Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Remembering Maurice Sendak

Children's book illustrator, Maurice Sendak, with one of his Wild Things.
Photo Source: PBS.org

“Dear Mr. Sendak,” read a letter from an 8-year-old boy,
“How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there.”

Arguably the most influential children's book author/artist of the twentieth century, Maurice Sendak, died today at the age of 83 from complications after a recent stroke.  Sendak was one of the first illustrators to push the envelope of children's book art from the sterile, static, and safe into the dark, mystical and nightmarish.  His legacy is immense, including various awards and multiple top honors by important literary and artistic organizations; however, what he will be remembered for by his fans, was his ability to help us take a look inside our true selves.  He made it "okay" to explore the scary places of the human psyche.  Sendak's most popular works were Where the Wild Things AreChicken Soup With Rice (my personal favorite), and In The Night Kitchen.

‎"We're animals. We're violent. We're criminal. We're not so far away from the gorillas and the apes, those beautiful creatures... And then, we're supposed to be civilized. We're supposed to go to work every day. We're supposed to be nice to our friends and send Christmas cards to our parents. We're supposed to do all these things which trouble us deeply because it's so against what we naturally would want to do. And if I've done anything, I've had kids express themselves as they are, impolitely, lovingly… they don't mean any harm. They just don't know what the right way is. And as it turns out sometimes the so-called "right way" is utterly the wrong way. What a monstrous confusion." - Maurice Sendak

Maurice was recently featured in a documentary called Tell Them Anything You Want.  He was very candid about his history and what inspired him as an artist.  He even shares some thoughts on death that are very powerful and appropriate for today.  Any fan will appreciate this HBO documentary as he explains the thought behind what made his seminal work, Where the Wild Things Are, so controversial at the time it was published.  Any human will appreciate his perspective on life and his willingness to ask the tough questions and explore the dark places.

But Mr. Sendak was not always dark and serious.  He also had a great sense of humor, especially about children.  Check out this interview he did with Stephen Colbert where he explains, among other things, that he does not write for (nor particularly like) children and that Newt Gingrich is "an idiot... of great renown."  I really appreciate this man's point of view.  

If you have only read Where the Wild Things Are, please take a trip to your local library and check out the other works of Maurice Sendak.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link to the Colbert interview. I haven't laughed like that in a while...



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