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December 3, 2014

Hazel Gaynor on Book Dedications and a Wild Rumpus!

Posted by emily

Bestselling author Hazel Gaynor’s latest book, A MEMORY OF VIOLETS: A Novel of London’s Flower Sellers, is the story of two long-lost sisters whose lives take different paths, and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences. Hazel certainly values the bond of sisterhood; here, she talks about the wonderful gift her own sister, Auntie Helen, gave Hazel’s newborn son: Maurice Sendak’s classic, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. It took a few months (and a baby who could finally sleep through the night) for Hazel to appreciate it, but now the book is a household favorite --- made only more special by the loving dedication within.

In October 2005, my first child, Max, was born. He came into the world one chilly autumn afternoon and turned our world upside down.

The first few weeks were a blur of nappy changes and sleep deprivation. We were new parents, fumbling our way through the steep learning curve a new baby throws at you. By the time Christmas came around that year, we hadn’t slept for about six weeks. I resembled the Ghost of Christmas Past as I tried to work my way through a turkey dinner with a wailing infant strapped to me. It wasn’t easy --- or pretty.

Among all the lovely gifts Max received for his first Christmas was a book from his new Auntie Helen (my sister). It was Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of it at the time). In the front, Auntie Helen had written a dedication: “To Max. Happy 1st Christmas. 2005.” In an exhausted emotional muddle, I cried a little, put the book on a shelf in Max’s nursery and forgot all about it.

The weeks flew past, and soon we had a baby who slept at night. Hurrah! We began to function a little better. I even found enough energy to do some dusting, and there, up on the shelf, was WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. I took it down and sat with Max to read it to him. What I hadn’t realised is that the hero of this fabulous book is also a Max!

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE soon became a firm bedtime story favourite. Max especially loved the wonderful illustrations of the nighttime rumpus. He was enthralled, and so was I. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is still on that shelf and has since been loved by our second child.

The boys are now aged nine and seven, and are both --- I am proud to say --- great readers. And while they are now reading chapter books to themselves, those favourite early picture books come down from the shelf every now and again, and we fall in love with Max in his wolf suit, and the Wild Things, all over again.

Our particular copy of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE will always be special, not only because it was a first Christmas gift, or because Max shares his name with the hero, but because of the dedication my sister wrote inside. Books are magical things anyway, but a personal dedication makes them that little bit more special. It lends the book another story, all of its own; a sense of time and place, where that book meant something special to two people, no matter how young or old --- or sleep-deprived!