RIP Maurice Sendak

 Maurice Sendak: June 10, 1928 - May 8, 2012

It was with great sorrow that I learned of the death of Maurice Sendak yesterday, and I think that can be said by a huge number of us who grew up with his books, whose children grew up with his books or any of us who are passionate about childrens' literature. I took it quite personally; as if I had lost a beloved, albeit crotchety and sometimes frightening, uncle or grandfather.
It will be said over and over now that Sendak was one of the greats, and that is certainly more than true. He left behind a legacy of over 200 books. Sendak won all of the prestigious awards for children's books that can be won, I believe; the Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are in 1964, the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration in 1970, the National Book Award in the picture books category for Outside Over There in 1982, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1983, the National Medal of Arts in 1996 and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial award in 2003 (which he shared with Christine Nostlinger)... these are only the "notable" accolades. But he, himself, was most impressed with the letters and cards he received from children everywhere, which he answered... he always answered letters from children. They were his most valued accolade. One such letter read:
Dear Mr. Sendak,” read one, from an 8-year-old boy. “How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there.”
Sendak was known for his unflinching honesty in his writing, illustrations and in his life. Anyone who interviewed him was always taken aback by this, and always a little afraid. Of course, as we all know, the book for which he will always be remembered and associated with is Where the Wild Things Are. This 32 page picture book containing less than 350 words has sold over 17 million copies worldwide, been translated into dozens of languages and adapted into movies, stage plays, musicals. And, when I am being completely truthful, it is my favourite book ever. If you have ever been in Dubray Books Galway branch during the World Book Day week-long extravaganza that I insist on submitting my colleagues to each year, and heard me read to the children, you will know that every class I read to hears Where the Wild Things Are. Some of you may have even heard me say that I believe that everything you need to know about life, about being human, you can learn from Where the Wild Things Are. And I believe that. It's honesty and portrayal of emotions, relationship and love is impeccable. Sendak was always honest... he would never lie to children.
His pen and his voice may be silent now, but his legacy will continue...
Farewell, Maurice Sendak. May you rest free and happy Where the Wild Things Are, forever.


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