Wild Rumpus: Remembering Maurice Sendak

Today we celebrate the birthday of the late Maurice Sendak, American illustrator and author of the beloved ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. We thank him for his

Young Readers

Today we celebrate the birthday of the late Maurice Sendak, American illustrator and author of the beloved Where the Wild Things Are. We thank him for cherishing the child’s soul, its sense of adventure, and its wild imagination.  Always exploring at once both the beautiful innocence and frightening psychological depths of children’s minds, Sendak had a unique gift for captivating and speaking to children through the stories they read, watch, and learn from.


maurice sendak

image via New York library

“There must be more to life than having everything,” writes Sendak in Higglety Pigglety Pop!. Similar phrases and morals saturate his children’s books, many of which graced the shelves of our childhood homes without knowing they were by the man who wrote Where the Wild Things Are. You may remember squinting through the very small set called Nutshell Library featuring a boy, a lion, and the rest of the animal kingdom. Or perhaps you read the endearing classic Chicken Soup with Rice, a dish which soon became a personal favorite of mine after insisting my mother make it.  I too believed a whale could spout the stuff from its blowhole.


chicken soup with rice

image via pinterest


It’s truly amazing when an author can touch on such deeper topics such as life and death within the simply written and colorfully adorned pages of a children’s book; many of us may remember a slight fear when our parents read us Where the Wild Things Are, and would certainty notice its philosophical musings if reading it now. Sendak’s genius in this arena can, in many ways, be attributed to his own childhood.



Born in Brooklyn, New York to Polish-Jewish parents in 1928, much of Sendak’s childhood was marred by the deaths of family members abroad during the Holocaust.  Sendak himself described his childhood as a “terrible situation,” diagnosing himself as having been exposed at too young an age to death and the concept of mortality.



image via pinterest


His difficult and traumatic upbringing gave Sendak an understanding of how deeply existential thinking manifests in children.  “I refuse to lie to children,” claimed Sendak. When writing Bumble-ardy, he was intensely aware of death in his life; his partner, Eugene Glynn, was dying at the time.

In fact, Sendak was a renowned angry man, angry too at the belittling title he believed had been given to him as a ‘children’s illustrator.’  Rather, he believed his works were difficult to produce for both personal and social reasons, and he was careful not to represent wrongly the experience of life to young and easily influenced readers.

Today we remember his genius, his life, and what he gave to the lives of so many.  For is life as we know it now really so far off from the angsty cries of Wild Things’ Max?

“Let the wild rumpus start!”


feature image via bookstr