Friday, May 11, 2012

Born To Be Wild

I have a favorite Wild Thing. It's the one that looks a little like a buffalo with bare feet. He's the one that is sleeping on the cover of Maurice Sendak's book. With Max's tiny sailboat off to the left, you can really get a sense of just how large these beasts must be. And yet, when this guy and his wild pals commence to rumpus, it only takes a couple of words to get them to stop: "Be still!" That's because Max was the most wild thing of all. I suppose that was the appeal to me, all those years ago when I first saw the book in Miss Benson's library at Columbine Elementary School. I read that same copy a great many times, even after it migrated away from the "featured shelf." I was that most clever child who understood the alphabet and the Dewey Decimal System. Miss Benson could not hide that book from me.
When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher Miss Stuart, had her own class library that included not one but two copies of "Where The Wild Things Are." It was here that I began to explore the rest of Maurice Sendak's work, both as writer and illustrator. I spent a month being particularly entranced by "Higglety Piggletly Pop." I pored over "In The Night Kitchen," but the dreamlike imagery in that one made me nervous.
And so I returned again and again to Max and his beastly buddies. It was a relief to me when I became a parent and was afforded the opportunity to buy my own copy to share with my son, whose middle name is Max. Some will tell you that he is named for his maternal great-grandfather. I know the truth. When the lights go down at our house, and the curtain in his room is drawn, the jungle begins to grow. And grow.
Aloha, Maurice: the most wild thing of all.

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