I guess by now everyone’s heard the news of the death of Maurice Sendak.

From everything I’d heard of him, I suspected he was a curmudgeonly sort, but it was only absolutely confirmed when I saw the interview between him and Stephen Colbert.

It’s actually very funny. He swears like a sailor and says stuff about hating adults and not being able to stand children.

But the biggest shock, kind of, but not really, was that his favourite books of his were…get this!…Higglety Pigglety Pop and one of the other lesser known books.

Higglety Pigglety Pop for goodness sakes!!!

The book he wrote as an ode to his dog!

The only reason I even know this book at all is because it was on a reading list for this Children’s Literature conference I was attending that was being held at Harvard University in the summer of 1996!

I had the devil of a time tracking down the book! It was long out of print, but through the wonders of interlibrary loan I finally found it, and yes, I made myself read it, sure I’d find flashes of the brilliance of Where the Wild Things Are, but NOPE, all I found was an INCREDIBLY stupid story about a dog who runs around and eats things, performs in a play and is a general nincompoop before it dies!

Apparently, according to Sendak, that was the ‘point’.

So I guess I did get the ‘message’ of the book.


But boy do I wish I could have the half an hour it must have taken to read that stupid book, back in my life!

And I suspect that it was my reaction to his book that got me into a considerable amount of trouble at that children’s literature conference.

The who’s who of the industry was there.

And during the core lecture when we were finally to discuss the list of books that included the dreadful Higglety Pigglety Pop , where I figured I would finally find out why such a STUPID book had been included on an otherwise wonderful list, the lecturer got up instead and extolled the virtues of the story!

The incredibly ‘imaginative’ play and blah blah blah.

I couldn’t believe it!

I thought, I couldn’t be that off in my opinion.

And when the lecture was over and they started taking questions, I couldn’t believe that everyone was dwelling on a book that had been wonderful, Letters from the Inside by Australian writer John Marsden, wondering what had really happened in it, instead of trashing Higglety Pigglety Pop!!!

I couldn’t stand it any longer. I stuck up my hand, and when they called on me, I said, “I had no problem with Letters from the Inside but I had a BIG problem with Higglety Pigglety Pop!”

It was like a dam of laughter broke and the audience was awash in chuckles! And oh the look on that lecturers face! The rest of the audience obviously agreed with me but had been too polite to say so.

I ended up my diatribe against the book with the statement, “Maybe it’s my lack of a European upbringing. I just didn’t get it. Some books just DESERVE to go out of print!”

It may not have been a politically expedient thing to publicly cry out that the ’emperor was wearing no clothes’ if you know what I mean, but to this day I don’t regret what I said!

Sure it probably got me negative attention from the powers that be in children’s literature–there’s a surprising amount of POLITICS in the world of children’s books! And they take themselves Oh so SERIOUSLY!!! (someone has to I guess…)

But in the end who the heck cares?

These are ADULTS  that forget that they are foisting their tastes on children! As far as I’m concerned, they don’t really matter. (Actually they do, unfortunately you have to get past the adults to get to the children readers–but really–I’d rather impress the children!)

And ultimately it’s so WEIRD for Maurice Sendak to sayHigglety Pigglety Pop was his most brilliant book???!!! Wow!

Got me thinking of whether I do the same.

It’s funny but I don’t really pay much attention to my bestselling book which is probably Big Red Lollipop.

It coasts along on its own steam I guess.

And instead I tend to talk about the other books, because somehow they feel overlooked a bit.

I wonder if that’s what Sendak did.

I don’t know. Wish I could have asked him, but come to think of it, I suspect he might have sworn at me. *g*

Oh who knows?!

But it does somehow make me think less of him.

So he wrote this classic and a whole lot of duds! And for whatever reason, he prefers the duds!

I sure don’t want to do that.

I want each and every book of mine to stand tall, on its own merit.

We’ll see though.

It’s still early yet in my career.

He died at 83 and that’s still 33 years away.