Maurice Sendak, author of “Were the Wild Things Are” Dies at 83
DANBURY, Conn.—Maurice Sendak, the children’s book author and illustrator who saw the sometimes-dark side of childhood in books like “Where the Wild Things Are” and “In the Night Kitchen,” has died. He was 83.
Longtime friend and caretaker Lynn Caponera said she was with him when he died early Tuesday at a hospital in Danbury, Conn. She said he had a stroke on Friday.
“Where the Wild Things Are” earned Mr. Sendak a prestigious Caldecott Medal for the best children’s book of 1964 and became a hit movie in 2009. President Bill Clinton awarded Mr. Sendak a National Medal of the Arts in 1996 for his vast portfolio of work.
Mr. Sendak didn’t limit his career to a safe and successful formula of conventional children’s books, though it was the pictures he did for wholesome works such as Ruth Krauss’s “A Hole Is to Dig” and Else Holmelund Minarik’s “Little Bear” that launched his career.
“Where the Wild Things Are,” about a boy named Max who goes on a journey—sometimes a rampage—through his own imagination after he is sent to bed without supper, was quite controversial when it was published.
Born in 1928 and raised in Brooklyn, Mr. Sendak said he remembered the tears shed by his Jewish-Polish immigrant parents as they’d get news of atrocities and the deaths of relatives and friends. “My childhood was about thinking about the kids over there (in Europe). My burden is living for those who didn’t,” he said.
Mr. Sendak, his sister Natalie, and late brother Jack, were the last of the family on his father’s side since his other relatives didn’t move to the U.S. before the war. The only family member Mr. Sendak really knew on his mother’s side was his grandmother.
Mr. Sendak didn’t go to college and worked a string of odd jobs until he went to work at the famous toy store FAO Schwarz as a window dresser in 1948. But it was his childhood dream to be an illustrator and his break came in 1951 when he was commissioned to do the art for “Wonderful Farm” by Marcel Aymé.
Mr. Sendak received the international Hans Christian Andersen medal for illustration in 1970. In 1983 he won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association.