Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak passed away this morning. He was 83.
Maurice Sendak was a fixture of my childhood, and those of countless others who loved the bold images and brave children that populated Sendak’s works. I first met him through Where the Wild Things Are, and later through In The Night Kitchen and Higgledy Piggledy Pop!.
My favorite Sendak work, however, was not a single book at all. For Christmas one year, I received The Nutshell Library, a collection of four tiny hardback books in a little pasteboard box. I loved those books. I read them over and over again, equally drawn to the stories and to the idea of hardbacks in miniature.
As a child who was scared of the dark and prone to nightmares, I found comfort in Sendak’s treatment of childhood fears. His protagonists were children, like me but braver, and they helped me take a different view of the Things That Go Bump In the Night. Like the best of teachers, he taught without preaching and made me think without realizing I’d done so.
But first and foremost, Sendak told stories. Rich stories, populated with equal parts craziness and adventure. Bold stories, gorgeously illustrated in ways that promoted imagination. I wanted to dance with the Wild Things too, and then to go home – the same but changed, as Max did.
Generations of Wild Things mourn today.
I take comfort in the knowledge that although a master is gone, his legacy continues, in his own works and in those he illustrated for others. As long as children fear the dark, the Wild Things will be there to help them through it.
Farewell, Mr. Sendak. You are gone, but never forgotten.