Is there anything more innocent than holding your child in your lap and reading them a book?
The emailed news alert yesterday announcing that Maurice Sendak, 83, had died of a stroke immediately made me think of that cherished time many, many years ago when my wiggly young son would sit in my lap and I would read book after book to him.
Maurice Sendak will forever be known as the author and illustrator of his signature award-winning children’s book, “Where The Wild Things Are,” but in our household we knew Maurice Sendak for his other award-winning book, “In The Night Kitchen.”
How many times did I read this silly, wonderful book to my son? Over and over, we would go into Mickey’s dark bedroom and fall through the floor with him into the light of the night kitchen where the fat mustached bakers would mix, chant and stir until they put together a “Mickey cake” which was ready to be cooked in the oven. But suddenly as the bakers open the oven door, Mickey pokes through the dough and tells the bakers, “I’m not the milk and the milk’s not me! I’m Mickey!”
My son loved Sendak’s large and topsy turvy drawings of Mickey flying in the kitchen in an airplane he pounded together with dough and also the idea of having cake for breakfast!
Maurice Sendak broke new ground in children’s literature for the children in his stories didn’t behave themselves and were always in magical worlds that didn’t involve adults. Here is what Maurice Sendak said in an interview about the fan mail he received from children:
“A little boy… sent me a charming card with a little drawing. 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 drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
Don’t you love it? Capturing children’s imaginations is a tricky business and few authors did it as powerfully as Maurice Sendak!