Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tribute to Maurice Sendak

Sendak was a querulous, opinionated genius. He was grumpy, but he was our grump. We revered him, and feared him, all in the same moment. We loved how he wrote and illustrated dark, savage, powerful, and hopeful picture books. Books where kids triumphed.

He started, decades ago, illustrating other authors' books. Here's my favorite, much beloved book when I was a child:

Years ago, Sendak came out to Berkeley and autographed books at Cody's. I stood in a long, long line, inching my way forward. We were told to hold our books out, open to the page to autograph. Sendak didn't look up, just scribbled his name, reached for the next book. I held out my book, Charlotte and the White Horse by Ruth Krauss. He looked up, startled. "I haven't seen this book for a long time," he said. "Tell me your name, and I'll put your name in."
And he did.

I read Charlotte's White Horse over and over, carefully penciled in my initials under my godmother's signature. Later I realized my initials weren't supposed to be there, so I just as carefully erased them.

 I loved this book because it was a book about a girl and a white colt. Her father tells her he's going to sell it to save money to send her little brother to college one day. She begs her father to let her keep the colt, and he agrees. "And ever after, every morning, she groomed him and they went for a gallop and in the evening she tucked him in and said goodnight."

A book where a father understood, and a girl triumphed.

1 comment:

Kathy isaacs said...

I stood in a line like that with my children's copies of Where the Wild Things are and In the Night Kitchen. The bookstore owner announced that only books we'd purchased that day would be signed, so I sadly put them aside. But he looked up and said of my binding-taped and hand spine-labeled Wild Things, "look how much that's been loved.” He peered at the centerfold, pronounced it a first edition, and inscribed it to my daughter. We treasure it, of course.