Maurice Sendak, the acclaimed illustrator and author of “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963), died this morning at his Connecticut home from complications of a recent stroke. He was 83.
Rest In Peace.
Sendak was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 10th, 1928, to Polish Jewish immigrant parents Sarah and Philip Sendak, a dressmaker. Sendak described his childhood as a “terrible situation” because of his extended family dying in The Holocaust, which exposed him at an early age to death and the concept of mortality. His love of books began at an early age when he developed health problems and was confined to his bed. He decided to become an illustrator after seeing Walt Disney’s film ’Fantasia’ at the age of twelve.
Sendak didn’t go to college and worked a variety of odd jobs until he was hired by the famous toy store FAO Schwarz as a window dresser in 1948. But illustration was his dream and his break came in 1951 when he was commissioned to do the art for “Wonderful Farm” by Marcel Ayme. By 1957 he was writing his own books.
In 1963 Sendak gained international acclaim after writing and illustrating “Where the Wild Things Are”.
Among the other titles he wrote and illustrated, all from Harper & Row, are “In the Night Kitchen” (1970) and “Outside Over There” (1981), which together with “Where the Wild Things Are” form a trilogy; “The Sign on Rosie’s Door” (1960); “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (1967); and “The Nutshell Library” (1962), a boxed set of four tiny volumes comprising “Alligators All Around,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “One Was Johnny” and “Pierre.”
His many awards and achievements include the Randolph Caldecott Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1970, and a Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1983. President Bill Clinton awarded Sendak a National Medal of the Arts in 1996 and in 2009 President Obama read “Where the Wild Things Are” for the Easter Egg Roll.