Maurice Sendak, who just died, doesn’t seem, at first glance, to have much to teach Christians. After all, he was an atheist with a cynical outlook and a foul mouth. But underneath all of that, I think, Sendak saw something of the fallen glory of the universe we followers of Jesus sometimes ignore.

Sendak’s most famous work, of course, is his children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. It’s about a boy named Max, who is sent to his room for telling his mother he’ll eat her up. My sons love this story. Whenever I read it, they start shifting around in their seats as they hear about his room becoming a forest, about his encountering scary, teeth-baring “wild things.”

My boys aren’t unusual. I loved that story as much as they did, when I was their age. And when I talk to people about my age, I find that this book struck, and strikes, a particular resonance with at least two generations of American children, no matter what their racial, social, economic, or religious backgrounds.

Sendak said that the “wild things” originated with his fear and loathing of his grownup extended family, trying to hug and kiss him and “eat him up.” But I think there’s more to it than that, more that causes this story to persist.

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