Letters: On Maurice Sendak

Melissa Block and Audie Cornish read emails from listeners about a remembrance of children's author Maurice Sendak.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's time now for your letters. And first, a correction. Yesterday, we remembered beloved children's book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak who died yesterday at the age of 83. In our story, we incorrectly said that while Sendak was working as a window dresser at FAO Schwartz in New York, he met children's book editor Ruth Krauss.

The editor Sendak was actually introduced to was Ursula Nordstrom. Ruth Krauss was a children's book author with whom Sendak worked as her illustrator. Our apologies for that mistake.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to your letters, also about our tribute to Sendak. Many of you took issue with our mention of Robert McCloskey's "Make Way for Ducklings." We said when Sendak first walked into the world of children's books, it was a very safe place. In McCloskey's book, a friendly policeman helps a cute little family of ducks get home. It's a simple story set in a place without disorder.

BLOCK: But Katy Aronoff of Lowell, Massachusetts, disagrees. She writes this: There is real danger in "Make Way for Ducklings." Mrs. Mallard has to navigate the hazards of a busy city to bring her brood to their new home. Perhaps the real difference between this story and Sendak's work is the importance of traditional authority figures: parents, police officers in McCloskey's book, and the absence of them in stories like "Where the Wild Things Are." Children can enjoy and learn from both books. There's no need to trash one writer's work to lift up another.

CORNISH: Amelia Baisley also thought we were unfair to "Make Way for Ducklings." She writes: The two books are separated by more than two decades, and it hardly seems fair to try and encapsulate the rich and complex world of 20th century children's literature, with its diverse themes, into these two titles. Robert McCloskey was also a brilliant artist whose beautiful drawings and witty, realistic subjects were groundbreaking in their own right.

BLOCK: Vincent Hausman of Greenville, South Carolina, was moved by our remembrance of the life and work of Maurice Sendak but writes this: I found myself only wishing that in your fine tribute to a man whose work has opened up so many spaces for imagining so many ways of being, that you had remarked that Mr. Sendak was gay and had himself recently lost a longtime partner.

CORNISH: And finally, Tami Kuhn of Holt, Michigan, writes: I was a lucky kid in that all my relatives loved to read to me so I learned to love to read. I read all the children's books, except "Where the Wild Things Are." The pictures of monsters scared me to death. I might have to check it out of the library now. I think I can handle it now.

BLOCK: We enjoy your letters, so please do keep them coming. Go to npr.org and click on contact us at the bottom of the page.

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