NEW YORK -- The claws and teeth of wild things are a near-nightly affair at bedtime for Gregg Svingen's 2-year-old, Tessa. She raises a tiny index finger and issues a clear and forceful "Be still!" to knock Maurice Sendak's monsters into shape.
"This evolved into telling anything scary or threatening a confident 'No!', again with an empowered toddler digit," said Svingen, an American living in Brussels who keeps two copies of "Where the Wild Things Are" on hand.
Count Svingen and other grateful parents - and their kids - among those around the world to bid Sendak a fond farewell Tuesday, when he died in Danbury, Conn., at age 83. Many devoured his books as children themselves.
"Sendak reminds adults about the best parts of childhood: the freedom, the boundless energy, the possibilities, the security, the fantasies, a time where the rules can bend any way your imagination desires," said Nicole Forsyth, whose 4-year-old, Audrey, likes "In the Night Kitchen" the best.
"But he also reminds us of the pain of childhood: the frustrations, fear, loneliness and confusion, the unfinished mind in its extremes of pure joy and raw, untempered ego," said Forsyth, in Sacramento, Calif.
From the naughty Max of "Wild Things" to the foul-tempered Pierre from Sendak's bite-size Nutshell Library, parents said Sendak understood the inner world of childhood like few other writers for kids. It's a world, Forsyth said, that "I created, that I had control over, that somehow made more sense than the world seems today."
Anna Patterson's journey of mischief-making began 15 years ago in Tupelo, Miss., when she first fell in love with the wild boy Max, who returns home in the end, his supper still warm.
"He wasn't your typical knight in shining armor or dragon-slaying prince," said Patterson, now a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
"It was a different kind of main character, someone with real fears and a real imagination I could relate to. That one book was enough to start a love of reading that's lasted a lifetime," she said.
Kate Shamon Rushford's 11-year-old Matthew is an avid reader in Wellesley, Mass., and has loved "Wild Things" since he was 3. Now, he's old enough to reflect himself on the passing of one of his favorite book creators.