Literature Loses a Wild Thing

Illustration from Where the Wild Things Are


Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, passed away this morning. He’s called a children’s book author, but that’s not how he saw himself. His goal wasn’t to entertain children, but to protect them — he wrote for both kids and their parents, trying to make parents aware of the dangerous and frightening effects they can have on their children, and showing kids that they aren’t alone when they feel scared, angry or jealous.


His work is powerful, and has resonated with so many because it’s complicated and sometimes dark. Too often, the children’s books that get published today focus only on bright colors and happy endings. There can be value in those books too, of course, but they shouldn’t be the only books that children are exposed to.


Sendak understood that, above all, children are human beings. He spoke of the “complexity of children,” acknowledging that we are all faced with problems, even when we’re young. If we don’t read to our children about the darkness as well as the light, allowing them to experience these things in a safe way before experiencing them in the real world, we’re doing them a disservice.


Sendak was a writer, a poet, and a bit of a prophet, too — his recent interviews on The Colbert Report (watch them here andhere) are funny, but they’re also a profound warning against the current state of children’s literature and the dangers we may face as we transition away from paper books to electronic ones.

Email with a purpose Let's Keep in Touch

Good news (and practical tips) for small businesses — we're not into being pushy or spammy.