The Wild Rumpus Ends

by Amy Kraft on May 8, 2012


“Hey,” my husband said from the next room, “Maurice Sendak died.”

I burst into tears. Even as I write this, I can’t stop crying.

Like so many, Where the Wild Things Are is my favorite picture book and has been since I was a kid. But it’s more than that. Few people are as influential on my work as Maurice Sendak is.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work on an adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. Through almost all of the project, I didn’t have any interaction with Sendak himself, but it was a labor of love for everyone involved. When the project finally made its way in front of Maurice Sendak, he was happy with the animation but did not like our narration at all. Too soft. Too safe. On one unforgettable day, I found myself on a conference call with Maurice Sendak. Regarding children, he growled:

You gotta scare the shit out of them.

That comment planted itself like a seed in my brain, and a forest grew. While I haven’t fully gone over to the scare-the-shit-out-of-kids camp, I’ve grown to question our collective desire to make media overly safe, overly explained, and overly familiar for kids. I think everyone needs a little bit of Maurice Sendak ringing in their ears.

Maurice Sendak, my words and my tears cannot adequately express how much I’m going to miss having you around.

Patricia May 8, 2012 at 10:11 am

I loved that about him — that he could be a children’s author and still be an adult and talk like an adult and care about adult things — he wasn’t typecast (or whatever you call it in the lit world).

My first experience with him actually wasn’t Where the Wild Things Are, but his art in the Little Bear series when I was in Kindergarten. I read Wild Things later.

Andrea May 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Having a child with an autoimmune disorder, I’ve always felt like I have to create a bridge to the hard, scary stuff that he is going to have to confront, to give him a safe place to grow but at the same time give him the mental strength to face a more-complicated-than-average adulthood. An overly safe childhood wasn’t an option for us, so I’ve always appreciated authors and artists like Sendak.

Mortmer May 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I haven’t stopped crying since I heard the news this morning. “Where the Wild Things Are” is, to this day, my favourite book. I feel as if a dear friend has died, one I haven’t seen for a long time but someone dear to my heart. Wonderful tribute.

Vincent | @CuteMonsterDad May 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Admittedly, I knew very little about Maurice Sendak, the man, prior to learning about his death. Of course I was familiar with Where The Wild Things Are and have always appreciated its originality. I mourn the loss of a great artist.

If you haven’t seen his interview with Stephen Colbert, please do. It’s wonderful:–1

Amy Kraft May 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I saw that Colbert interview when it ran and remember thinking that it epitomizes everything I love about both Maurice Sendak and Stephen Colbert.

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