2 weekends ago, I was in the public library with my 3yo. He was excitedly walking through the stacks that house children’s books, pulling random stuff off the shelves. He suddenly paused, fingered the edge of a book that was sticking out maybe an inch farther than the books on either side of it. And he said, “The Wild Things!” He had identified it by a mere one inch of the outside cover.
I wish I could remember what friend gave the book to my son. What I do remember about the moment when we unwrapped the book at our baby shower was how excited my husband was. A book he treasured as a child that he would get to share with our son.
Thank you, Maurice Sendak. For trusting children, for seeing their humanity, for acknowledging their range of emotions. For letting my often-angry 3yo know that there are angry children all around and that learning how to manage that anger is part of being a child and a person, not an abnormal emotion to be squashed and snuffed. For the joy on my husband’s face when he first read your work to our child. For all the moments when my boy looks at me, gets a mischievous twinkle in the corner of his eye, puts his hands up in front of him, elbows bent, fingers curved, and roars: “I’ll eat you up, I love you so!”
Rest in peace, you literary monster of a man.
[The image is a part of Terry Gross’ Fresh Air interview with Sendak:
Terry Gross: Can you share some of your favorite comments from readers that you’ve gotten over the years?
Maurice Sendak: “Oh, there’s so many. Can I give you just one that I really like? It was from a little boy. He sent me a charming card with a little drawing. I love it. I answer all my children’s letters – sometimes very hastily – but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard 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 drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.]