One of the first books I remember really loving as a child was Maurice Sendak's Pierre. I know he was most famous for Where the Wild Things Are (what a rumpus!) and In the Night Kitchen, but I loved his stubbornly apathetic Pierre. "The lion took him home to rest and stayed on as a weekend guest," was one of my favorite lines in all of literature when I was a little girl. I also think it may have been the beginning of my understanding of how a story could have a "moral." CARE. And such a simple, profound moral it was, for all of us who had ever back-talked our moms in bored tones, sat backwards in our chairs, poured syrup in our hair -- or wanted to.
I also enjoyed Chicken Soup With Rice, another book in Sendak's little "nutshell" library. Perhaps my first understanding of personification? "In March the wind blows down the door and spills my soup upon the floor. It laps it up and roars for more!"
I was thinking a lot about these little books yesterday after I heard the news that Mr. Sendak had passed away at the age of 83. Truly the end of a chapter in children's literature.
In honor of his memory, I thought I would post links to two reviews I wrote some time ago. One is to a review of Sendak's book of essays Caldecott & Co.: Notes on Books and Pictures. The other is to a review of the Leonard Marcus edited Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom (the great children's literature editor at Harper's who discovered Sendak when he was designing windows at FAO Schwarz).
Sendak was an amazing example of someone who took anxiety and fear and channeled them through an artistic process that gave life, hope, enjoyment and catharsis to so many. R.I.P. Mr. Sendak. You will be missed.