And now, for you youngsters, Maurice Sendak

Yesterday, Kathryn protested that she should not be expected to know how Paul McCartney was dressed on the cover of “Abbey Road” because she was too young. I shot back that her youth was no excuse, that she might as well claim she couldn’t picture Alberto Korda’s photo of Che Guevara because she was not a communist.

Once she followed the link I provided, of course, she responded, “Oh, that one.” The exchange sparked a fun sub-thread on iconic images of the 20th Century.

Well, this morning, I experienced the feeling of being too old for a shared cultural experience. As the news spread that Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, had died, Twitter was filled with references to how important he was to the childhoods of the writers — such as this one from actor/director Jon Favreau.

I immediately felt a disconnect. I wasn’t familiar with who he was until I was an adult. Actually, he may not have fully registered on me until Richland County Public Library had some sort of special Sendak celebration several years back.

To me, his most famous work was one of those books in the stacks of books from which we read to our children, and then grandchildren. But not one that had made a big impression on me, like my favorites (Socks for Supper by Jack Kent, The King’s Stilts by Dr. Seuss, and especially Bread and Jam for Francis, by Russell and Lillian Hoban). And while I get the impression that he had greater literary cachet than the authors of “The Berenstain Bears,” I was more affected by the passing of Jan Berenstain.

How about you young folks out there? How did Sendak affect you?

15 thoughts on “And now, for you youngsters, Maurice Sendak

  1. Brad

    By the way, I looked it up this morning, and Sendak’s book was released in 1963, when I was 10. So I was a bit old.

    For that matter, I have little memory of those kinds of books when I was a kid. My first strong memories of books are of those I read when I learned to read on my own, and those ranged from “chapter books” that I ordered from the Weekly Reader Book Club to a set of youth encyclopedias we got when I was 6, put out by Golden Books.

    Most of what I know about young children’s literature, I learned as a parent and grandparent.

  2. Brad

    Oh, “for you youngsters…” that reference is to something that Ed Sullivan used to say when he introduced acts for the younger members of his national audience (TV audiences weren’t segmented in those days; everybody watched the few things that were on). In his aged mind, this covered everything from The Rolling Stones to Topo Gigio, the talking mouse.

  3. Silence

    Sad to hear about Mr. Sendak’s passing, suprised that he was still alive, I suppose. I do remember Where the Wild Things Are from my childhood, but I can’t say that it had any more effect on me than any other book. The artwork’s nice and very creative.

  4. Brad

    Apropos of nothing, one of my favorite grumpy old man quotes, from “A Hard Day’s Night:”

    Stuffy middle-aged man: “Don’t take that tone with me, young man. I fought the war for your sort.”

    Ringo: “I bet you’re sorry you won.”

  5. bud

    One of Sendak’s books, “In the Night Kitchen”, had an anatomically correct illustration of a naked boy. Not sure how that passed the censoring class. Great story though. Read it to my kids a gazillion times.

  6. `Kathryn Fenner

    I would have been the right age for Sendak except that Aiken, SC was 5-10 years behind the times. I’ve never read it, but I think the art is cool.

  7. Burl Burlingame

    President Obama, a fan of “Where the Wild Things Are,” read it to kids at the White House Easter Egg Roll this year. Of course, he was criticized for that. Maybe the White House Easter Egg Roll should be privatized?

  8. Mark Stewart

    I’ll have to ask my son, but I think that’s not R2D2, but the treacherous R3 who is really a spy for the evil Sith in the Clone Wars.

    And, yeah, I remember having Sendak read to me in the 1960’s. Wasn’t my favorite, but definately one of the memorable half dozen. The other visually memorable one, that I was also lukewarm about, was Drummer Hof.

  9. Tim

    Sendak was greatly influenced and encouraged by Augusta Baker. She was formerly the Storyteller in Residence at the RCPL, and was an icon in Columbia. Prior to that, she was in charge of Children’s Libraries for the NYPL system. She fostered the likes of Sendak, to the point that he was quite generous in allowing reproductions of his artwork on the Children’s Library at the New RCPL building. It was a distinct honor.

  10. Claude

    Sendak was the kind of children’s author who was more admired by adults. Most children are creeped out by his stories.

  11. Scout

    I was certainly very aware of his books as a kid, but they never were my most favorites I don’t think. I was born in 69. I think if I had to pick, I like Alligators All Around or Chicken Soup with Rice best, but I actually discovered those as an adult. I was a big Francis fan though – I read all the Francis books.

  12. Nick Nielsen

    The Weekly Reader Book Club? Wow, haven’t thought about that in years. I’ll have to check and see if I still have my Encyclopedia Brown books…

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