A question for Maurice Sendak

May 8, 2012
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News of the death of the great Maurice Sendak sent my mind to memories of reading "Outside Over There" to my daughter Emily and to my files for a 1995 interview I had with the outspoken author/illustrator.

"What's missing today in children's literature?" I asked him.

"Honestly," said Sendak. "Acknowledging that they are complicated animals with intensely alive minds. It amazes me that I've had a successful career. What I'm disappointed in is how little what I've achieved has been used by the newer generation. I'm horribly suspicious that if I were to arise on the scene now, I would never be published."

I asked about the possibility of a sequel to "Really Rosie." 

His response: "I don't believe in sequels. Why do it except to capitalize on what you're already done. I'll leave that to the movie industry."

And on parents censoring classic children's books:

"There are no invectives I can say that won't hurt your ears. This is the stupidity that goes on generation after generation. Grimm's Fairy Tales was verboten years ago. If there are shadings of colonialism in Babar, if women are treated poorly in Grimm, that's a matter of their time. I would rather look at the beauty of the craftsmanship of Babar--the composition of the pictures and the subtler, more poignant reasons for reading the books: [Babar was written by] a man dying of tuberculosis addressing two boys who would never have a father after adolescence. 'When you are orphaned,' he was saying, 'you, too, can still become King.'"

Your thoughts?

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  • PC Kills Art
    Political correctness has stifled many good stories that could shed litght on the human condition. Some subjects cannot be broached, so they just fester.
  • A breath of fresh reality
    Mr. Sendak was a breath of fresh reality when he first emerged as a children's book writer, and continues to be now. I hope his dream of influencing current writers to be more respectful of children's intellects by not writing down to them takes hold soon. It's sad to have lost him.

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