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Modern Parenthood

A mom thanks Sendak for giving her son's “Jester” his jingle

A mom's wild rumpus of memories of Maurice Sendak: She read to her son “What Do You Say, Dear?" That son eventually was invited to visit Sendak. And when that young man wrote a book – "The Jester Has Lost His Jingle" – about the healing nature of laughter, but died before it was published, Sendak helped launch it onto the New York Times bestseller list.

By Contributor / May 30, 2012

Barbara Saltzman and her son David Saltzman at his Yale graduation in 1989. Encouraged by writer-artist Maurice Sendak, David wrote a children's book about the healing nature of laughter, but died before it was published. Sendak helped launch it onto the New York Times bestseller list.

© The Jester Co., Inc., Used With Permission. All rights reserved.


Los Angeles

“Hi, Barbara, This is Maurice.”

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is a former editor of the Los Angles Times Daily Calendar entertainment pages. She is executive director of the non-profit Jester & Pharley Phund.The charity is based on the book, “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle,” by her son David Saltzman. The organization works to benefit ill and special-needs children and literacy. To date, 325,000 copies of the book are in circulation with 155,000 dolls and books given to ill children and schools

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That brief greeting on a Sunday morning in late 1994 was my personal introduction to Maurice Sendak, who died earlier this month and has been inspiring a wild rumpus of memories among our family and friends.

I read Mr. Sendak’s works endlessly to my children, Michael and David Saltzman, when I first discovered Sendak the writer and artist. David loved to draw and tell stories from the time he was little. He especially loved Mr. Sendak’s whimsical, wicked and imaginative drawings – whether for his own books or those he illustrated for others, such as “What Do You Say, Dear?"

David found Max, Rosie, Little Bear, and other characters drawn by Sendak to be lifelong inspirations for his own artistic creations. We would talk endlessly about the characters Sendak created, how effectively he could convey his thoughts with a few clean lines, his ideas with a few choice words. Of course, none of us ever imagined the vital role that Sendak would later play in David’s own life and work.

David felt so lucky to meet Sendak at a Master’s Tea at Yale University in February 1986, when David was a freshman. After Sendak’s passing, a Yale classmate remembered watching David and Sendak talking together, writer to writer, artist to artist: “Sendak  had just given a presentation and I remember Dave hanging around afterwards to get his autograph. The two spoke and laughed and I was just thrilled to be in the presence of two such delightful and talented souls. I've long been a huge fan of Sendak's work, but in my mind Dave always understood Sendak best.”

Sendak must have thought so, too: He invited David to visit his studio in Connecticut. A couple of days later, David and a friend took the train to Litchfield, where, in the middle of the woods, the two were transported to the Wild Things’ world. Sendak showed him where he lived, where he worked, where he displayed his collection of Disneyana and talked about what it was like to be an artist and author. That day changed David’s life.

That evening, when he returned to Yale, David called: “Now I know what I want to do,” he told me, recounting that indescribable afternoon. “I want to be a children’s book artist and author and live in the middle of the woods and have a studio filled with light, just like Mr. Sendak’s.”

Three years later, David’s dream started to gel when he joined a summer study group taking him to ancient Greek sites. Grecian mythological figures and lore entranced him. One day as he entered his class, David told a silly joke and nobody laughed, or even said hello to him. He doodled a few squiggles and thought the result looked like a little jester. Next to the sad face, he wrote the words: “The jester has lost his jingle.” And thus the germ of an idea for a children’s book – in rhyming verse – about the healing nature of laughter began.


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