I can't tell you when I first read "Where the Wild Things Are," but I have probably read it hundreds of times to my kids. Those googly-eyed monsters go so quickly from funny to scary, just like real nightmares.
Here's what he told NPR about his mosters: “I didn’t want them to be traditional monsters, like griffins and gorillas and such like. I wanted them to be very, very personal. It had to come out of my own particular life. And I remember it took a very long time until that gestation occurred and when they began to appear on drawing paper, and they began to be what I liked. And it was only when I had them all that I realized they were all my Jewish relatives.”
It's wonderfully creepy when Mickey loses his pajamas "In The Night Kitchen." I adore the slightly seditious edge to Pierre, a little boy who gets (deservedly) eaten by a lion, and when the lion roars and Pierre falls out... Pierre "rubbed his eyes and scratched his head and laughed because he wasn't dead." That's downright profound.
So, Reds, were Maurice Sendak's stories and illustrations part of your life, and what were your favorites?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: A Hole is To Dig. But Maurice Sendak didn't write it--he illustrated it. Wonderfully. (I hope that counts.) My favorite-favorite from as long as I can remember. And I have given it to new parents and kids for...years. Dozens of copies.
It's just a tiny book of snippets by Ruth Krauss. Lines like "Mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough." One line goes across two pages of tiny kids saying "I'll sit on your cold feet and you sit on my cold feet and then I'll sit on your cold feet and then you'll sit on my cold feet..." "A face is to have on the front of your head." Also, "a face is so you can make faces." "A hand is to hold up when you want your turn." "A party is to say how-do-you-do and shake hands."
Now. Confession. I do not like Where the Wild Things Are. And I do not like In the Night Kitchen. I just--thought they were unpleasant. I know I'm in the minority.
JAN BROGAN: No, Hank, I completely agree. I do not know Maurice Sendak except for those two books and ....the art just creeped me out. I did not not respond well to his illustrations, but then, I'm not a big fan of nightmares.
But Hallie, maybe this is why you write thrillers. Personally, I loved Roald Dahl, who I think is brilliant and witty.
LUCY BURDETTE: For some reason I don't remember having these books in our house, though I love love love his line drawings and his stories. Seems like the interviews played after his death showed him as a troubled guy, which would make sense with those monsters, wouldn't i t?
HALLIE: He wasn't what you'd call soft and squishy. Hated book events. But he really got children.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Bruce was one of his publishers and I can remember going to a fabulous party for The Nutcracker. Bruce traveled to Italy with Maurice and spent a lot of time with him, but I only met him once, at a dinner at Cafe des Artistes. I think it was my first dinner with a famous author!
Before I'd met him - of course - I was convinced that I was Really Rosie and I was a great big deal. I have a few signed Rosie cels and I actually have a reference to Pierre(I don't care) in my WIP, written months ago. Lot of sadness in the Harris household when we heard.
Not to be too grim but, I would also add that today is the 11th anniversary of the untimely death of Douglas Adams, another of Bruce's authors. Met him too and he was incredibly cool. (My husband is very cool and I get to go along on some fun rides...) Wave those towels!
RHYS BOWEN: Two of my favorites--Sendak and Douglas Adams. Where the Wild Things Are is such a profound book. You could teach a child psychology book on it--on tantrums, on wanting to be loved and realizing that one is loved... where his supper was waiting... and it was still hot. Magic.
And Douglas Adams. The ships hung in the sky the way bricks don't. Another of my favorite lines.
HANK: Oh, LOVE Douglas Adams. The Babelfish. I still think about it. And DON'T PANIC! My motto.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, Ro, so jealous. Loved them both, but Douglas Adams was one of my literary heroes, especially the Dirk Gently's. The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul is one of my favorite titles ever.
I didn't find them creepy. I thought they were little lessons about conquering your fears. I'll have to ask my daughter what she thinks, and which were her faves.
He did a lovely book called Outside Over There, about a little girl named Ida who rescues her baby sister from ice goblins. It has the most beautiful illustrations, including Ida's gorgeous German shepherd. These are more like paintings than cartoons, so do try to find this one if you've never seen it.
ROSEMARY: I think he had a couple of German Shepards.
HALLIE: So what are your recollections of Sendak? Listening to Carole King singing Chicken Soup with Rice... Sigh.