Maurice Sendak

I'm not even the right person to write a remembrance of Maurice Sendak. I never knew him personally of course, and while I read In the Night Kitchen and the Nutshell Library many hundreds of times, my heart always belonged to the Where the Wild Things Are, and I think (from what I read and hear of him) that the focus on that one book frustrated him.

I don't remember reading at as a little kid. Though I must have, because I came upon it in my room, in a house we moved to when I was in fourth grade. I remember sitting on my green carpet. It was afternoon, I think, and I pulled it down from my bookshelf (why was it there?) and I read it. I knew I was too old for it, but I didn't care. I didn't remember ever having read it before. I know exactly where I was and how I was sitting when I read,

That very night, in Max's room a forest grew
and grew—
and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and his walls became the world all around

Those pages have meant my very life to me.

When Diana was tiny, she was a possessed little demon of colic and rage. Every night we would cycle through every single thing we knew how to do to try to stop her crying—crinkle a plastic bag near her ear, sing, jounce, bounce, walk, feed her, rock her, take her outside, bring her inside, try her bouncy seat, crinkle a plastic bag near her ear, sing—over and over. Then one night, when she was three months old, far too young to understand any of it—I lay down on the bed, exhausted and empty, and I lay her down, still screaming, next to me, and I opened my copy of Where the Wild Things Are. (I still have it, from when I was a kid.) And I started to read to her. And she stopped screaming. She just listened, and watched.

Probably she was just caught by the papery sound of the turning pages. Or maybe she was just done crying right then, for mysterious baby reasons of her own. I don't know.

But it was the first book I ever read her.

I will miss his being part of this world.


7 thoughts on “Maurice Sendak

  1. Yeah, this is a sad one. And I was also a sucker for Where the Wild Things Are. Whew, it stopped the colic that day. So for how many days after did you try to replicate that magic?


  2. Despite everything I’ve read and heard today about Sendak, I haven’t grown tired of it. And this one, this one might be my favorite. Thank you.
    And you must listen to Terri Gross’s interview of him — wonderful, wonderful show.


  3. I never knew that he didn’t like the attention of Where the Wild Things Are until he died. That makes me sad.
    For my part, I tell people a lot that it was the first horror story I ever read. When people look at me funny, I just shrug and say, “What scares people is always different. That book scares me to this day.” And it does. In a delicious wonderful way.


  4. Some of my favorite final lines in all of children’s literature…
    And that is why we have cake every morning.
    The moral of Pierre is, CARE!
    He found his supper waiting for him, and it was still hot.


  5. I needed to cheer myself up last night, so googled Stephen Colbert’s Sendak interview and settled in for a watch. It was SO fabulous. On the other hand, I was then MORE depressed, bc there would be no more funny interviews. Ever.
    I ordinarily don’t believe in an afterlife, but I do hope Sendak is in some sort of eternal Wild Rumpus.


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