The news has reverberated around more than just the world of literature. Maurice Sendak has died at the age of 83 and many people are lamenting the loss of the writer of a favourite childhood book.
Now what I’m about to admit is likely to brand me as a heretic. I didn’t think ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ was the greatest book of my childhood. To be honest, it wouldn’t even make the top 50 of my favourite stories. Sure, I’ve had it read to me a dozen times by well-meaning school librarians (remember when education systems had the money to pay for such extravagant members of staff?) and as a teacher I’ve read it to classes of my own, but it wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. Please don’t stone me!
It seems odd in this day and age when the Big News Story of the day is that Barak Obama has publically come out and said that he personally supports gay marriage that we forget how ground breaking Sendak’s book was. Of course every child has dark moments in their lives. Many a parent who has had a sleepless night when their child has had a nightmare and wanted to crawl into bed with them for security can vouch for that. And for the record, have you asked a child what their nightmare was about…? Scary stuff. But to write about it, in a book aimed at children themselves?
“Well Duh!” we think to ourselves in the oh so enlightened times of 2012. But as a Children’s Literature Major at university, I know that it broke a lot of barriers for the genre when it was published in the 1960’s. Before Sendak, it was deemed inappropriate for children to roar back at their parents in anger, because that wasn’t ‘nice’ for children to even have an emotion like anger much less express it. It was never politically correct to write about the fears or the darkness that children experience. And it’s for this reason that I salute Maurice Sendak, that I thank him for being daring in his writing. Honest. Willing to stand against tradition and do what he knew in his heart was right and truthful.
As a wannabe children’s writer, I can only hope that now that he has moved on and out of this world, there might be room for new voices in the overly difficult, seemingly impossible to break into literary segment of the book world. I hope that other writers can more honestly reflect the reality of children’s experiences so succinctly and entertainingly as they see them in today’s world. It’s time for some barrier breakers to swoop in and change the literary scene again.
Just as Obama appears to have broken a political taboo, daring to tell people how he honestly views an issue. Although if you want an entertaining and insightful view on what the difference between a Civil Union and Marriage (which is at the crux of this issue and has legalistic people up in arms on *either* side of the arguement) feel free to pop on over to Mary Beards blog (A Dons Life) and enjoy!