Sendak understood that there are riddles and dilemmas in life that have no easy answers and maybe no answers at all, and he wasn’t afraid to put that uncertainty into his books.Full story at The Daily Beast
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Maurice Sendak Didn’t Just Make Books for Children, but for Everyone
I have no idea what it is like to read the late Maurice Sendak’s books as a child. I was not introduced to them until I was an adult. So when I read how he helped children process their anxieties and their fears, I can take it only on faith, or rather, second-hand. I did watch my own children as we read In the Night Kitchen, our favorite, and Where the Wild Things Are, and Outside Over There. My son preferred the former, my daughter the latter. As for myself, I have always been partial to Higglety Pigglety Pop!
It was a Christmas present from my girlfriend, and when I unwrapped it, I was a little nonplussed. Why would a grown woman give a grown man a copy of a children’s book, I wondered (to myself—I’m not crazy). I soon found out when, that night, I sat down and began to read.
Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life, was my first Sendak. By the standards of children’s books, it is long, topping out at 69 pages. Even by Sendak’s standards it is a very elaborate work, with 34 full-page ink illustrations, including one double-page spread. A few of the chapters end with smaller drawings—a covered serving dish, an old telephone, and assorted portraits of Jennie, the Sealyham terrier who is the story’s heroine.
The book is dedicated to Jennie, who was one of Sendak’s dogs, although I don’t think the real dog ran away from the owner who loved her the way the dog does in the story. I do remember that by the end of the first chapter, I was pretty smitten with Jennie, too.
In that chapter, Jennie has a conversation with a potted plant that tries, without success, to talk her out of leaving home. She has “everything,” the plant points out. “You have two windows,” the plant says. “I only have one.” But the two windows, two pillows, two bowls, the red wool sweater, eye drops, ear drops, bottles of pills, and a master’s love are not enough to persuade Jennie, who explains that she is “discontented. I want something I do not have. There must be more to life than having everything!”