8 Reasons Adults Should Read Maurice Sendak

The recent death of beloved and controversial children’s author Maurice Sendak has shed a great deal of light on just how complex and brilliant the writer truly was. Unlike most children’s books of the 20th century, or any other era for that matter, Sendak was known for shaking things up and exploring the dark and terrifying world of monsters, kidnappings, and neglectful parents. His wild and wonderful tales have scared and delighted children for decades, but there might be one demographic that could benefit even more from reading Maurice’s masterpieces — adults. Here are the eight reasons adults should read Maurice Sendak.

  1. To face your fears

    Maurice Sendak’s books force both children and adults to face their fears with his dark and twisted stories of wild things with ferocious teeth and claws and bakers who try to bake a child into a cake. These fantastic tales are more likely to haunt a child than an adult, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get the chills or think about your fears as a child while reading Sendak’s books. Just like Sendak faced his fears by writing books, you can reflect on your own fears, past and present, with every grim story.

  2. Entertainment

    There’s no doubt about it; Sendak’s books are incredibly entertaining for both children and adults. In fact, the kid lit author even admits that he did not write for children nor for adults, he just wrote for the sake of writing. From the imaginative stories to the colorful illustrations he drew himself, Sendak captivated readers with his quirky characters and elaborate stories that will never get old.

  3. You need a good scare

    Everyone needs a good scare from time to time, and Sendak’s books are the perfect source for all things spooky. Sendak understood that children want to be disturbed and terrified and the same goes for adults. The thrill and fear of the unknown can be oddly cathartic for the brain. Getting scared can give you an adrenaline rush and make you feel more alive, and what’s better than that?

  4. To better understand children

    Sendak’s books can teach adults a thing or two about children and what makes them tick. Sendak insisted that children need to know the truth and sometimes the truth was depicted in a dark and disturbing story. He also wanted to evoke different emotions in his readers, whether it was happiness, fright, anger, or sadness. Reading Sendak can help you understand how children act or think when parents are absent and remind you that innocence won’t be broken by reading about the realities of life.

  5. Good parental messages

    Sendak’s characters aren’t the sweetest, most well-behaved children, but his work is an accurate portrayal of real life and real parenting challenges. For instance, in Where the Wild Things Are, Max is sent to bed without supper for threatening to eat his mom. While grounded, Max imagines he is in a forest and boards a ship that takes him to the home of the wild things. Even after all of his adventures and mischief, Max returns home to a hot supper. Sendak’s message of unconditional parental love reassures children and reminds adults about their important responsibilities.

  6. Learn about the Holocaust

    OK, so Sendak didn’t exactly write about Hitler and concentration camps, but he did make several poignant references to the Nazis and the devastating events of the Holocaust that claimed many of his Jewish relatives’ lives. Knowing this, adults can better understand the emotional damage and fears Sendak faced as a child of Eastern Europeean Jewish immigrants. The dark and disturbing stories are directly linked to Sendak’s fears and miseries as a child who feared death and was constantly haunted by the loss of his family members.

  7. Good lessons to be learned

    Sendak’s adult readers can learn some good life lessons by reading his books. Regardless if you’re a parent or not, Sendak’s stories teach readers about children and how they operate. Sendak’s opposition to overprotective parenting can also be seen in his writing and characterizations. He encouraged exposing children to darkness and sadness because it is a reality of life that they should not be sheltered from.

  8. Helps you be more imaginative

    You don’t have to be a 7-year-old to think like one. And just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t play make-believe anymore. At least that’s the mentality Sendak hoped to instill in his readers. Sendak’s books captivate readers and spark imagination with every vivid page. You can’t read a Sendak book and not use your imagination. It’s just not possible.