The qualities that make for excellence in children’s literature can be summed up in a single word: imagination. And imagination as it relates to the child is, to my mind, synonymous with fantasy. Contrary to most of the propaganda in books for the young, childhood is only partly a time of innocence. It is, in my opinion, a time of seriousness, bewilderment, and a good deal of suffering. It’s also possibly the best of all times. Imagination for the child is the miraculous, freewheeling device he uses to course his way through the problems of every day….It’s through fantasy that children achieve catharsis.
- Maurice Sendak, American children’s book author and illustrator and Caldecott Award recipient, who was born this day in 1928. Throughout his career as an artist and writer, Sendak changed the popular perception of children’s literature and pushed boundaries in confronting topics like imagination, grief, loneliness, and just plain growing up. The author of “In the Night Kitchen” and “Where The Wild Things Are,” among many other treasured works, Sendak was also an instrumental board member in the early days of Sesame Street. In addition to writing and illustrating, Sendak was interested in theater and performance; he was a prolific set designer and adapted some of his works for the stage. Sendak’s memory will always live on through his timeless classics of children’s literature, which embrace the wonderment of childhood. Happy Birthday Mr. Sendak!