Perhaps Sendak’s most widely read book is Where the Wild Things Are, which came out in 1963, when I was barely three years old. I remember the book well from reading it to my two children some 30 years later. The main character in the book – young Max – shows us the power of imagination, facing our fears, and our intrinsic ability to engage others, especially those who are different from ourselves (the so-called “Wild Things”). Myself, I have other favorite childhood books, too. I was brought up on all the Dr. Seuss books, and I still have them all, tattered as they may be, in my home (sssh! don’t tell my older brother, who would probably want them back!). Likewise, I still have all the Hardy Boys books. And I hold close to my heart the stories my father used to make-up each night about two friends, “Alfred” and “Frederick,” where the story would end with a “moral lesson” about their choices and behaviors.
Then, there was the story of “Noodle,” which was in my second grade reader, On We Go. I was so taken by this little dog who buried his bone that I lobbied my wife and children just this past year for our new yellow Lab to be named “Noodle.” But, sadly, “on we go” turned into “no go!”
I know that talking about childhood stories might be seen as me being “soft,” as if I am reaching back to more innocent times; I realize that risk in writing this piece. But, then again, each of our own favorite or most memorable childhood stories inform who we are; they have the power to carry us back to some basic beliefs or values that are important and instructive in our lives. It’s why the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is so often a graduation gift.
So, what about you? What are your favorite childhood books and stories – and why? Let’s celebrate Sendak’s life by stepping back and taking just a moment to remember. Then, write me below!