I got a lump in my throat when I read that you had died.
Your books have been a mainstay in my daughter's library from the day that she was born.
When I began the slippery slope of raising a child, I was not educated about children's books for her generation, so I just went into a book store and browsed.
Every single one of your books made it into my cart. Every. Single. One.
There were a lot of choices and some of them were just too gooey for me to stomach. I wasn't interested in the books that seemed to spend all of their time talking about how much a child was loved, how perfect a specimen that child was.
If I parented correctly, this should be ingrained into their spirit. I didn't want to get a toothache reading a book to my child. I wanted us to have some fun together.
Your books, along with Dr. Seuss did that for me. Personally, I wasn't all that crazy about the Dr. Seuss books but I could see their appeal to children and my daughter fell madly in love with The Cat In The Hat from day one, so they made it to our shelves too.
But your books amazed me. They were not only beautifully illustrated, but they were extremely interesting and did not insult a child's intelligence. They were beautifully written semantically. Reading them aloud was the key. The words came alive when spoken aloud.
I enjoyed the fact that you were gay and felt no need to make a big deal of it or hide it. You just were who you were. My favorite interview was the one you did with Jon Stewart where when asked if you loved children, you replied, "I like them few and far between." There was nothing fey or twinkly eyed about you. You just worked hard at writing and illustrating brilliant books.
My favorite, like most everyone I know, is Where The Wild Things Are. I can still see my daughter at four years old, sitting close to me on the sofa. She made claws with her stubby little fingers when the monsters showed their terrible claws. She threw back her head in a deep voiced baby girl roar when they roared their terrible roars. And my favorite: she would bare her perfect pearly white teeth (with a few missing) when they gnashed their terrible teeth.
I still have this book memorized and she is now almost 13.
My daughter's favorite book was a tie between The Sign On Rosie's Door and Outside Over There. She often made a sign for her bedroom door copying Rosie's If you want to know a secret, knock three times. I spent many hours knocking three times to find that my daughter could also be Alinda, a lovely singer.
But, we baked cakes to the songs from Chicken Soup With Rice, both of us shaking our heads over Pierre's cautionary tale and the one who was Johnny. And to this day, we sing Alligators All Around in the car together sometimes. I confess that I am partial to the letters h (having headaches), p (pushing people) and t (throwing tantrums)....
But, you know...we loved all of your books. We loved Kenny's Window and his dreams of a faraway land, Very Far Away (my daughter swore that if I gave her a sibling, she would behave, truly!) and especially In the Night Kitchen which I loved not only for the way that you refused to shy away from scary things, but also because you let the boy be naked.
We liked Some Swell Pigs, Seven Little Monsters and We Are All In The Dumps With Jack And Guy.
We are all in the dumps
For diamonds are thumps
The kittens have gone to St. Pauls!
The baby is bit
The Moon's in a fit
And the houses are built
One of my favorite times was when a friend of mine came over to our house to visit, bringing her toddler son and Liv, my daughter, carried him into her room to play and when I checked on them a half hour later, they were cuddled in the rocker that I used to sit and read to her in, and there she was....reading Bumble Ardy to that little boy.
The only book of yours that was not an instant hit at our house was your pop up book, Mommy? Liv could not abide pop up books, would strain at the bit to tear the pages or mash them down flat. But we still loved the story.
I feel like I want to call you Maurice, but should probably call you Mr. Sendak because I am so in awe of you, of your talent.
You were a big part of my daughter's childhood and my first (and to be only) time parenting.
I will miss you, but you live on in all of the books that are still in my daughter's book case. She can't bear to box them up as she did with her other childhood books. So, your books sit with all the different colored fairy books, with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Charlotte's Web, Sarah, Plain And Tall, Where The Sidewalk Ends, all of Langston Hughes' poetry, The Diary Of Anne Frank, The Witch Of Blackbird Pond, Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry and the entire series of the All-Of-A-Kind-Family and the Little House books.
My daughter is a voracious reader like her mother and father and you helped bring her to that place.
Thank you for being such a lovely part of our life together.
Mr. Sendak? Maurice?
Bravo. And wherever you are, I hope you are making a wild rumpus.