I have many favorite children’s authors but Maurice Sendak will always have a special place in my heart. There is a wonderful essay by playwright Tony Kushner, which I think captures Sendak’s particular daring. There is so much kids lit that aims to shock or transgress by going for the vulgar or scatological. As Kushner points out, Sendak does something far more radical:
“Maurice, among the best of the best, shocks deeply, touching on the mortal, the insupportably sad or unjust, even on the carnal, on the primal rather than the merely primitive. He pitches children, including aged children, out of the familiar and into mystery, and then into understanding, wisdom even. He pitches children through fantasy into human adulthood, that rare, hard-won and, let’s face it, tragic condition.”
!Viva Maurice Siempre!
You can find the full essay (“How grim can it be?”) on the Guardian website.