Where the Wild Things Are: A Song for Maurice Sendak

 

wild

I’ve been thinking a lot about Maurice Sendak lately.

Years ago, I read a book by Alison Lurie called Don’t Tell the Grown-ups: the Subversive Power of Children’s Literature.  Lurie’s central point was that the best and most memorable children’s books are the unconventional ones, usually featuring mischievous characters who don’t follow the rules.  While the book focused more on older authors, like Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, and Mark Twain, I think Maurice Sendak fits the bill.

As I kid, one of my favorite books was In the Night Kitchen, which I think was the only Sendak book I actually owned.  I couldn’t tell you exactly why I was so drawn to it.  (Oddly, I don’t even think I noticed or cared that Mickey was naked. I remember being surprised years later, when a coworker in my first library job mentioned that someone had drawn pants on him in one of our copies.)  The book was deliciously creepy (literally), with the three giant smiling cooks threatening to cook Mickey in the batter.  The text and illustrations had a surreal quality that both troubled and appealed to me, and so I read it over and over again.

Later on, I stumbled upon Where the Wild Things Are in our local library. I loved the idea of sailing away to that island of the wild things, which I found both frightening and fascinating.  I stared at those illustrations for hours.  And, of course, the idea that you could enjoy your time being “King of the Wild Things” and still come home for a hot supper was deeply reassuring.  (I love the story of how Sendak had to fight his editor to use the word “hot” instead of “warm,” because the editor thought “hot” sounded too dangerous).

From Sendak, I developed an appetite for Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, and Hans Christian Andersen (whose stories were often grimmer than the Brothers Grimm).  While the message from the adult world at large was “There’s no such thing as monsters,” these authors delighted in saying, “Oh, monsters definitely do exist, and aren’t they awesome?” or even “Monsters definitely do exist, and the scariest ones are people.”  They provided a safe, often even funny way to confront the nightmares, which was far more reassuring than being told that there was nothing to be afraid of.

So, in honor of Maurice Sendak, and all of his weird, wonderful, terrifying, mesmerizing books, I wrote this song, which I’m calling Home Again.  I hope you enjoy it (click on the triangle to hear the song):

Home Again
Darling, when you feel afraid,
For you can plainly see,
The world is full of monsters
Who look just like you and me.

Just jump aboard your tiny boat
Follow the falling star.
And sail away through night and day,
To where the wild things are.

And you will dance and then
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all
When you come home again.

And darling, when the goblins come,
And no one seems to care,
Climb out your bedroom window
Into outside over there.

Bring your horn, and play a jig,
And charm them with a song.
They’ll set you free, and you will soon be
Home where you belong.

And you will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
But I will love you best of all,
When you come home again.

When the moon is in a fit,
And you are in the dumps,
Lost in the rye with one black eye,
And diamonds are all trumps.

I will come and buy you bread,
One loaf or maybe two.
And I will bring you up
Cause happy endings can come true.

And we will dance and then,
Let the wild rumpus begin.
And I will love you best of all
Until the very end.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s