dear mr. sendak

"Hands Are to Make Things."  From A HOLE IS TO DIG by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak; copyright 1952 HarperCollins

Dear Mr. Sendak,

I have packed a wooden ruler in my box of supplies for the Farmers Market.  I never again will be without it… or without you, of course, even though my heart must adapt to your more cosmic body.

I spent hours and hours of childhood hiding in a corner of my grandparents’ house, wandering inside your illustrations for Ruth Krauss’s books.  I liked the lack of borders.  I liked that the kids had big heads and were playing hard.   Later, Max and Mickey became good friends of mine.  I grew up in a time when a child still could get lost for long hours anywhere as long as she or he made it home for dinner.  Your books made sense when the grown-ups around me were acting like monsters.

As a young grown-up, I spent hours and hours looking at your drawings.  For relief.  For hope.  You achieved a quality of line that is playful but serious.  As a bookseller, not a heck of a lot made me happier than handing someone a copy of one of your books and explaining why it might be a window into a new world.  Of relief.  Of hope.

I landed in NYC with Oregon moss on my shoes, two suitcases, nowhere to live, and a couple of lines on my face already.  I jammed up the phone lines at the youth hostel on Amsterdam Avenue and walked all over the city to figure out how to work in the world of children’s book publishing. HarperCollins came through, and it became my honor to send a Wild Thing around the country to support your work.

I helped on some other projects and learned how important rulers and pencil lines can be.  I tried really hard to understand every centimeter of what was being explained to me, but ultimately I failed at HC and with your editor.  My passion for your work and how it had changed my own life wasn’t enough in that environment.  I couldn’t separate enough from what Jack and Guy meant to me to look carefully enough at the borders that framed them in the advertisements.

So I left HarperCollins and then left NYC soon after.  I never left you, though, dear Mr. Sendak.

After I failed at HC, I kept trying to get back to center.  What is true?  Well, “a hole is to dig.”  Even though lions chase through my head, sometimes a forest can grow in a room, right?  “The ground is to make a garden.”

So I did make that garden.

And as Ms. Krauss would say, “ooie ooie ooie ooie ooie ooie ooie…  and Everybody’s yelling for more More MORE.”

Curious Farm wouldn’t exist without you.  Thank you for it all.  Even though.  In any case.  All of it.  Every jar of sauerkraut I make is a tribute to you.  And you know why.  Thank you.


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