Canadian authors remember Maurice Sendak

Five Canadian picture book authors and illustrators reflect on how Maurice Sendak was an inspiration to them:

“Maurice Sendak was an inspiration in many ways, but two things made a difference to me as a children’s creator: 1) he took his work seriously and acknowledged that he worked very hard at it;  2) he respected children as an audience by being honest with them.  Reading an article or interview with Sendak has always been a good slap upside the head.” — Barbara Reid

“Maurice Sendak brought joy to generations of children and adults.  He was an inspiration to many illustrators and authors everywhere, including myself.” — Michael Martchenko

“More than anyone else, Maurice Sendak gave children a way to confront their very real fears, by making monsters cool.” — Lynn Johnston

“It was when I revisited Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen as an adult in art college that I first realized (or remembered) that picture books could be important literature – and that children are discerning and perceptive. Thanks, Mr. Sendak.” — Frank Viva

“I have to confess that my son, at five, cried after I read Where the Wild Things Are and told me the book  was ‘too weird for comfort.’ He asked me not to read it.  At the same time I was studying children’s literature and being told what excellence was by critics. I realized once again that so much is really subjective and kids do have preferences to be respected.  (I couldn’t read Alice in Wonderland until  I was an adult for the same reason.) We read In the Night Kitchen instead.  But Sendak’s artistic vision and philosophy inspired me tremendously. He said:

‘We can never know all there is to know about any one child. They’re formless fluid creatures -like moving water. You can’t stop one of them in mid -stream and find out exactly what’s going on.’

In other words, assume nothing. I’ve tried to remember that.  Also, he said : ‘I have to go on what I know-not only about my own childhood but about the child I was as he exists now.’

And to me, that was: ‘Do not do as I do, but go on what you know, create as the child you once were as she exists now.’

He was permissionary to a lot of us in children’s book world: go forth and seek excellence, don’t apologize for what you create, draw deeply from your unique imaginative landscape and speak the truth of the country that is childhood (as you understand that truth.)  For me, that is permission to explore. Endless possibilities.

The book in my top ten of all time is The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell, art by Sendak.” — Sheree Fitch

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