and controlled hand that allowed kids to confront those universal issues in a way that disarmed the monsters. He understood that those monsters are real, that they have teeth, and that a four year old going to bed was demonstrating amazing courage. Sendak was fearless. It is true (though it may or may not be factual) that the most touched pages in literature are the two page spread in Where The Wild Things Are with the Max on the shoulders of a wild thing and all of them howling at the moon. If you listen carefully you can hear generations of kids and parents howling against the dark, sitting on the edge of the bed.


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