Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Maurice Sendak: Gone Where The Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak, the author and illustrator, died yesterday and though it's sad to know another great mind has left this mortal realm, it's been wonderful to see his works spoken about in print and on screen. I adored "Where the Wild Things Are" as a child, and only came to appreciate Sendak's works all the more the older I became.

Sendak did something that few children's writers seem to do; he told the painful truth. Being a child is not, in my experience, a purely innocent, tra-la-la through the flowers good time. Bits of childhood suck. Other parts can be terrifying and incredibly distressing; whether it's fearing that spelling test the next morning, with the teacher who shouts at you when you get it wrong, or blaming yourself for other people's problems, or feeling pure fury at your own powerlessness. Sendak understood this and communicated it in the dark fantasy worlds he created.

My imagination has been heavily influenced by Sendak's works, leading me to love the darker side of a "nice" story, which can also be seen in films like The Dark Crystal, Willow, Return to Oz or Labyrinth. They have the same mix of childlike wonder with a terrible darkness lurking on the edges, which occasionally confronts you head on. If you've never sat and read one of his books then I can't recommend them enough. No matter how old you are.

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