This interview with him made me so happy, when I read it last September.
Especially this part:
[Children] have no money, so they can’t go in and make their own choice. So Mommy or Granny or somebody nice brings them the books. And they will do anything to make the adult content, so they will like the book. Kids are very gracious. And they won’t insult anybody by saying “I hate that book.” Except when they write to me, and they said “I hate that book.”
Has that happened to you?
Oh yes. And those are the most gratifying letters. I have pierced their armor.
A little girl who wrote said: “Why are there babies in Outside Over There? What the hell is the matter with them? And why do they all wear head covers? And why do they all wear big, swimmy clothes?” She was furious! She said, “Don’t you know how to dress a baby properly?”
Okay, that’s not what put her off–but that’s what she thinks put her off. Her mother included a little note, saying she was furious all the time–not the mother, the child. Because the mother was pregnant, and she explained to me very carefully how happy her daughter would be when a baby came in the house. And her little daughter was saying to her–but wasn’t being heard–I don’t want a little baby in the house. Throw her in the garbage.
It was wonderful, because she found something that spoke to her outrage. So I was so happy for her.
And this part.
Well, when a kid writes to me–as a kid did write to me–and says: “I hate your book. I hope you die soon. Cordially.” Well, the combination of “I hope you die soon” and “cordially” is wonderful. It shows how bewildering the whole thing was to her–and to me.
She was allowing herself to hate. “I hate your book.” But she’d learned in school that you’re supposed to end your letter with the words “cordially” or “best wishes.” And so they combine both without thinking there’s something goofy in such a thing. But that’s their charm, and that’s what we lose by growing up–lose, lose, lose. And if we’re lucky, it happens again when we’re old.
I think that the only way to respect children is to understand that they experience all the same emotions that we do—including the worst ones. And we need to help them with that. Maurice Sendak’s books do that. And I am so grateful for them.