Maurice Sendak is gone. Many have talked about his greatness, his revolutionary work, his recognition of the interior lives of even very young children. Others have talked of his effect on their own lives, or how much it meant to them to share his books with children. The internet was full (thankfully) of posts about his psychological insight, links to his gloriously personal interviews, links to articles, and a rebroadcast of that heartbreaking last interview with Terry Gross (what an astonishing compliment he gave her! I would have broken down in tears if I had been Terry.). In fact, it was as if the whole world—or at least my small part of the world—mourned during that rainy Tuesday. And I wept all day long.
Where the Wild Things Are is a perfect picture book. There aren’t many. Not only is it perfect, but it was revolutionary—and still is. It’s not too much to say this one book changed the world of children’s literature and even our idea of children. I have traveled to see Sendak’s original art and marveled over his genius, his line, his characters, and his imagination. Though printing and production have vastly improved, it is and always will be different and better to see the work itself, the texture of the paper, and to know that a real person created the art you see before you.
Maurice Sendak was one of my heroes. I met him twice, only long enough to shake his hand and tell him how much I admired him and his work, but I know people who knew him well, and he had many friends who loved him dearly. What was in Sendak’s work, though, made me feel deeply connected, and sometimes I felt as if I did know him. Those Wild Things he claimed derived from his relatives? I had those relatives too.
What he loved he loved passionately, and he was not afraid of putting those passions on the page. He had great courage. He was honest. I can pay him no greater tribute than closing with his own words from that Terry Gross interview.
“I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and Ilove them more.”
Thank you, Maurice Sendak.