Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

Growing up in the 1970’s was scary. Our president turned out to be a crook, our soldiers were being shot to death every evening on television, an oil cartel held our economy hostage, and our biggest ally from the second world war had publicly vowed to bury us.

Ironically, the scariest thing about it all was the way the adults kept insisting that everything was FINE. Most children’s shows, music, and books were always hammering us with cheery, simplistic messages of how everything was FINE. To any child who was paying attention, things were clearly not fine.

It was strangely comforting, then, to read a book not about a perfect boy who lives in a happy storybook-land, but rather one who does bad things, is punished severely, and goes on to confront his rage and fear head-on. Maurice Sendak took a lot of heat from censors and parents’ groups for portraying monsters and the children who deal with them. A lot of people said his books were too scary. Books are not scary, LIFE is scary. Maurice Sendak showed children how to own our fear and find the strength to master it.

I read hundreds of books as a child, but there are a very few that are still on my shelf. Where the Wild Things Are is one of them. Thank you, Mister Sendak.