Long ago at UCONN, I had the privilege to attend Francelia Butler's Children's Literature class — and the luck to raise my hand before she was done asking if anyone wanted to drive Maurice Sendak from his home to hers so they could attend a conference together.
Mr. Sendak was lovely, gave me a tour of his studio, and signed my five year-old copy of Where the Wild Things Are. I was blown away by the honor, but knew he was in for a "bad surprise." His ride was an elderly Chevy with two colors of primer and Bondo comprising most of its outside and no heat on the inside, due to a mouse living in one of the heater ducts.
He managed to hide his dismay after one shocked second. Once he realized, 1) the engine was in working order, and, 2) he'd never get to the conference in time if he refused to get in, he consigned his fate into my hands. He sat, shrugged under the quilt I'd brought for his comfort (early spring in Connecticut, snow still in the tree shadows) and proceeded to chat amiably the whole two hours of travel time.
I'll never forget how open and hilarious he was. It was my first close-up experience with how wonderful children's book authors/illustrators could be.
Maurice Sendak died May 8, 2012, of a stroke. While we still have the legacy of his groundbreaking work and its effect on children's literature, I miss his truthfulness.
Works In Progress: