When I was in elementary school, a day with a film was a great day. You always knew when it was going to be a film day because sitting in the middle of the room was the reel-to-reel projector and a film can on a cart. The bigger the can, the longer the film. My favorite film was Really Rosie. I don’t know how many times they showed the film in school, but I had every delightful song by Carole King memorized.
The film, which was later adapted for the stage, follows Rosie and the other children in her neighborhood as they create an imaginary musical about Rosie’s life and the demise of her kid brother, Chicken Soup. Rosie, the ringleader of the group, is also the star. She sings “I’m really Rosie, I’m Rosie real, you better believe me, I’m a great big deal.” As I child I was a little bossy and the character of Rosie resonated with me. (OK who am I kidding. I was really bossy.)
Flash forward 30 years. I am browsing the picture books at the Main Library for something new to read to my son, when I see them sitting on the shelf–small books–each one with a title that corresponds to one of the songs in Really Rosie. There is Chicken Soup with Rice, One Was Johnny, Pierre, and Alligators All Around. I gasped when I saw the author–Maurice Sendak. How did I not know that the man who inspired generations of children with his classic books, Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Outside Over There had written and directed one of my favorite childhood films? The four small books are known as The Nutshell Library and were the basis for the film.
I checked them all out and delighted in not reading but singing all the books to my son. I could not believe that I remembered each one. When Sendak died this week at the age of 83, I thought not just about how much I enjoy reading his books with my son, but also about how his film made such an impact on me. Mr. Sendak created worlds where children were free to dream and imagine and were “a great big deal.” Thank you Mr. Sendak.