Atomics for the Millions
Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff - Hyman Ruchlis - Maurice Sendak - McGraw-Hill, 1947
Recently, I've been thinking about Peter Sieruta. I was cleaning up my side bar the other day and saw his site listed in my blog roll and nostalgically took a click.
Peter and I both started blogging about children's books in 2007, just a few months apart, and back then, he was one of only a few on the landscape. Reading his blog always made me feel smart, or rather always made me feel like my blog was authored by an airhead, but by reading his blog, Collecting Children's Books, it would make me smarter. I was a dabbler, but he... HE was someone who really knew what he was talking about. He was a writer for Horn Book, and his opinion was respected and his knowledge about the subject of children's books, bottomless. He was the real thing. He was in the middle of writing a book with Seven Impossible Things and Fuse Eight. His posts were knowledgeable and heartfelt, and often made me cry with their generosity of spirit about seemingly little things that mattered a whole lot.
Peter died tragically and unexpectedly over a year ago. His dear little blog sits untouched since May 13, 2012. I'm not much of a social butterfly when it comes to the internet, and in all those years, I never reached out to him beyond a few random comments on posts I loved. If I could talk to him now, I would tell him how I always respected him from afar. I would tell him what a great writer he is. How I wished I knew as much as he did about everything.
As I started sorting through his blog pages again, I came across a post he did on the first book Maurice Sendak illustrated, Atomics for the Millions, illustrated when Maurice was only 19 as a favor to one of his teachers. The next day I checked the shelves at my office, and of course, it was there. Pulling it from the shelf felt precious and wonderful. The weight of it in my hand. The way the cloth cover felt on my fingertips. The cracking spine and pencil-made notes in the margins left by students long ago. I stood marveling at the illustrations, such a wonder, looking back on this early hint of a life so well-illustrated. Smiling at the connection I felt, like so many others, with Maurice Sendak because of the books he illustrated that I've loved. Smiling about how this little moment among the stacks was brought about by a stranger who always seemed like a dear friend because of the love of books we shared.
I was thinking of cleaning Collecting Children's Books off my side bar, but only for a second, then thought better of it. I'll probably keep returning to it as there is always something new to discover. If you've never read Peter's blog before, start here and enjoy. If you discover a wonder or two there, something that reminds or delights, remember that it is readers like Peter who truly make books come alive. Through his love for children's literature, Peter took the best of the boy and translated it into one hell of man. It we could all keep the best of childhood alive in our hearts like that, the world would be a better place indeed.