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.


15 thoughts on “Goodbye, Mr. Sendak

  1. “And that’s why, thanks to Mickey, we have cake every morning.”
    Heard it on the radio this afternoon, too.
    Lovely tribute, Sarah.

  2. Thanks for doing this. I listened to PBS hour long tribute and old interviews at noon. I told your Dad that I was going to bring my Wild Thing to work with me.Even dusted him off, but I forgot.

  3. My husband sent me this wonderful quote today.

    “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.”

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