The passing of legendary children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak seems to be sending everyone on a trip down memory lane to “Where the Wild Things Are.” Sendak’s most popular book, for which he won the 1964 Caldecott Medal, tells the tale of Max, a poorly behaved boy who, after his mother sends him to his room without supper, sets sail to an imaginary place populated by hideous beasts. Thanks to his unflinching courage, Max becomes king of the Wild Things. Then he goes home for dinner.
I remember the first time Mom read me “Where the Wild Things Are.” I was maybe four years old, it was bedtime, and I’d just waged war at the dinner table over a portion of peas I deemed to be unfairly large. As Max sailed away in his imagination, I eagerly joined in his rebellious adventure. Unlike the critics and psychoanalysts who, over the years, have focused on the dark side of Sendak’s story, I liked it for more visceral reasons—the pictures were cool, and I identified with Max. The monsters looked dangerous, but nice—I could see myself befriending them. And it was refreshing to see a troublemaker win, for once. Max was my first anti hero.
The complexities of Sendak’s life and career soar far beyond “Where the Wild Things Are.” Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1928, he wrote and illustrated dozens of children’s books and contributed prolifically to the fields of theater, film and television. But even if his only contribution was sending us on Max’s magical journey, Sendak gave humankind a tremendous and timeless gift. Thanks, Maurice, and bon voyage!
And he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
Michael Lovett is Public Relations and Social Media Specialist for OverDrive.