“I refuse to lie to children,” said Sendak. “I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence.” Instead, he gave us books rife with trouble and hard things. He tackled child fury and fear and loneliness. He provoked and rankled and broke the rules of picturebooks while setting new standards of artistry.
Ever-irascible and equally charming, I can think of no better person to speak to Sendak’s legacy than Sendak himself: “[I]f I’ve done anything, I’ve had kids express themselves as they are, impolitely, lovingly… they don’t mean any harm. They just don’t know what the right way is. And as it turns out sometimes the so-called ‘right way’ is utterly the wrong way. What a monstrous confusion…I never set out to write books for children. I don’t have a feeling that I’m gonna save children or my life is devoted. I’m not Hans Christian Anderson. Nobody’s gonna make a statue in the park with a lot of scrambling kids climbing up me. I won’t have it, okay?”
(From Kenny’s Window, 1956, the first title Sendak wrote and illustrated himself.)