I was sad when I learned that children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak died today at 83. His books hit the shelves in the early sixties, when my parents were kids. They loved his books, so when I arrived on the scene, they proceeded to read them aloud to me. As a small child I was drawn in by the fierce monsters in Where the Wild Things Are, by the surreal baking and cityscapes from In the Night Kitchen. My mother’s battered copy of the Nutshell Library — four small books in a box — was always on the nightstand. The soundtrack to “Really Rosie,” Carole King’s rendition of the Nutshell Library put to music, was always playing on the tape deck in our car.
Maurice Sendak’s books were wild and scary. And they were controversial: In the Night Kitchen was criticized for its depictions of a naked child. But their lessons made their way off the page and into my early life. Remember Pierre, the nonchalant child who was eventually eaten by a lion? If ever my sister or I muttered a desultory “I don’t care,” my mother would issue a stern reprimand: “Don’t be like Pierre!”
You can read a New York Times tribute to Maurice here.