Maurice Sendak: Author Who Taught Us to Love Our Unruly, Beastly Feelings

RIP Maurice Sendak: 'Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!'

Posted May 08, 2012

 Maurice Sendak

Remembering Maurice Sendak and his Wild Rumpus

Maurice Sendak, beloved author of Max and his wild rumpus, Really Rosie and her Nutshell Kids, died today. He was 83.

It seems fitting, somehow, that the World’s Greatest Teacher would leave this world on National Teacher Day. It seems fitting that since we’re all thinking about and thanking teachers that we should be giving a final shout out to Sendak, the author of what we call ‘children’s books’ but really are so very much more.

Here’s how The New York Times put it:

“Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday…”

Yes, he did that. And so very much more.

As a child I remember – and as a mother I am grateful – that what he did was nothing short of revolutionary. With these words: “Let the wild rumpus begin,” that man gave us loving permission to unleash our inner beasts; he told us it was okay to have gigantic, unruly, dangerous feelings – to be so angry we cannot be tamed, will not be silenced, cannot be made invisible.

Think about what a revolutionary idea that is to a child, a child who feels powerless, who doesn’t have control over any aspect of her life, who feels so small in a big, big world, who may get told to be quiet … just go to bed … it will all be fine …. that’s such a silly thing to worry about …calm down…don’t be crazy…you don’t need to know that…ignore don’t need to know…don’t worry about it, just go to sleep.

 We’re all Maurice Sendak’s kids

Curious kids with big, loud feelings and gigantic, brass-band dreams, being quiet and just going to bed was never the end of the discussion. It was only the beginning. It’s where the real learning happened. At night, in bed, in the dark, was where your brain raced and your cinematic imagination flew. For kids who saw and heard and felt everything in Technicolor and Dolby surround sound, (we’d probably call it sensory integration disorder today….but that’s another topic!) for those kids, reading about Max’s wild journey into the jungle of his gargoyle-beastly-loud feelings, well, that was the stuff of dreams.

Read more about: What Maurice Sendak Taught Us All.

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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