Beloved author (notice we didn’t say “children’s author,” more on this in a bit) Maurice Sendak died at his home in Connecticut on Tuesday, May 8 at the age of 83. Obviously, we were huge fans. As a small tribute to this great talent, here’s a roundup of our favorite Sendak quotes.
He wrote what he wanted: “I refuse to lie to children. I refuse to cater to the bull—- of innocence.”
He loved a good compliment: “Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
He didn’t see himself as a writer for children: “I really do these books for myself. It’s something I have to do, and it’s the only thing I want to do. Reaching the kids is important, but secondary. First, always, I have to reach and keep hold of the child in me.”
He really didn’t see himself as a children’s author: “A woman came up to me the other day and said, ‘You’re the kiddie-book man!’ I wanted to kill her.”
He understood children: ”Children are tough, though we tend to think of them as fragile. They have to be tough. Childhood is not easy. We sentimentalize children, but they know what’s real and what’s not. They understand metaphor and symbol. If children are different from us, they are more spontaneous. Grown-up lives have become overlaid with dross.”
He kept his perspective: “I’m writing a poem right now about a nose. I’ve always wanted to write a poem about a nose. But it’s a ludicrous subject. That’s why, when I was younger, I was afraid of writing something that didn’t make a lot of sense. But now I’m not. I have nothing to worry about. It doesn’t matter.”
He was, simply, a wonderful writer and will be missed:
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.