On Maurice Sendak

Illustration from "Where the Wild Things Are," 1963. Photograph from the Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia, via nytimes.com

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.

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4 Comments on “On Maurice Sendak”

  1. Ellen Rocco says:

    Isn’t it interesting how deeply affecting his work was? Childrens books, after all. Tells me he was dead on honest–as all the best artists are–not literally accurate or factual, but precisely truthful.

  2. Lucy Martin says:

    Well, I grew up on Sendak. I read him all the time, as a child and later as a Mom. He did a great many collaborative books too, notably with author Else Holmelund Minarik (and many, many others).

    Little Bear books might be best known from that pairing. (Do seek the originals, not TV-influenced derivatives.)

    For some reason I was (am) inordinately fond of “No Fighting, No Biting”. It seemed to get sibling squabbling just right!

    A great, great artist and communicator. We’ll miss the man, but thank goodness his work lives on.

  3. Sunshine says:

    1999: Maurice collaborated with opera director Arthur Yorinks and the fabulous dance troup, Pilobolus in creating A Selection, a work on the Holocaust. Worth your while to google this and watch all the creative energy and cantankerousness involved in creating this work.
    FYI: Pilobolus is amazing. Their movements are like watching water move. Saw them at Artpark many moons ago and still a vivid memory.

  4. lisa says:

    Thanks Sarah- all the same for us. Liv has a copy of the Nutshell books and they are among her favorites. She especially likes the naked boy image in the Night Kitchen and even as a baby laughed at the kid falling into the milk. The Canton Library has the cassette tape and an old VHS movie to enjoy if you need a fix.

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