Sunday, January 1, 2012

Maurice Sendak: 'I don't believe that I have ever written a children's book.'

Please forgive me for posting another entry about children's author, Maurice Sendak so quickly after a previous one.  When I read his remarks in an interview by Jenna Busch of the British art institution, The Tate, is was interesting to me.  Curious, too.

(Take a look at the video of Mr. Sendak's comments in the video at the bottom of the post.)

Sendak is the author of one of the world's best known children's books,  Where the Wild Things Are.  Many of his other books have become time tested classics.

In the interview, Mr. Sendak said something quite surprising:

I don't believe that I have ever written a children's book.  How do you set out to write a children's book? It's a lie ... The magic of childhood and the strangeness of childhood, the uniqueness that makes us see things that other people don't see.

Sendak cites Herman Melville as an artistic influence, saying:

Herman Melville said that artists have to take a dive and either you hit your head on a rock and you split your skull and you die or that blow to the head is so inspiring that you come back up and do the best work that you ever did. But you have to take the dive and you do not know what the result will be.


  1. Kind of curious why he would say that. But then, maybe a particular idea doesn't start out specifically as a children's book concept. However, after getting into the subject matter (e.g., childhood fears, feelings of being alone, imaginary friends), it may become clear there's a story about the subject that can be written as a child might understand it and relate to it and believe it. I suppose Sendak's comments might even more reflect his artistic perspective because the illustrations are what initially bring a story to life in the eyes and mind of a child.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Bill. Yes, I found his comments odd, too, in that they seemed oblique. You could be right about their being more around his art than his writing. Perhaps now that he is older, he sees the whole spectrum of childhood as well as advanced age (if I dare say that) through a clearer lens. Bit of a puzzle...