Friday, May 11, 2012

Where the Wild Things Aren't

Here's my offering in the children's-book version of David Lodge's literary parlor game "Humiliation," in which one admits sheepishly to not having read important books: I have never read Where The Wild Things Are.  How did this happen?  I really don't know.  Somehow it didn't cross my path in childhood, and consequently in adulthood I didn't seek it out nostalgically to share with my son.  I've read (and read to my son) other books Maurice Sendak wrote or illustrated (a favorite is Let's Be Enemies), but never this classic.  And it's not like War and Peace, right?  I could easily rectify this omission, but I haven't.

One thing I do know about Maurice Sendak, though, is that he gives awesome interviews, especially to Terry Gross.  I remember hearing one before I became a parent in which he explained his belief in the importance of including difficult, complex subjects in children's books.  This view of children as robust, non-fragile, real people whose perspectives must be acknowledged and respected was an important beginning point in my own evolving thinking about children, which was later developed further by How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (a parenting book I love!)  To me, Sendak's view of children seems continuous with Faber and Mazlish even though they would never advise punishing your child by sending him supperless to his room; the work of all three is fundamentally grounded in the real emotions of children.

I also love the unabashed curmudgeonliness of the opinions Sendak expresses in interviews.  For example, in an interview last year, Sendak had this to say about e-books:
"I hate them. It's like making believe there's another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of book! A book is a book is a book."
 I don't really agree with this sentiment, except as it relates to picture books (I don't think e-books need be seen as competition for "real" books), but I love the passion and vociferousness of it.

So, I should probably read Where The Wild Things Are one of these days, at the very least as a tribute to someone who has had such an influence on children's books.  What well-known children's books haven't you read?

[Bonus watching/reading: Stephen Colbert interviews Sendak, and a lovely appreciation of Sendak in the New York Times, which I am sure you've already read.]


Adrienne Pilon ("A") said...

Read it. It is brilliant. I also recommend "Brundibar" as well as just about everything Sendak has done.

What haven't I read? So, so much.

Fanny Harville said...

"So, so much." Me too, obviously. But at least I'll try to cross Sendak off that long list soon!