My fellow Niblings (Betsy Bird, Travis Jonker, and Philip Nel) and I decided a few months ago that it’d be neat to coordinate some blog posts today in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Where the Wild Things Are. Yep, it’s 50 years old, having been originally released in Fall 1963. And, after some digging/research, we figured out that its release was in October of that year.
I’ve previously posted the image above here at 7-Imp (which is to say I’m not being terribly original today in the look of this blog post). This is the book’s last page and my favorite page from The Land of All Picture Books; I posted it here when I first read about Sendak’s death in May of last year. As I noted in that post, Gregory Maguire—in “A Sendak Appreciation” from the November/December 2003 issue of The Horn Book—calls it “one of Sendak’s most lovingly rendered pages, one of his most graphically succinct and nonetheless articulate expressions of deep meaning.”
But it wasn’t until this past weekend that I saw it in an all-new light. Here in Nashville, we celebrated the Southern Festival of Books. Philip and Erin Stead gave a great talk on Saturday, and Philip spoke lovingly at one point about this very page. And he said—and I paraphrase—that one of the distinctive things about the way Sendak chose to end the book, illustration-less as it is, is that it lets child readers supply their own artwork in their minds’ eyes.
And that is, quite frankly, a brilliant and gracious thing.
I have always loved this page for the deep breaths it takes; for the space it gives readers; for its simplicity; for what it says about unconditional love. But I’d never thought of it in the way Philip discussed it, and a little light bulb went off above my head.
And that is all I have today for the book’s birthday. A recent vacation, as well as the Festival, have me behind on my work. But it’s my small contribution to anniversary wishes for a really big book, the picture book that changed the very landscape of children’s literature.
Here’s to Max.
- Philip Nel, “It’s a Wild World: Maurice Sendak, Wild Things, and Childhood” at Nine Kinds of Pie.
- Travis Jonker, “Books on Film: Where the Wild Things Are” at 100 Scope Notes.
- Betsy Bird, “Re-Sendakify Sendak Project: The Results” at A Fuse #8 Production.