Goodbye, Mr. Sendak

 

Before I fled to graduate school, I worked in a chain bookstore where the customer was always right, especially when they weren’t.

Near Christmas, a lady came up to the counter and asked me to find a children’s picture book by a man named Coldsmith.  “It’s Where the Wild Things Are,” she said.

“You mean Maurice Sendak?” I asked.

“No,” she said, frowning at me.  “Coldsmith. C-O-L-D-S-M-I-T-H.  The picture book, with the boy in the wolf suit.  I’m surprised you don’t know about it.”

I asked her to wait a moment, went back in the children’s area, found the book, and brought it back.  “This one?”

“Oh,” she said, her nose slightly lower than it had been a moment ago.  “I suppose Coldsmith did the drawings, then.”

“Oh, no.  Maurice Sendak  illustrates his own books.”  I did not tell her I was surprised she didn’t know that, but only because my manager was right behind me.

But I was surprised.

Didn’t everyone grow up in the Night Kitchen?  Doesn’t everyone recite a certain verse when they see Chicken Soup with Rice on the menu?

Doesn’t everyone enjoy a wild rumpus?  Or long to have a hot dinner waiting for them in a place where they are loved best of all?

Goodbye, Mr. Sendak, and thank you for the Higglety, the Pigglety and the Pop, the Bumble-Ardy, and all of those marvelous alligators.    Thank you for lending your unmistakable talents to Little Bear and so many other stories, including Brundibar, which forced open a crack in my heart I didn’t know was there.

And thank you for allowing children be real children—mischievous, adventurous, selfish, loving, stubborn, brave, wonderful creatures who dance and sing and dream and don’t care until they do.

We will remember you and we will miss you.