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.
In September 1988, “The Jester Has Lost His Jingle” became David’s senior project in both English and art.
Just a month later, he was diagnosed with cancer, but he stayed at Yale to be with his friends while he was treated. And he continued work on “The Jester” – a consuming focus – through treatment and remission and on to graduation in May 1989.
He came home to California and continued working on the project – through a relapse and further treatment until his death, at 22, in March 1990.
We promised David that – whatever happened – his book would live.