RIP, Maurice Sendak

The library community mourns the passing of the well-known and well-loved children’s author Maurice Sendak, who died yesterday at the age of 83.   That is, I think of him as a children’s author.  He was also an illustrator, producer, director.   I think many of us have a favorite Sendak memory or moment.   Many years ago as a branch library manager in a small community, I remember discussing how some of Sendak’s books were challenged.  At that time In The Night Kitchen was attacked because Mickey is naked in much of the story.  A library user commented that didn’t bother her so much, but as a dietician, it bothered her how unsanitary it was for the little boy to be in cake batter!  I am still so amused by that early lesson that different people object to different things in books, but that doesn’t mean they should be challenged.

Maurice Sendak, author of the children's book,...

Maurice Sendak, author of the children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. Sendak was instrumental in the creation of Sesame Street, and attended Lesser’s curriculum seminars in 1968. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a hard time choosing my “favorite” Sendak work; I love so many of them.   I wonder if public libraries are having special Sendak celebrations—this seems like a great opportunity for people to discuss his works, watch clips of movies and TV shows, discuss his writing and illustrations, as well as the “philosophy” and messages of his works.  I think it would be fun for people to share how they came to love books or their library, through their connection to Sendak’s books.  Not to mention, you could discuss the controversy surrounding some of his books.

Personally, I love how so many of his stories end with everything turning out all right.  In Where the Wild Things Are, Max’s supper is still hot when he gets home.  In In the Night Kitchen, Mickey floats back into his own bed.  And Pierre, who always says “I don’t care” learns indeed, to care.  There’s a lesson there for all of us, I think:  the world, whether the world of a child or an adult, can be scary, messy, complicated, but so often, things do turn out all right.

Thank you for your stories, Mr. Sendak.



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