June 10, 1928-May 8, 2012.
I’m not sure how old I was when I first came across Where the Wild Things Are . More than likely my mother checked it out from the library and read it to us, but it could have been an early teacher. I do know I was young, and it’s been a part of my DNA for as long as I remember. As I grew older I learned how much respect Sendak had from anyone, including critics. I had the opportunity to briefly talk with Dr. Perry Nodelman as part of my coursework. When he was asked what the greatest picture book was, I think the class expected him to protest, or hem-and-haw about choosing one. Instead he said “there was no doubt the greatest picture book was Where the Wild Thins Are”. Who am I to disagree?
There have already been several tributes and memorials, by adults and children, critics and fans. Although honestly EVERYONE seemed to become a fan around Sendak. So for my personal memorial, I will share two quick stories; one of my own and one of another’s.
The first comes from a story author Jonathan Carroll. (It may well be apocryphal, but I like to believe it is true):
Sendak has said readers often ask what he thinks happened to Max when he grew up. One night years ago the author was at a dinner party in New York. Seated next to him was the actress Sigourney Weaver. It turned out the glamorous Weaver was a big fan of his work and they chatted throughout the meal. Later she pointed to a man sitting across the table. She said he was her husband and one of the reasons why she fell in love with him was he reminded her so much of Max in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Delighted, Sendak said he finally knew what happened to his famous character: Max grew up and married Sigourney Weaver.
And that’s what he tells anyone now when they ask what happened to the boy.
The other story is mine. Wild Things was one of the first books I remember reading my son. By the time his sister was there and ready, we had already established the pattern of pausing in the middle to put down the book, put our hands in the air, and LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN! We would then dance around like lunatics yelling “RUMPUS”.
So today in honor of the brilliant Maurice Sendak, let’s pause. Put our books down. Remember.
AND THAN LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN!!!