I was saddened to hear this morning that Maurice Sendak, the writer who gave many of us the most indelible, if not slightly terrifying, stories of our childhoods, has passed away. He was 83.
My household has been steeped in Sendak for the past several months, with “Where the Wild Things Are,” and the four small stories that make up “The Nutshell Library,” in regular rotation before my 3-year-old’s bedtime. (Another favorite is the Sendak-illustrated “Little Bear” series, written by Else Holmelund Minarik.) Described in The New York Times obituary as “widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century,” Sendak’s characters simultaneously provoke delight in children and cringing in some parents and I admit to being one of them. In his story “Pierre,” an obnoxious boy, in page after page, responds only with the words “I don’t care!” to anything and everything. Predictably, after a single reading, “I don’t care” became a constant refrain in my house.
Mr. Sendak’s stories are genius and grounded in respect for a child’s intellect and curiosity. I’m looking forward to the new book of poetry he has written and illustrated that will be published early next year, according to The Times obit, and so grateful for the enduring ones that he already gave us. To hear Sendak himself talk about his work and life, check out these interviews he gave to NPR.
Photo: Illustrator Maurice Sendak spends a moment with one of the ‘Wild Things’ he designed for the operatic adaptation of his book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” in 1985 in St. Paul, Minn.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.