Discovering Wild Things Are, Thanks to Sendak

Maurice Sendak, the writer who gave us a most honest view of childhood, died today at the age of 83.  Click here for the lovely write-up of his life by AP reporter Hillel Italie: 'Where Wild Things Are' author Maurice Sendak dies.

I have to admit, I skipped over his books when I was a child and didn't visit them until much later in life. Sendak's work was very much like what already was in my head: gray lines, dun colors, fear and fascination for what I alone seemed to see. I should have been drawn to the contrast of round, soft bodies and heads with sharp claws and horns, but I wasn't, not at that age. I was the kind of kid who read Very Special People when I was in grade school (and looking up some of the words I didn't recognize taught me more than the words themselves did). I knew about poltergeists before I knew about princesses.  I wasn't a morose child, but early loss made me less Disney and more Tollbooth.

However, I made a special trip to Manhattan during the summer of 2005 to spend most of a day in the Jewish Museum, peering into the life-size world of Wild Things and more. I left with a few books (imagine that) — but not the ones everyone else seemed to favor (imagine that, too).  I didn't want his round, soft monsters, but his dark, illustrated folks tales and fables. What I was most glad to take with me from the museum was a new appreciation of an author I finally took the time to meet. I thought much about him as I meandered through the city, munching on an H&H bagel and wondering if the night sky would be the same color now that I had been in his world.

I am grateful for his vision and respect for children, to trust them enough to tell them what he really thought. I wish him, his family and his fans peace. May we continue to appreciate his vision and how he gallantly recorded it — but most of all, how he generously shared it.