Friday, May 11, 2012

Goodnight, Mr. Sendak

"Please don't go. We'll eat you up. We love you so."
from Where the Wild Things Are

It's hard to add anything new to the tributes to Maurice Sendak that have been flowing in since his death on Tuesday, so I'll just let the great one speak for himself. Here are some quotes that especially resonate with me.

"You cannot write for children. They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them."

"I believe there's no part of our lives, our adult as well as child life, when we're not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate fantasy to children, as though it were some tomfoolery only fit for the immature minds of the young. Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do."

"A woman came up to me the other day and said, 'You're the kiddie-book man.' I wanted to kill her."

"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."

"There must be more to life than having everything."

"I have a little tiny Emily Dickinson so big that I carry in my pocket everywhere. And you just read three poems of Emily. She is so brave. She is so strong. She is such a sexy, passionate, little woman. I feel better."

"I'm not Hans Christian Andersen. Nobody's gonna make a statue in the park with a lot of scrambling kids climbing up me. I won't have it, okay?"


  1. Wonderful quotes! I feel a closeness to him, not only because I'm a children's librarian, but because I once heard him give a talk about his art and his life. He was not all "warm and fuzzy" in any way, shape or form- He was honest and he was real. He acknowledged his depression. He was a brilliant man and his "crustiness" exuded its own kind of warmth. He respected children's intelligence.

    My teenage son and I had seen his interview on the Colbert Report just a few weeks before, and my son, who had appreciated his personality, was saddened, too, and took special care in how he told me about his death, not knowing I already knew from a prior post and comments by Jane Yolen.

    I had read that quote about the little boy eating his drawing somewhere before. I love how you've linked that concept with the first quote from Where the Wild Things Are. It's a fitting tribute to Sendak: "Please don't go. We'll eat you up. We love you so."

  2. Thanks, Annie. I could just see the little boy gobbling up the priceless drawing. And I can't get over that Sendak used to walk around with Emily Dickinson in his pocket. Who knew?