yelling ‘Milk! Milk! Milk for the morning cake!'”
When my son Ian was small, maybe a year old, I discovered Maurice Sendak at a darling little children’s book store on NE Broadway in Portland. “In the Night Kitchen” depicted a trio of somewhat menacing chef/bakers. The image promised a bit of mischief and madness–not too much, mind you, but enough to stir things up a bit. I knew by the words Sendak used, the cadence, the fun, that I would never tire of reading it aloud. With gusto.
The book went home with me, where it instantly became the household favorite. Mickey was our hero. “Morning cake” became our household term for the goodies we’d purchase at Helen Bernhard Bakery for weekend breakfast treats. And this is no exaggeration, I read that book thousands of times, often twice a day. I never tired of it and neither did Ian and, later, Wynne.
And then there was Max in “Where the Wild Things Are”. Max was the young, terrified Maurice Sendak, according to a radio interview I heard yesterday. And the monsters, the wild things, were his relatives, “big and loud, with moles and nose hairs”. When Sendak spoke in interviews about “monsters” I understood his childhood fears and uncertainties. They were mine as well. “Childhood is a terrible time,” he said. He got it.
Sendak understood and embraced children. He understood their issues and fears because such things are universal. And through his lifetime body of work he addressed these issues in a secret language we can all understand. He transformed our “monsters” into lushly illustrated poetry. He opened us up, both children and adults. To me, Maruice Sendak was a rock star.
Maurice Sendak, may you rest in peace. Ian, may you be at the ready to give him a well-deserved hero’s welcome.