“There's something in this country that is so opposed to understanding the complexity of children.” -Maurice Sendak
Life lessons come in many forms, and one of the most important lessons that a child can learn is that of honesty. Children often fib and experiment with telling tall tales and lies. It is a normal part of development for most. Throughout childhood and adolescence even, children are learning who they are and what is important to them. These are lessons that cannot be simply taught through a simple conversation. The work of Maurice Sendak helps children learn more about themselves and the world around them. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, Max is king of the Wild Things until he realizes what’s more in his life: his mother. He misses her and wants to be back where somebody loves him “best of all.” So he travels all the way back home to his bedroom and finds that his supper is waiting for him and it is still warm. This simple thread connects with a child’s inner sense of self in that most children can identify with it. Whether it is mom, grandma, dad, or another important person or thing, all children can relate to someone who loves them “best of all.”
In the book In the Night Kitchen, Mickey hears a strange noise and upon investigation learns that there are 3 singing bakers creating delicious baked goods at night. Mickey has quite an adventure until he finally wakes up. This dreamland is fantastical and full of whimsy, yet it is central to a common lesson that children must learn and that is to make sense of the world around them. Sendak would attest that children are aware of much more than they are given credit for and discovering and making sense of simple things is one of childhood’s greatest accomplishments. Material possessions, while nice, should not be a person’s sole focus in life. In the book Higglety Pigglety Pop!: Or There Must Be More to Life a terrier named Jennie (modeled after Sendak’s beloved dog) seeks out a life of happiness by leaving her owner and setting off for “something more” and becomes the star of the World Mother Goose Theatre. In this long children’s tale, it is suggested that life values should be examined and priorities considered. One fantastic quote from this tale is “There must be more to life than having everything.”
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