I was surprised to find that two of Sendak’s most popular works, Where the Wild Things Are and the Nutshell Library, dated from the early 1960s.
Regular readers of this column should not be surprised to hear that The Boy’s favorite Sendak title is, of course, Where the Wild Things Are. As a toddler, he would ask for it over and over, presenting the book to me or to Tad with a plaintive “Batcha How?”
“Batcha How” was his imagined narration of what the Wild Things were chanting in those glorious text-free pages of wild rumpusing, and every time we reached that part of the story, he would hop up from his seat in the lap of whoever was reading the story and stomp joyfully around the room, waving his arms in the air, chanting “BATCHA BATCHA HOW! BATCHA BATCHA HOW! BATCHA BATCHA HOW!” Because of course, if there was a wild rumpus happening somewhere, he was going to be a part of it. During quieter times, we would sometimes find him sitting in the laundry basket, with a faraway look in his eye. If we asked him what he was doing, he would smile slyly and say, in halting baby speak, “Private. Boat.”
and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max
and he sailed off through night and day
and in and out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.
Farewell and godspeed, Mr. Sendak. And thank you.