It didn't even occur to me to pass about the artistic great's passing - death is such a private thing, it seems strange to 'blog' about it. But I've spent the past few days reading tributes and remembrances and I haven't seen mention of my FAVORITE Sendak book so I thought I'd mention it.
Higglety Pigglety Pop or There Must Be More To Life is one of my fondest, strongest book-memories from childhood. I'm not sure when I read it or where I got it. I vividly remember our elementary school library's picture book section so that's my best guess. Or maybe my mom bought me the copy I still have? HPP is about a terrier named Jennie who has an easy, comfortable life living in a house. She has a potted plant as a friend and all the trappings that a family dog should have...
She slept on a round pillow upstairs and a square pillow downstairs. She had her own comb and brush, two different bottles of pills, eyedrops, eardrops, a thermometer, and for cold weather a red wool sweater."
But Jennie is still unhappy and goes out into the world to see if there IS more beyond her safe home. She travels, befriends a milkman cat, meets a pig selling sandwiches, and gets a job as a nanny. The story takes a strange turn and suddenly (not totally unexpectedly, since Sendak loved to send us hurdling out of reality and into some strange fantasy world, briefly or for keeps) Jennie is involved in a stage production of her life.
The things I love about this book are many... I love that the book itself is small and square. I love that Jennie is a girl. I love that she went out to seek more. I love the strange inconsistencies in scale and logic - Jennie is a regular dog but can talk and hold down a job, the milkman cat wears a uniform and walks upright and drives a truck, there is this terrifying HUGE baby that defies comprehension. I love the LINES - Maurice Sendak was a master of lines - the details and tiny textures. I love that it's black and white.
And lastly, I love the LISTS (I have always love lists and long rambling sentences) from Jennie's possessions that she packs up in her leather bag, to the types of sandwiches that the pig was selling...as a kid I would picture myself having those sandwich options or how I would carefully pack that assortment of things into my bag to head off into the world. I have always been infatuated with kits and packing for trips and having one of everything necessary. Jennie and I have that in common. (Eventually she loses a lot of her comforts and accoutrements she thought were so important - and that's something I am still learning to deal with too! Sometimes things can't always be JUST SO.)
I read that Maurice Sendak said that he would never lie to children and I appreciate that in his books. Things don't go according to plan in HPP. The world outside Jennie's perfect home life is complicated and confusing and I think that's very real and important for kids to understand. It taught me a lot about appreciating what I have but also taking a step outside to see what else the world has to offer (even if it's a tiresome job or a pig-made sandwich).
The passing of Maurice Sendak is a huge loss. He had a wonderfully long life and gave us so many amazing stories and pictures. I will be forever thankful that he was here in the first place.
Oh, also, in 2008, I was Max for halloween.