brainpickings – Maria Popova writes: “I don’t write for children,” Maurice Sendak (June 10, 1928–May 8, 2012) told Stephen Colbert in his last on-camera appearance. “I write—and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’” Having fallen in love with his work as an adult myself—none of it made it past the Iron Curtain and into the Bulgaria of my childhood—I’ve come to appreciate this sentiment all the more deeply. Sendak was indeed a storyteller who, while enchanting children, very much embodied E.B. White’s dictum that “anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time”—instead, he wrote up to them and made an art of naming what is dark and difficult, then enveloping it in hope.
It’s a craft he began honing in the largely forgotten 1956 masterpiece Kenny’s Window (public library)—his first and, in many ways, most directly philosophical children’s book, written and illustrated when Sendak was only twenty-eight.
Published seven years before Where the Wild Things Are turned him into a cultural icon, this was Sendak’s debut as a storyteller. He was yet to encounter William Blake, who would become his greatest influence. Although he had previously illustrated children’s books by other authors—including the immeasurably wonderful Open House for Butterflies and I’ll Be You and You Be Me by Ruth Krauss, one of the finest children’s storytellers of all time—this was Sendak’s serenade to his own becoming, a creative homecoming into his own voice as an artist of word and image.