Farewell, Maurice Sendak

May 9th, 2012 by


Photo by John Dugdale, from the HarperCollins website

Yesterday, the world lost a groundbreaking author/illustrator — and children everywhere lost a hero and champion. At the age of 83, the legendary Maurice Sendak passed away after complications of a recent stroke.

I imagine Mr. Sendak setting sail for a faraway island where a group of hairy, horned, and hooting/hollering creatures await his arrival. That’s because, of course, I associated Sendak most with his famous picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

higglety-pigglety-popBut Sendak also published a lot of other well-loved stories, including In the Night Kitchen; Chicken Soup with Rice; and a  childhood favorite of mine, Higglety Pigglety Pop. You may also know him as the illustrator of Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear books — some of which I still have on the shelf in the bedroom where I grew up (my parents are NOT allowed to get rid of any of my old books, no way no how).

Despite his great achievements as a children’s book creator, the funny thing is that Sendak never considered himself as such. Recently he explained, “I don’t write for children. I write, and somebody says, ‘That’s for children.'”

But for someone who didn’t tailor his work specifically to kids, it seems that Sendak certainly understood — and applauded, respected, and celebrated — them. After all, this was a man who said, “…what none of us seem to realize is how smart kids are.” And also: “Children are tough, though we tend to think of them as fragile. They have to be tough. Childhood is not easy. We sentimentalize children, but they know what’s real and what’s not.”

where-the-wild-things-areMaybe Sendak felt that way because he himself had a rough childhood. He was often ill, he lost many relatives in the Holocaust, and he didn’t really feel accepted by the world at large. Perhaps that’s why so many of his books have a dark edge, a determination not to show the universe as all sunny and smiley and shiny all the time.

As Sendak put it, “I didn’t set out to make children happy or make life better for them or easier for them.” And yet, through his books, I think he kind of did, don’t you?

Fare thee well, Maurice Sendak. Normally, I would say “Rest In Peace” in a situation like this… but in this case, I hope you’re enjoying a wild and decidedly un-peaceful rumpus somewhere!

— Karen

Karen recalls reading aloud from Chicken Soup with Rice when she was a kid. Even back then, she loved anything related to food! Or maybe it was because the book was so good…

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Jon Scieszka, Vomit, and Candy Bars. Need I say more?

July 25th, 2010 by

In a recent podcast, I recounted a story involving a car ride, a candy bar, and group vomiting. Thankfully, it wasn’t my story, but a memory of author Jon Scieszka’s — I was just re-telling it after reading his fantastic book Knucklehead.

Well, I’ve discovered a video where he tells the story himself! Check out this interview he did for Scholastic’s Ink Splot 26 blog*. The story comes right after he explains why he started writing:

I’ll be honest here: If Jon Scieszka were a book that I was judging by its cover, I’d say Jon Scieszka’s “cover” looks like… a hedge fund banker. Or a fancy schmancy consultant. What kind of consultant? I don’t know. Something with numbers, I suppose.

What I’m trying to say (very poorly) is that he doesn’t look like someone who’d write the laugh-out-loud picture book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (which he did). So to come across a video of this serious-looking dude talking about vomit, it’s just… just… AWESOME! Especially the way he says “pecan nut log”— I think the fact he includes that little detail is a sign of what a genius writer he is. (Although, in all fairness to me, that was a detail I didn’t have.)

— Nancy

Nancy has plenty of puke stories of her own, but she’s been sparing everyone the gooey details… Or waiting for right time to bring it up. Mwahahhahha!

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*Btw, full disclosure: I used to work at Scholastic, and Karen still works there. In fact, now she’s in charge of the website that the Ink Splot 26 blog is part of! She’s actually the one who told me about this amazing video — but she swears she was just being a good friend, not trying to promote her other website. I guess I believe her…

My (Undead) Author All-Star Team

August 11th, 2009 by

Holy moly, Batman! I just heard today that Jon Scieszka, M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Kate Di Camillo, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Megan McDonald, Katherine Paterson, and a whole bunch of other crazy-awesome children’s book authors are teaming up to write a serial adventure story together! And guess what it’s called! Okay, I’m too impatient to wait for you to guess, I’m just going to tell you: it’s called The Exquisite Corpse Adventure. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

The story will be posted in chunks over the course of a year on the Library of Congress’ website (http://www.read.gov). The first installment will launch at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival, on Saturday, September 26. I, for one, cannot wait. I already put it on my calendar. Seriously.

In addition to driving me batty with anticipation, this project also got me thinking about who else I’d love to see writing about exquisite corpses and their adventures. Like I said, this is an amazing group of authors that the Library of Congress got together. But when it comes to the undead, there are a few more names I would want to add to the list — my personal (undead) author all-star team, if you will:
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