He was a man who accepted and embraced vulnerability. He understood the habitual human fear of the unknown and saw the complexities of mankind, both good and bad. And yet, "Where the Wild Things Are" author Maurice Sendak retained his childlike heart throughout his 83-year lifespan.
By penning one of the most influential children's books of the 20th Century, Sendak encouraged children and adults to use their imaginations. Sendak, who passed away early Tuesday morning, was not one to hestiate in sharing his thoughts, his truths and beliefs with friends, reporters, peers and most of all, with beloved children worldwide.
The following is a compilation of Sendak's thoughts and words shared with various media outlets and written within his 15+ books. I see these ten quotes as a representation of who Maurice Sendak was, how he lived and why is legacy will continue on.
- “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.”
- "I was so happy I thought of it. It came to me. Which is what the creative act is all about. Things come to you without you necessarily knowing what they mean!" (Maurice Sendak: On Life, Death And Children's Lit, to NPR)
- "It is a blessing to get old." (Maurice Sendak: On Life, Death And Children's Lit, to NPR)
- "Please don't go. We'll eat you up. We love you so." (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963)
- "And the walls became the world all around." (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, 1963)
- "I think I'm getting out just in time. Watching the news, everything seems to be in disorder. Everybody seems to be unhappy. We've lost the knack of living in the world with the sensation of safety." (Sendak, picturing mortality, to Inquirer staff writer Amy Rosenberg)
- "You can't get rid of evil. We can't, and I feel that so intensely. All the idiots that keep coming into the world and wrecking people's lives. And it is such an abundance of idiocy that you lose courage, okay? That you lose hope — I don't want to lose hope." (Interview: Maurice Sendak, NOW with Bill Moyers, 2004)
- 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. They understand metaphor and symbol. If children are different from us, they are more spontaneous. Grown-up lives have become overlaid with dross. (The Paternal Pride of Maurice Sendak, The New York Times, 1987)
- "And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming wild things." (Sendak, after receiving the Caldecott Medal in 1964)
- “I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more.”
More on Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012