I didn't grow up on Maurice Sendak: I don't have any beloved childhood picture books, so I didn't wear a copy of Where the Wild Things Are to tissue paper; I only ever saw the Little Bear books in hospital waiting rooms, and the cartoon was bland; I'd seen Labyrinth, but I didn't know about Outside Over There; and I think the first time I ever even saw In The Night Kitchen was when I was working in a toy store and a livid mother stomped out the door when I didn't see her issue with the tiny penis on the chef.

But when I was working in that toy store, and had all of Sendak's books to hand, I finally took the time to look at them all and realize that, oh, Sendak knew the same thing that Dahl and every other good writer of children's fiction knows: that kids are horrible, beastly little things -- monsters, really -- and they may or may not grow into some loyalty and kindness, but don't count on it, because people are horrible, beastly things. So you don't write books for children -- you don't cut out all the truths and horribleness to feed to little people in some stupid hope that they'll forget how to be horrible -- you just write books, full stop, and if they're wonderful enough, children (and anyone else) will love them. And, as a pleasant aside, sometimes a bit of that wonderful can rub off.

Children are horrible, beastly creatures that grow into horrible, beastly adults -- but sometimes, just sometimes, if they see enough beauty, they grow up to make beauty of their own.

Sendak grew into a funny old man: charming but gruff, with some ideas I completely disagree with, and some that are just right. He holds no deep, special place in my heart -- but he still made me smile. He made the world better and more beautiful, more interesting, more imaginative. And although he's passed away, the beauty he left behind isn't going anywhere.

And that's worth taking a moment to say thank you, Maurice, and good night. Sweet dreams.


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