Today’s Google doodle celebrates what would be the 85th birthday of illustrator and author Maurice Sendak. The doodle is an animation featuring characters from his children’s books including his breakout success (and one I love very much) Where The Wild Things Are.
The Comics Journal ran a rare – and presumably the last – interview with Sendak in their 2012 edition (#302 if you’re looking for it in their store), which came out not long after his passing. It’s both interesting and long so worth hunting down a copy. Here is an excerpt:
…And when you take away the truth from [children], you take away everything from them. And one of the passions I have about children is, we don’t know what they see, we don’t know what they really hear. And occasionally they are polite enough to let us in.
Was it you I told the story of the 9/11 event? Little girl, and I don’t know her, but I know her father and I know her mother. And the school was quite close to where the buildings were, and when they heard, they went crazy with alarm, and they ran all the way to the school and all the children had been put into the center playground and she was there, and they saw each other and she ran to her father and she said, “Oh, it’s wonderful, Daddy, we had a wonderful time. The smoke was all over and butterflies were flying all over the place. We saw butterflies!”
He took her home and they played TV, they played games, they played her favorite everything. They made her happy, gave her ice cream, everything they could to obliterate the day. And just before she went to bed she tugged on her father’s shirt and she said, “Daddy, I didn’t really see butterflies. They were people.”
When I heard that story for the first time I cried because I was a good friend of the father, and I said, “Do you realize she was protecting you?”
And he said, “Yes, we know what she was trying to do. She was taking care of us while we were taking care of her.”
She didn’t want you to suffer. A little girl. She had this thought process to make believe these burning people were butterflies.
I thought to myself, what don’t they tell us? What brave little creatures they are.
Some pretty heavy stuff.
You can read more in part 2 of the TCJ excerpt from the Sendak interview.