Maurice Sendak and Where The Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak and his book Where The Wild Things Are hold a special place in my heart. It was the first children’s book by a writer and illustrator that spoke to me on a creatively spiritual level.

It wasn’t the protagonist Max who won me over; it was the idea that with enough will and imagination I could transform my bedroom into a jungle, captain a boat, set sail to a far off island and become king of the monsters that inhabited it.

I loved the design of Sendak’s monsters. Beyond the inherent charm and playfulness of Sendak’s drawings, I never trusted the monsters –– I always felt that they would eat me if they got hungry. The monster with spiked hair and a striped top remains my favourite to this day.

Sendak treated me, a young reader, with respect. The story was not preachy, the art was gritty, the colours were muted, his monsters, while playful, were slightly feral-looking and that kept a nervous excitement stirring inside of me. I liked that feeling.

I wanted stories that challenged me and my imagination and, perhaps, scared me a little. Maurice Sendak succeeded in giving me a book with that kind of a story.

What I respected as a young boy – without understanding then that it was respect – and truly appreciate as a grown man, is that Sendak understood that a child is “a complicated creature.” They can deal with a lot more than bright colours, simple shapes and hyper-safe content.

Maurice Sendak inspired Jim Henson, he inspired Mercer Mayer, he inspired me, and he inspired countless other dreamers and adventurers. May we be so accomplished as to inspire as many people with our own work.

Kaja Blackley is the author of Maggie MacCormack and the Witches’ Wheel now on sale:

Photo: Frank Armstrong for the Rosenbach Musem & Library