I’m sure by now you have all heard of the sad news that children’s book creator Maurice Sendak passed yesterday at the age of 83. Maurice Sendak changed the face of 20th century picture book, most notably with his Caldecott-winning Where the Wild Things Are, a book that is now a staple in every children’s bookstore and cherished so deeply in so many homes around the world. We honor him here at The Carle every day in our logo and remember The Carle’s inaugural exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s artwork in our galleries.
As the world mourns this loss, we also enjoy looking back at our memories of Maurice Sendak, whether they are personal interactions or memories created by spending time reading his books as children or to our own children. I asked Nick Clark, our Chief Curator and personal friend of Maurice, to share with us a very special visit with Maurice at his home in Connecticut last June.
Every once in a while you get to do something very, very special in your job. I had such an opportunity last June.
We had organized an exhibition of Tomi Ungerer’s work in honor of his 80th birthday. Tomi’s relationship to the US was complicated, ultimately even very negative, so it was both exciting and daunting to know he was returning for the first time in many years. I think he was astonished by the warm welcome he received everywhere. Like Maurice, Tomi was a protégé of the legendary editor Ursala Nordstrom, and the two young artists had become dear friends. By last summer, however, that had not seen each other in 37 years. After our exhibition opening, I drove Tomi from Amherst to New York City with an important detour to Maurice’s home in Connecticut. There I was privy to the most heartfelt reunion between the two unconquerable artists (and of course there were a few good laughs at other people’s expense). Maurice asked Tomi how it felt to be back in the states and he replied, “I have been able to make a nice wine out of sour grape.” Certainly the visit with Maurice contributed to this lovely fermentation.
The photographs of us were taken in Maurice’s lovely yard with his beloved shepherd, Herman.
Please feel free to share your own memories of Maurice Sendak and the impact his books have had on your life in comments below.