Maurice Sendak: tamer of life's wild things
Seattle will always have a piece of children's author Maurice Sendak, the wildly colorful set and costumes Sendak designed for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker."
Seattle Times Editorial
"But the wild things cried, 'Oh please don't go — we'll eat you up — we love you so.' "
— "Where the Wild Things Are"
IN Maurice Sendak's classic children's book, "Where the Wild Things Are," fierce yet lovable monsters beg a boy named Max to stay in their untamed world. But Max refuses and heads for home on his private boat.
A public mourning Sendak's death earlier this week at age 83 might see an apt metaphor with which to end a literary adventure enjoyed by generations of Sendak fans.
Sendak transformed children's books with words and drawings that created wild, nightmarish landscapes navigated by brave children. Others wrote about sweet, safe places and kids like Dick and Jane; Sendak wrote about growling creatures who might play with children — or eat them.
He once said he wrote about worlds inhabited by monsters because, as the child of parents who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, he knew monsters could be real.
Sendak deserves credit for a body of children's works that helps little minds make sense of frightening things in the larger world around them. Accepting the Caldecott Medal in 1964 for "Where the Wild Things Are," Sendak credited his writing style with a belief that "it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming wild things."
Seattleites will always have a special connection to Sendak, who designed fanciful, wildly colorful "Nutcracker" sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet, a production that later became a movie. Sendak's version of the Nutcracker, with its impish characters — including a monster from "Wild Things" — remains decades later an annual destination in Seattle.
Every school library ought to stock several books by Sendak. And to the man who reshaped children's literature, a grateful public cries out, "Thanks for the rumpus."