Today marks the 93rd birthday of Maurice Sendak, titan of children’s literature, whose kindness and empathy for children shone through in his immersive, vivid body of work as well as in life. In a 1986 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, later quoted in Applause, Sendak described his favorite compliment from a reader:
It was from a little boy. He sent me a charming card with a little drawing. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters—sometimes very hastily—but this one I lingered over. I sent him a postcard and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing. I wrote, “Dear Jim, I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.
It speaks to Sendak’s project that the most meaningful compliment eschewed adult notions of value in favor of a child’s simple amazement. Looking at Sendak’s work, it’s easy to tap into that same love. The whimsy and texture of his drawings, creatures and otherwise, inspire that uncomplicated joy. Here at Lit Hub, we’re celebrating Sendak’s birthday by viewing some rarely seen love-it-so-much-you-eat-it Sendak art, provided by the Maurice Sendak Foundation.