(1928 - 2012)
Maurice Sendak was a Jewish American illustrator and author of children's literature best known for his 1963 book, Where the Wild Things Are.
Sendak (born June 10, 1928; died May 8, 2012) was born in Brooklyn, New York to parents who had immigrated to the United States from Poland. At the age of 12, Sendak
was so taken by Walt Disney’s film Fantasia that he decided to teach himself to become an illustrator. Seventeen years late, in 1947, his first illustrations were published
in a textbook entitled Atomics for the Millions.
he began working for F.A.O. Schwartz as a window dresser and continued
there for four years while taking night classes at the New York Art
Students League. In 1952, he had his first major success when he illustrated
Ruth Krauss’ book, A Hole to Dig. His published works also
include: Kenny’s Window (1956), Very Far Away (1957),
and Higglety, Pigglety, Pop (1967).
Sendak is best known for his book Where the Wild
Things Are, first published in 1963. He found international acclaim through
the book’s portrayal of the dark and nightmarish aspects of children’s
fantasy. Sendak's says that his own "terrible" childhood, during which he was exposed to death and mortality very early on due to the death of many members of his extended family during the Holocaust, was the motivation behind his scary monsters and controversial themes. His 1970 book, In the Night
Kitchen, has regularly been subjected to censorship for presenting
pictures of a young boy running naked through the story.
In 1964, Sendak was awarded the American Library Association’s
Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are. In 1970 he won
the Hans Christian Anderson Award for children’s book illustration,
and in 2003 he shared the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award with Christine
Nostlinger, the first time it was awarded.
Sendak produced an animated TV production based on
his work entitled Really Rosie, featuring Carole King, which
was broadcast in 1975. While continuing to write and illustrate, Sendak
began producing and designing performances. Incorporating much of the
same imaginative design that had made his books so popular, Sendak put
on a number of operas, including Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”
and Prokofiev’s “Love for Three Oranges”. In 1979, he
adapted Where the Wild Things Are into a stage production, and
in 1983 he designed an award-winning stage production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker for the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
In 2009, Spike Jonze directed the live-action film adaptation of Sendak’s 1963 classic Where the Wild Things Are.
Sendak was gay and never married, but lived with his partner, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, for 50 years until Dr. Glynn’s death in May 2007.
On May 8, 2012, four days after he reportedly suffered a stroke, Sendak died. He was 83 years old.
Sources: “Maurice Sendak (1928 - ).” American
Jewish Historical Society, American
Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random
House, 1999). pg. 513-4.
"Why Maurice Sendak Puts Kid Characters in Danger," NPR, (September 26, 2006).
"Author, Illustrator Maurice Sendak Dies," JTA, (May 8, 2012).
Sendak: American Masters on PBS