Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Amid the gnashing of terrible teeth

Maurice Sendak passed away today.

Sendak, a deity of children's literature if there've been any, was known for text and illustration that was honest about topics some children or adults might be afraid of. Nightmares. The Great Unknown. Human anatomy, even. This was a guy who said he wouldn't write a sequel to his most popular work because he was "not a whore." This was not a guy you went to for feelings of predictability, safety, or comfort.

Except... I think many kids did and do. Sendak was a master of the classic "home-away-home" pattern. That "away" part might get darker than you'd expect from some children's books. It might involve your mother sending you to bed without your supper, or a long journey on your own, or creatures with terrible roars and claws. It might show you things you'd never seen before and change the way you viewed the world. But you could still choose to step into your private boat and wave goodbye. Even after you'd seen terrible things, the world could still offer the comfort of a supper that was still hot.

I'm fairly certain Mr. Sendak would roll his terrible eyes if I took the metaphor any further, so I won't. I'll just say that his passing, age or not, feels like a blow, and he'll be sorely missed.

1 comment:

  1. This is a huge loss - my children loved his wild things, and now my grandchildren will crawl onto my knee with That Book and everything goes quiet while I try to do terrible roars.

    I really hope he knew what a huge contribution he made to children's literature.