“And now,” cried Max, “Let the wild rumpus start!”
I heard those words first cuddled up beside my mother as a two-year-old. She would roar a terrible roar and gnash her terrible teeth as she read the 338 words that composed Maurice Sendak’s most famous book, “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Sendak died at 83 early Tuesday in Danbury, Connecticut after suffering a stroke last Friday, the Associated Press reported. In the hundreds of books he illustrated and the dozens he wrote, Sendak imprinted children’s literature with a mischievous acknowledgment that childhood is rife with tension and angst, and filled with wonder.
None is more so than the story of Max, the king of all the Wild Things, who sets sail to a distant land to escape a fight with his mother.
The writing in the slim book intertwined with Sendak’s illustrations in such a way that the two are inseparable. There is no wild rumpus without the drawings of the cavorting, lumbering beasts hanging from jungle trees.
The sparsity of the prose allows the reader’s imagination to color each reading in their own way. When my mother read us the book, she was telling us she loved us even when we were bad. When I read the book to my best friend’s two-year-old, I’m telling him to be bad.
How do you read “Where the Wild Things Are”? Tell us your Sendak stories in the comments below.
And for good measure, here are two readings of the book:
The Obamas perform a gleeful duet of roars:
Christopher Walken (or, um, someone who sounds an awful lot like him) reads the book and dissects the illustrations. “The kid is kind of a jerk,” he warns.
Twitter users posted messages of condolence and memories of Sendak and his work:
Maurice Sendak has left us for the land of the wild things. May he carry on adventuring.— Elijah Wood (@woodelijah) May 8, 2012
Maurice Sendak, we disagreed on ebooks, and that was about it. Really sad. washingtonpost.com/local/obituari…— Matt Mullin (@mrmullin) May 8, 2012
Maurice Sendak was an incredibly gifted storyteller and artist. May he rest in peace. wapo.st/IYt6rl— Steve Skojec (@SteveSkojec) May 8, 2012
RIP Maurice Sendak.A literary GIANT for the kids and the kids inside all of us.— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) May 8, 2012
How well do you know Sendak? Take this quick quiz: