In the years of our childhood many of us knew and loved the words of children’s author Maurice Sendak. His transcendent and timeless tales, particularly the classic Where The Wild Things Are created delightful childhood memories that many of us hope to pass on to our kids.
Sendak was a colorful character who was born in Brooklyn to Polish immigrants. Sometimes wild, unruly, and unpredictable, Sendak told radio host Terry Gross that he didn’t ever write with children in mind — but that somehow what he wrote turned out to be for children nonetheless. Sendak mainly set out to distract and entertained his readers and was often widely criticized for his voyage into the darker side of children’s book. Sendak also had a softer side and admits openly that his childhood fears included the vacuum cleaner and the show The Invisible Man with Claude Rains.
So what inspired the faces and shapes of the monsters of The Wild Things?
Sendak admits he wanted these monsters to be “not traditional monsters” and wanted them to be very personal and reflect parts of his life. “When they finally started to appear on paper for me, I realized they were in fact reflection of all my relatives!” Sendak shared. “They were all the adults that treated us in such silly fashions during childhood. Their flaws and defects were my entertainment”
Although the monsters in Where The Wild Things Are appear goofy and floppy sometimes, Sendak admits they were also created to be threatening. If the character Max was not in control of them, they could have potentially in control of him.
Sendak shares that the relationship between the character of Max and the Monsters was a “perilous tightrope of a little boy being vulnerable to these huge creatures, and the absurdity of him having over control of them by staring into their big yellow eyes.”
Sendak wrote many books over his long career and became a perennial and award-winning favorite for generations of children. Over the course of his career, his children’s books received numerous awards, including the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are.
Picture books depend on color, largely. And they haven’t perfected the color in those machines. But it’s not that. It’s giving up a form that is so beautiful. A book is really like a lover. It arranges itself in your life in a way that is beautiful. Even as a kid, my sister, who was the eldest, brought books home for me, and I think I spent more time sniffing and touching them than reading. I just remember the joy of the book; the beauty of the binding. The smelling of the interior. Happy.-Maurice Sendak (taken from an interview on The Believer)
‘‘The subject of children is something that overwhelms me, and I feel as though I have barely scratched the surface,” Sendak was quoted as saying. ”Being as old as I am is a pain in the a** I want more time!”
Maurice Sendak passed away in May of 2012 at the age of 83.
What was your favorite Sendak book? Where The Wild Things Are? Bumble-Ardy? A Kiss for Little Bear? Please share!Connect with Audrey Press on Social Media