I’ve had this book for 37 years. It was given to me on June 14, 1975, as a gift from my parents for learning to read at the age of five.
Little Bear was the beginning of my lifelong relationship with Maurice Sendak, the beloved children’s book author and illustrator. Sendak died this morning, at the age of 83, from complications of a recent stroke.
Little Bear is far and away my favorite book. I can’t tell you why, exactly. I’m not a literary critic. In the traumatic world of my childhood, though, I read and re-read Birthday Soup and Little Bear Goes to the Moon. I was particularly drawn to the pictures, as young children are, whether it was Little Bear’s moon helmet or Little Bear sitting on a cloud or how closely he clung to his mother. His mother. She looked so safe and patient and loving to me. I never tired of those pictures.
Sendak also wrote Where the Wild Things Are, for which he won the prized Caldecott Medal. He taught me about wild rumpuses and misbehavior and still being loved by your parents no matter what. I don’t know how, but he knew what I needed, and I devoured it.
When my son was born, I read to him all the Little Bear stories, and as he grew older we read Where The Wild Things Are as well. It meant so much to me that I could share with my son the same delight I had in those stories and illustrations as a child.
I recently decided to give my son Jackson, now 10, my copy of Little Bear. I don’t know how I managed to hang onto it for all these years. Clearly it’s a sign of how important the book was to me, as it’s the only one I still have from childhood. I told him that we spent so much time reading it when he was little that it should be his now. It’s something we will always share together. I hope that one day he reads it to his own children if he has them.
Thank you Maurice. Thank you for entertaining me, and taking me to beautiful places, and helping secure the bonds I have with my beautiful boy. Thank you for comforting me. Thank you for illustrations and words that made me smile and spurred my imagination and gave me hope. We will miss you.