Monday, May 14, 2012

A Tribute to Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak passed away last week at the age of 83. He was a beloved author known for his children's books with wonderful stories and illustrations...and an imagination that seemed to know no limitations.

In an interview with Stephen Colbert earlier this year, Mr. Sendak was asked why he wrote for children. He said:
"I don't write for children. I write, and somebody says, 'That's for children'… I like them as few and far between as I do adults."
But the writer is more than just a bone-picking curmudgeon: "There is something in this country that is so opposed to understanding the complexity of children," he said.
He also wrote very different, and much darker, material than most authors of children's books. Noted in an article by the New York Times:
In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.
Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.
Perhaps that is why his books have been loved by children and adults for years. His sense of humor, creativity, and perspective was fresh, and very unique. 

His favorite book was "Higglety Pigglety Pop!: Or There Must Be More to Life," but his most famous was "Where the Wild Things Are." 

I found myself having to visit a little local bookstore in Linden Hills in South Minneapolis: Wild Rumpus. Although mainly for kids, it's a favorite store for many adults too. The store has a smaller front door within the regular door for children, and many real animals hanging out throughout the place. The entire atmosphere of the store is quite fitting to its name - you can't help but think of Maurice Sendak when you stop by. The store's name, after all, was taken from his most famous book, when Max was "dancing with the monsters in a wild rumpus."

Mr. Sendak will be greatly missed. But, fortunately, his legacy will remain in print to be enjoyed for many years to come. 

© Photograph by C.Y. Hunter

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