Thinking of Maurice Sendak
This week marks what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday. Google even did a little animation showing some of his well-known characters. Sendak was born June 10, 1928. He died on May 8, 2012. Sendak was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964 (Where the Wild Things Are); the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1970; the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1983; the National Book Award in 1982; the U.S. National Medal of Arts in 1996; and the Astrid Lindgren Award in 2003.
Sendak’s stories and illustrations have reached children and their parents throughout the world. They reached my house, too. My children loved to dance around a room chanting: “Rumpus! Rumpus! Rumpus!” as they held their own wild rumpus across the furniture. And, they loved Little Bear and his wonderful imagination – often pretending to be on adventures just like Little Bear imagined, like making a space helmet and going to the moon.
“The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another….” Sendak begins Where the Wild Things Are with Max at home in his wolf suit. Max is sent to bed without any supper, and imagination takes over. A forest grows in Max’s room “until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around.” Max gets into a boat, and sails “through night and day, and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are.” There, he becomes the king and celebrates with the wild things. Eventually, Max becomes lonely and wants “to be where someone loved him best of all.” So Max gives up being king, and sails back home – where he finds his dinner waiting for him in his room – “and it was still hot.”
I have some friends who didn’t like Where the Wild Things Are — or their children didn’t like the wild things. But it was very big in my house for a long while.
The Little Bear books also were big in my house. These were written by Else Holmelund Minarik, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, and are written for beginning readers (but work as read-alouds too). Little Bear books are sweet, and full of joys of childhood – and were written in the late 1950s and early 1960s (the first, Little Bear, was published in 1957). Little Bear has a fantastic imagination – and has wonderful adventures through his imagination. The grown ups in his world are supportive and loving, and give him enough space to play and have those great imaginary adventures. I read these books to my children when they were toddlers, and we shared many Little Bear – style imaginary adventures.
Thank you, Maurice Sendak!
What are your favorite Sendak books?