I was reading through my Google Reader this morning, and came across the news that Maurice Sendak had died. I made one of those little noises, that "Oh!" of combined horror, sadness, and disbelief. Here's his obit at the New York Times.
Now, the NYT doesn't exactly have a shining track record as far as children's and YA book coverage goes, but I have to give them props for this lovely obit, which acknowledges Sendak as a picture-book creator that both defined and stood outside the genre.
Even now, Sendak's books have teeth that you don't often find in the picture-book shelves. They're a little sharp, a little hard-edged, a little dangerous, and the kids love them, because their world is not the soft and fuzzy baby-ducks-and-mama-bunnies that we often get in 32 pages with illustrations. Their world is full of uncertainties, new people, desperately dangerous situations. (You try being two feet tall and encountering a 180-lb dog, even a nice one. That's some George-and-the-Dragon stuff right there.) And the kids themselves aren't docile cherubs.
He wrote a small-form picture book called Alligators All Around. A child's world is full of alligators. Sendak knew that. And he sent his heroes out into the alligators, and they beat them. They even romped with them.
We'll miss you.