The brilliant and hauntingly mischievous works of Maurice Sendak, who died today at 83, are as universal a staple of early childhood as a pacifier or a tantrum. One of our great intergenerational commonalities is the sense memory of sitting either on a parent’s lap or paging through the illustrations on a bedroom floor, both mesmerized and giddily unnerved by Sendak’s naughty protagonists: the stubborn Pierre who took nonviolent protest to lengths to which we would not dare; or Max, whose rebellious trip to the land of the Wild Things (finally, a culture that understands kids’ needs!) takes an unexpectedly traitorous turn (wait … they’re gonna eat him up? This breaks the misbehavioralist contract!). Herewith, our tribute to a man who never patronized children with worlds with sanded-off corners or reductively callow lessons, a gift that will never be out of date.
Photo: Maurice Sendak/ ? 1963, 1991 by Maurice Sendak