Just a couple of weeks ago, when the semester started, I was taking roll in one of my classes, trying to get to know students’ names, and came across a young woman with the last name of Sendak. “Like the writer,” I said, to which she replied, “Huh?”
“You know,” I said, “the writer, Maurice Sendak?”
“Where the Wild Things Are?” I said.
“Oh! Oh, yeah, that guy,” she said, and I let it drop after that.
Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favorite books as a child. I admired many of his others as a kid, too, but that was always my favorite. To put on that wolf suit like Max does and venture into the world of fabulous monsters–oh, what I would have given to be able to do that in real life, not just in my imagination. But I did get to do it through Max, as close as anyone could have brought me to that experience of magic as a child. Sometimes, when someone asks me, “Who’s your favorite writer?” I’ll reply, “Maurice Sendak,” because he was my first. Second is Dr. Seuss, whose stories opened up the possibilities and play of language for me. But Sendak is first.
I’ve never written a children’s book, but it’s on my list of Dreams to Make Happen in Life, and my only hope is that, when I do write one, I’ll be able to make one that will transport children by mere words and pictures alone to another world, the way Sendak was able to do for me.
Today, reading the New York Times, I came across this article about him celebrating his eightieth birthday, and the very difficult past year he’s spent since the loss of his partner, and indeed the difficult life he has led. Discovering the dreariness and darkness in his past, and indeed in his present, has made me admire his writing even more. It takes a beautiful mind to make light in this often dark world, and he’s done that, whether he’s aware of it or not, and despite his feeling that he has yet to make something that will rouse a great passion in some reader one day.