Thanks, Mr. Sendak

9th May 2012

Reposted from my archives, an excerpt from Life Lessons in Literature.

In college, I date a man who has a beautiful son. I give the toddler a bath before bedtime, and then read to him as he falls asleep. There are a few pages in the middle of Where the Wild Things Are that have no words, just illustrations of wild things cavorting about with their terrible claws and terrible teeth. James is half asleep when we get to this part, but he lifts his head a few inches and points at the monster jumping and growling beneath the moon. He taps the drawing and whispers, “He try to get the moon.”

Do you have a favorite Maurice Sendak memory?

21 thoughts on “Thanks, Mr. Sendak

  1. Martha

    Reading Where the Wild Things Are to a toddler probably has to be one of life’s most rewarding experiences.

  2. Megan

    There’s something about his work that makes my heart break wide open.

    I hope that James was also thinking of Mr. Sendak yesterday.

  3. dgm

    We loved “Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters”. A baaaad little boy learns to care. It’s a funny, sweet story.

  4. chels

    When my twin brother and I were toddlers, we went through a phase where we had to read Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen every night before bed. After a while, we would help narrate (but always with the same exclamations about the same pages) with helpful observations. When Max sails to find the wild things, he encounters a sea monster and we would very seriously say, “‘moke came out of his nose, Mom. ‘moke.” (We had trouble with our S sounds). And at the end we would sort of sing-song this little phrase, “He was loo-oonely, he wanted his mommm-mmy.” We still say those things as little inside jokes in our family.

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  6. Stef

    I have to make the (perhaps shocking) admission that I never read Where the Wild Things Are as a kid, but I recently saw Maurice Sendak on “The Colbert Report” and I thought his two-part interview was really funny. If you are a fan of the author and/or the show, I highly recommend checking out those segments on the show’s website.

  7. Leah

    I memorized “where the wild things are” while I was in college, and it still shames me a little that I didn’t keep it committed to memory. I hope to learn again before we have kids. I love telling stories from memory, and Maurice Sendak has some lovely ones.

    I also have a wonderful memory of “In the Night Kitchen,” which a college boyfriend introduced to me. I don’t have many fond memories of him, but I do recall with pleasure that we used to read each other kids’ books at night. This was a regular in our rotation, and he had a lovely way of reading the book.

  8. TRS

    I used to read Where The Wild Things Are to my much younger sister frequently. It was interactive. We roared our terrible roars, showed our terrible claws, and gnashed our terrible teeth. The best part was our wild rumpus.

  9. Shevon

    I’m not sure if it’s there anymore, but there used to be this Where the Wild Things Are play area in the Metreon, and I would always make sure to stop by and wander around that area when I could go into the city. I just loved it because it made me feel like I had finally figured out how to get to the place where the wild things lived! Also, I have the Mommy? pop up book, and my kids and I look at it quite often, it’s a family favorite.

  10. Julie

    My daughter had heard the “Really Rosie” soundtrack umpteen times before we pulled out the book. Once she saw the drawings, she fell in love with Rosie. There is nothing better than seeing my 3 year old in a feather boa belting out the words, “When everybody screams and yells,’There’s nothing to do! There’s nothing to see!’ who dreams up a place they’d like to be? The enchanted one. That’s me!”

  11. AnthroK8

    I was hanging around with some friends talking about books we loved as kids. One of these friends grew up speaking Welsh, and learned to read first in that language.

    So, he says “when I was really little one of my favorites was a Welsh book called Yng Ngwlad y Pethau Gwyllt.* It translates to English as Where the Wild Things Are.”

    “Oh, I loved that book too!!”

    “Hey, I didn’t know it had been translated into English!”


    “Friend. Where the Wild Things Are was written by an American. A guy raised in a Jewish family, from New York.”

    “Oh! Oh. I didn’t realize it wasn’t originally written in welsh.”

    “Friend. The author’s name is Maurice Sendak. There is no K-letter in the Welsh language. It’s possible he could be a K-lettered Welsh speaking person, but maybe unlikely.”

    “Huh. I’d never thought of that before.”

    I went out and got him a copy in English that day, and he read me his copy in Welsh. It was awesome.

    Later, I found a copy of WTWTA in a bookstore in London, in the Welsh/Gaelic book section. My older brother was so taken with it, I gave it to him for Christmas. <3 u, brotherie!

    *Thanks, WorldCat!

  12. Stephanie

    My Dad read this to me as a kid. Then I read it to my younger brothers. And now I’ve been reading it to my niece and nephew. This story never gets old!

  13. norm

    I had the Nutshell Library when I was a kid (still do!), and those books were just the teensy best. I remember being really embarrassed for Pierre, and was delighted by Alligators All Around. We had Chicken Soup with Rice for dinner last night in honor of the master.

  14. Cathy

    Where the Wild Things Are is my favourite book by Sendak and one of my childhood faves.

    My favourite Maurice Sendak memory is from when I was about 20 years old. A children’s theatre company was putting on Where the Wild Things Are in my town and my best friend went with me, along with a couple of her friends, all big Sendak fans. There were many children in the audience, parents and grandparents and then us. We were the only 20 somethings in the place but we had a great time, put on the Wild Thing masks, roared when we were supposed to and did all the motions and interactions. Got a few looks but we had a great time. Sendak is timeless.

  15. Kath

    My wonderfully irreverent aunt bought this book for me when I was a kid. She loved to make jokes about the family she’d married into and I remember the hilariously giggly first time I reading that book with her, when she went through and named all the wild things in the book: – “that one looks just like your Uncle Fred; this one we’ll call Uncle Max; gosh, this one looks just like your Uncle Harry, don’t you think? And this one can be your dad.” I still think that all the wild things look like my relatives.

  16. Freakedoutbunny

    My 4-year old loves the book but is scared by all the “I’ll eat you up” parts, so he’s asked me not to read them. Somehow he isn’t scared when I skip those lines and then reminds me “This is the

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