We’ve lost one of the old guard. One of our legends. The fellow you could name in a crowded room and find that everyone, regardless of their age or occupation, knew in some way. Maurice Sendak, as I’m sure we all know by now, passed away Tuesday. While the CBC Gala celebrating the Children’s Book Choice Awards took place that day, little did we know at the time that the man, to whom so many of us owe the current state of children’s literature, was gone.
The tributes are starting to pile up and each is worth reading for its own reason. Of particular note is the SLJ obituary, which includes Judy Blume’s thoughts on the man. The New Yorker‘s piece is by my buddy Laurie Davidson’s sister Amy (well played, Amy) and includes many fine links to previous Sendak pieces in the New Yorker. A couple folks have said that if you read one tribute to him read the one in The New York Times. And the Literary Safari post from a Q&A in 2008 that includes some great links and an even greater man. On the blog side of things my co-writer Jules Danielson wrote a lovely piece on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and fellow co-writer Peter Sieruta has reposted his amazing piece on Maurice Sendak’s first book (not the one you think) at Collecting Children’s Books. And the NY1 piece right here shows images of Pierre which to this day is my favorite Sendak.
Now I didn’t know Mr. Sendak. Never met him, though he was on my literary bucket list (a list that probably should not be filled with author/illustrators above the age of 80). I was deeply afraid to meet him, truth be told, since insofar as I could tell he suffered no fools and I tongue-tie in the presence of the greats. Someone who did know Mr. Sendak and wrote about it as recently as this past Sunday was the fantastic author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier. His story is one that artists everywhere would dream of. You open your mailbox and sitting there is a letter inviting you to study under Sendak because he likes your work. It’s a story of the Sendak Fellowship, a program that never had a website. Just illustrators spending weeks working on their art.
NYPL remembers him in our own way. We’ve a guest book belonging to the Children’s Center that contains a beautiful autograph he made decades ago at one of our events. And our own Billy Parrott (someday I need to have a radio show with that guy) wrote a fantastic piece a couple years ago where he identified the very apartment where Sendak created Where the Wild Things Are. I don’t think I knew that he lived so near my beloved Jefferson Market branch. One wonders if he ever went in.
Sendak wasn’t the only big name to die recently. In fact he and Adam “MCA” Yauch had something in common. Can you guess what it was?
And finally, Lisa Brown identified the best Maurice Sendak quote of all time and here is a Harry Bliss cartoon bidding the man goodbye.
Godspeed, Wild Thing.