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.
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“Please, I’d be honored to have you dictate them to me,” I said.Skip to next paragraph
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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For the next half hour, Maurice Sendak dictated the words I have repeated in countless readings of “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle.” I cried as I typed, and I could tell he was crying, too.
“Our lives briefly touched,” Sendak began. “But I remember him among all the eager, talented young people I’ve bumped into along the way. I remember the face – the enthusiasm – the intelligence and unaffected extraordinariness of David Saltzman. It is difficult to remember all the bright, promising youngsters. It is easy to remember David.”
When the book was introduced at the American Booksellers Convention in Chicago that May, David’s byline was rendered, just as Maurice Sendak’s always was: “Story and Pictures by David Saltzman.” Just below that, the cover said, “With an Afterword by Maurice Sendak.”
Across the top of our small booth – tucked in the farthest corner of the immense Chicago convention center – we displayed the last sentence of Sendak’s Afterword across a vivid 10-foot banner: “David’s Jester soars with life.”
On the first day of the convention, when I had stepped away briefly, a man came by, looked at the banner and snapped at David’s father Joe, a professor of journalism at USC Annenberg: “You can’t quote anything from Maurice Sendak. You don’t have permission to do that. I’m Maurice Sendak’s agent and everything with Mr. Sendak’s name goes through me.”
Joe explained that we had actually gone directly through Maurice Sendak.
“We’ll see about that,” he said and stormed away. He came back, chagrined, a little later and told Joe, “I apologize. I just spoke to Maurice and he said he did write the afterword and gave you permission to use his name on the cover of the book. He has never done that before. But you definitely have his permission. I wish you the best of luck.”
Without Sendak’s support, encouragement, and incredible generosity, “The Jester” would have been dismissed out of hand by the entire publishing community – distributors, wholesalers, booksellers, media. Instead, “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” reached the New York Times best-seller list.
In June 1995, when we returned home from the convention, a hand-written note awaited us on “The Night Kitchen” stationery:
The book is absolutely beautiful! You have done full justice to the work. The varieties of colors and tones! Rich – fresh and lovely. Mazeltov. I am just embroiled in the printing of a new book so I am very sensitive to the difficulties you’ve wonderfully overcome.
I will treasure my copy. I will treasure my relationship with David and his whole superb family.
We will always treasure Maurice Sendak. Not just for his transforming, insightful, captivating stories and artwork. We will always treasure Maurice Sendak for his great generosity to our son – for allowing us to link David’s name to his in print forever.