Reading Captain Underpants Or In The Night Kitchen

In the Night KitchenMaurice came out to me in 1985 when I was the Director of Children’s Programs at CBS Television and anxious to create an animated television series based on his book. When we became friends at the 1985 premiere of his brilliant “Where the Wild Things Are” Opera at the Ordway theater in St. Paul, Minneapolis, he spoke at length about his lifetime fascination with his parents’ and siblings’ posteriors. As they were not a demonstrably affectionate family that hugged or kissed openly, he confessed, he was preternaturally compelled to embrace them from behind to express his love and unwittingly receive their affection. He explained to me it was the psychologically driving force for most of the characters and situations of his books: rebellion, “wildness”, and love given, taken and received in alternative ways. He was one of the most open, courageous, ingenious, and brilliantly subversive artists I have ever known. As with “Captain Underpants” or Mickey in the Night Kitchen we are presented with wild stirrings and unconscious motivations of unbridled childhood urges and forbidden passions which are the well-spring of every child’s imagination. In this day and age when children’s books are handed over to insipid celebrity home movies, vapid morality,  and simpering pieties, I fear we will never again experience his towering, defiant and brilliant insights to the nature and unfettered genius of childhood again.


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