Sad news for anyone who was ever a kid.
Reactions and obits from around the web:
Over at The Telegraph, ten classic Sendak quotes:
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.
Emily Bazelon reflects over at Slate:
A few months ago, my sons and I listened to Terry Gross interview Sendak on Fresh Air. I was mesmerized. They were outraged by this [Sendak] quote:
“I would infinitely prefer a daughter. If I had a son, I would leave him at the A&P or some other big advertising place where somebody who needs a kid would find him and he would be all right. … A daughter would be drawn to me. A daughter would want to help me. Girls are infinitely more complicated than boys and women more than men. And there’s no doubt about that. We just don’t like to think about it. Certainly the men don’t like to think about it. I have lived my whole life with a dream daughter.”
The Hollywood Reporter makes note of the Twitter love:
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, clearly a fan, offered, “Maurice Sendak, Bklyn treasure & the original ‘Wild Thing’—please don’t go, we’ll eat you up we love you so! Thanks for the Wild Rumpus.”
Alyssa Rosenberg, writing for ThinkProgress:
And as a gay man and a Jew, Sendak was particularly aware of how frightening the world could be, even after children grow up and grow into adult power and responsibility. Though it’s a later work, I’ve always particularly loved Sendak and Tony Kushner’s collaboration on Brundibar, an adaptation of a children’s opera first performed in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The story, about children who team up to chase a wicked organ grinder out of the town square so they can sing to raise the money to pay a doctor to attend to their sick father, is both an anti-Hitler allegory and in keeping with Sendak’s view of children as confronters of a large and sometimes frightening world. The opera’s survival is also a testament to the power of art in arming children for that fight, as fitting a summary of Sendak’s work as I could imagine.
The New York Times obit:
In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.
Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.
The LA Times obit:
…published in 1963, [Where the Wild Things Are] was a startling departure from the sweetness and innocence that ruled children’s literature. Wild Things tapped into the fears of childhood and sent its main character — an unruly boy in a wolf costume — into a menacing forest to tame the wild beasts of his imagination.
Librarians banned the book as too frightening. Psychologists and many adults condemned it for being too dark. But a 1964 Los Angeles Times review echoed many critics: The “aggressive flight of fantasy” was “the best thing of its kind in many a year.”
And in case you missed it, a terrific interview with Sendak on The Colbert Report earlier this year: