Children’s books spark the imagination

Writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak’s birthday was yesterday. He would have been 85 if he were alive today. He died last May, leaving behind a legacy that will live on for generations to come.

Harriet the Spy book cover (borrowed from wikipedia)

Harriet the Spy (wikipedia)

As a tribute, Google used the image of one of Sendak’s most memorable characters (Max, from “Where the Wild Things Are”) to represent its logo for the day. Just a reminder that he was a spark that sent millions of us on a wild adventure.

I loved Maurice Sedak’s work.  His distinct style of characters stirred my imagination as a child and prompted me to interject myself into the stories I read.

I could relate with Max, about the pressures of being a kid, being sent to bed without any dinner, vowing to my parents that “they’d be sorry when I was gone.”

I sailed the boat with Max to a different land, not really afraid, but a little apprehensive about what would greet us there, and tried to imagine what wonderful venture awaited us.

And when we returned from the land far away, we found hot soup waiting for us, and well, we just knew that everything was going to be OK.

Other books had the same effect on me.

“Harriet the Spy” gave me the idea of keeping a journal, not necessarily about other people, but just  to record my thoughts and try to make sense out of them.  I learned what an “egg cream” was, though I never had a desire to try one. I could relate to Harriet, how it felt being ignored by the other kids, feeling like an outsider.

I wondered what it would be like to be Harriet, the only child, growing up in a big house, being taken care of by a nanny. I let my imagination run wild, but was glad to come back  to my big, loud, loving family.

There were so many books, and so little time. I spent hours reading everything and anything. The “Little House” books were among my favorites, and I couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series.

“Encyclopedia Brown” and the “Great Brain,” and “Ramona and Beezus” were also favorites.

Each story, each character, was unique and I became lost in a world much different from my own. I didn’t read to escape. I read to explore and to imagine, beyond my wildest dreams. I became a part of it, and it a part of me. And when it was finished, I searched for other books that challenged my imagination and stretched to the ends of the Earth and back.

I still love browsing thorough the children’s section of the book stores and libraries, hoping to find copies of the books I used to read. Many of them have long since been replaced by modern versions of the same story, and it’s a bit sad to think that they might be long gone.

At least I still have my memory… and a little imagination.