Where our wild thing has gone

I know it has been a while since my last post, but sadness is passing over the writing community today. Our favorite “wild thing” Maurice Sendak has passed away of complications from a stroke. He was 83. He wrote the beloved tale Where the Wild Things Are and illustrated one of my favorite series, Little Bear. Both were put to film in the last 15 or so years, The Wild Things as a live-action movie with beautiful and heart-wrenching computer animation, and Little Bear as a cute animated series.

Sendak influenced me to be a writer as I read his stories and saw his wonderful illustrations. There is no one like him. But, even more enchanting than that, I went to an art exhibit of his work in Philly a few years back, and I was astonished to see all of the work he had done and the depth of his works. He was more than just a writer of children’s stories and an illustrator of pictures for little ones. His work went well beyond the surface to tell stories that only children could read without squirming. They can’t see the pain and adult horrors the same way adults do.

One of the most terrifying children’s books I had ever seen, We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, is actually centered around the Holocaust, or at least it is between the lines. The pictures are horrific and beautiful at the same time, following children who are homeless and fighting their way through horrible odds and homelessness. The moon oversees them as rats take kittens and an orphan away, and we can see the Auschwitz that Sendak must also have imagined his relatives went through. Apparently, the Holocaust haunted Sendak his whole life, knowing part of his family lost their lives in the tragedy. It’s amazing what can inspire us to write.

Now, on a lighter note with a tribute to the great man who wrote about what he cared about, doing and saying as he pleased and not as others told him, as well as a connection to my Disney blog: Sendak was inspired to become an illustrator after watching the 1940 Disney movie Fantasia. Yes, even Sendak, who sometimes seemed like the anti-Disney, was influenced by Disney.

I do hope that while I study children’s literature I read quite a few Sendak books and see a lot of his work. He will certainly be missed.

If you have any great memories of Maurice Sendak or his books and artwork, please leave a comment in memoriam.

Here’s a quote I saw posted today that just had Maurice Sendak written all over it. It really shows the dry humor, straight-shooting, and humility of a great man:

Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

-Maurice Sendak