Mr. Sendak, it has been five years since the last time I cried for the death of a person I never knew personally. It was on June 15th 2007, when Don Herbert died.
I have loved your books and art since I was small, like many an American child. But even when I was little, I noticed something about your work that wasn’t present in so many other books aimed at my five-year-old head. It was a basic thing, though I couldn’t name it until I was older. It was a thing that Ursula K. Le Guin pointed out in her writings about writing, something she implied was missing in C. S. Lewis’s writing, when she reviewed The Dark Tower; he one-upped his readers, condescending slightly to write for them. Mr. Sendak, you trusted me. Respected my intelligence. Fuck, you trusted me to read, identify deeply with Max, and to go on his journey with him, trusted me enough to show me that place of wildness and release, unleashed, you trusted me to cut loose, to break free, and arrive back with Max safely. Maybe not safely, but at least mostly whole, and better for the experience. You trusted me, and all of the other children who would read your work, to get it. Because we never didn’t get it. But try to tell that to all the adults running around.
Don Herbert gave me a sense of empowerment in my ability to do; you gave me a gift just as powerful. You acknowledged my humanness, and instead of moralizing, sugar-coating, or sanitizing, you let me run wild in your pages, fierce and free, and trusted I would do right with this gift.
I hope I did right with this gift.