Death of the King of the Wild Things


Maurice Sendak, alter ego and creator of Max and his wild rumpus from Where the Wild Things Are, has passed away at age 83.

Max was my hero as a child. He was naughty, but he really didn’t mean to be–a condition no doubt familiar to most children. But despite Max’s naughtiness he was still the protagonist of an actual story in which he ultimately became king over monsters! I think Where the Wild Things Are validated the value of those of us who suffered from Occasional Politeness Deficit Syndrome (OPDS) as children. After all, if Max could find redemption after sassing his mother, surely there was hope for us all.

I got my first copy of Where the Wild Things Are from Scholastic Book Club in elementary school back in the late 60s. It was a cheap paperback copy, but something about the illustrations resonated with me immediately and it was a lifelong obsession. In fact, Wild Things was the the first book I bought when I found out I was pregnant 30 years ago.  I was determined that Wild Things be a part of the childhood experience for the as yet unknown little personality I was carrying. Both my children could recite Max’s adventures verbatim long before they could read. In time I had the whole Sendak catalog, but nothing ever replaced Wild Things for me. It is still my ‘go to’ gift for children’s birthdays and baby showers.

A couple of years ago I bought Where the Wild Things Are post-it notes. I really don’t remember much about my childhood and certainly don’t wallow in nostalgia for the pop cultural do-dads that informed my youth, yet even now when I’m within spitting distance of celebrating five decades on this planet, I can’t resist the Wild Things. Turns out this was not my most practical purchase, as I don’t want to actually write on any of the notes, but it definitely speaks to the power of Sendak.

What a sad loss, but what a wonderful and permanent legacy Mr. Sendak left for children of all ages everywhere.  He celebrated the little monster in all of us!


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