So Wild.

Very few authors have had the same effect on me in my adulthood as they had in my childhood. But Maurice Sendak has.  Sometimes society loses people, and it feels so personal. And I'm not talking about your Grandpa Ed or a Kardashian. I'm talking about the people who have chosen to share themselves with us. Their words, their voice, their pictures. There are paintings and songs and books that are so dear to me that they no longer belong to the artist (or anyone else for that matter), but to me. These things become a part of my timeline, and my experience. These things become landmarks to me. I look at the art of these people and am able to relate it back to a feeling or a time that changed my life in both big ways and small.

Myself, like many of my friends (bookish and not), have a distinct connection to Maurice Sendak and Where The Wild Things Are. I love all of Sendak's work, especially his most recent Bumble-Ardy. But WTWTA will always be different for me. Growing up, not a whole lot of people read to me. And not because they didn't want to--I don't think--but, because I wanted that experience. And so, because I preferred to read on my own, I was a little older than most when I stumbled upon WTWTA, which I think allowed me to remember my initial feelings about it more specifically. (I've always had trouble with early childhood memories, they're all so foggy to me. I can only remember screenshots of events, and not always the events themselves. I digress.) I recall reading Wild Things and, at first, not liking it. Not being at all pleased by it. I thought Max was foolish, and he made me embarrassed about being a kid. At that age (maybe 7 or 8? maybe even 9?), I wanted nothing more than to be an adult. In my family I was the only girl my age. So all the boys played sports and I was this chubby little girl who just wanted to be a grownup. I'd watch movies like Sleeping with the Enemy, Dances with Wolves, and Pet Sematary with my sister. But then I read WTWTA again.  And again. And I started to like Max. Because I understood Max. Because when I saw Max I didn't see a boy, or a girl, or a kid. I saw a person. And I could relate to that person.

As an adult, upon revisiting WTWTA, I found that I felt the same. And probably even stronger.

So, this morning, I woke up to the news that Maurice Sendak had passed. And I cried. Burst out into tears crying. Which, although I loved that grouchy old man, is silly. Because Maurice was 83 years old, and he had lived a long full life--much fuller than many others. I cried while I got ready this morning. I cried on my way to work. And I cried at my desk. I don't cry too often, so this was not at all happy-making. Then I said, "Self, why are you crying?" (I'm very self-aware like that, you see.) I don't know Maurice Sendak. Not personally, anyway. When he died, his books didn't dissipate off my shelves. They're still there. I checked.

I guess, yeah, it's true what they say. An artist's work will live on long past the artist. So let's be happy that we had Maurice Sendak. And let's be happy that he chose to share his work. And let's treasure the artists we still have. But most importantly let's share our work. Even if it's just with one other person, that's one more person who your work will live inside. Because what if? What if Maurice hadn't ever shown us how to be wild?


  1. I'll never forget when my second grade teacher, Mrs. Andres, called us all to the rug for story time. Reading Where the Wild Things Are opened my eyes to imaginative worlds. I, too, was a chubby little girl with dismal hand-to-eye coordination--and books became my favorite escape.

  2. Every word of that book is delicious. And the pictures! Stop! I love the one where his room starts to turn into the jungle.

    Not only am I thankful for his work, I'm thankful for the person who inspired/encouraged him to do it in the first place.

    Thanks, Julie.

  3. Thanks for this lovely post, Julie. I used to read WTWTA to my brother. RIP Maurice Sendak, you are missed.