Children's book author Maurice Sendak has died. The New York Times has an effusive obituary:
Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83and lived in Ridgefield, Conn.
The cause was complications from a recent stroke, said Michael di Capua, his longtime editor.
Roundly praised, intermittently censored and occasionally eaten, Mr. Sendak’s books were essential ingredients of childhood for the generation born after 1960 or thereabouts, and in turn for their children. He was known in particular for more than a dozen picture books he wrote and illustrated himself, most famously “Where the Wild Things Are,” which was simultaneously genre-breaking and career-making when it was published by Harper & Row in 1963.
I always enjoyed Sendak, and his "Where the Wild Things Are." But I am the wrong person to eulogize him because the book was never that meaningful to me. I enjoyed the drawings, of course, but never quite sympathized with the characters in the way that so many of my peers did. Make of that what you will.
I did appreciate that his characters were somewhat more complex than typical children's book characters and, most importantly, that they encountered danger. It's one of the few things my husband and I aren't in complete agreement about. I was raised by a mother who told me terrifying tales of children being kidnapped, of some bizarre German character named Rubells who would steal all of your toys if you were bad (he was usually "just outside"), and of parents dying and leaving children alone. I'm sure you're all shaking your head -- my husband does -- but I loved the drama and contemplating how my siblings and I would handle each adventure. He mumbles something about "child abuse" and moves on. My mother and Sendak (and all the best children's authors) understood that children actually love hearing about evil and where it lurks. It's not like they're not already thinking about it. Having a good story simply directs tht thinking.
For less hagiography but a more interesting look at the self-professed "crazy" Sendak, this Guardian piece might be better.
I assume I'm one of the few Ricochet types who wasn't a huge Sendak fan. But I'm curious how you all viewed his work.