Children’s author, illustrator Maurice Sendak dies

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Maurice Sendak

Mau­rice Sendak

Children’s author and illus­tra­tor Mau­rice Sendak, recip­i­ent of the Calde­cott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are, died Tues­day in Dan­bury, Con­necti­cut. The Ridge­field, Con­necti­cut res­i­dent was 83.

The cause was com­pli­ca­tions from a recent, mas­sive stroke, said long­time edi­tor Michael di Capua.

Sendak wrote or illus­trated nearly 100 books in a 65-year career, dur­ing which he received every con­ceiv­able honor.

His Where the Wild Things Are led to a 2009 fea­ture film com­bin­ing live action and CG ani­ma­tion, dis­trib­uted by Warner Bros. It was also the basis of the 1973 Kratky Film Praha/Weston Woods ani­mated short of the same name.

Sendak was writer and exec­u­tive pro­ducer of the 1995–96 Nel­vana series Lit­tle Bear, as well as 2001’s The Lit­tle Bear Movie. Writer and exec­u­tive pro­ducer of Nelvana’s Seven Lit­tle Mon­sters (2000–03), he was exec­u­tive pro­ducer of the Cana­dian studio’s 1999 series George and Martha.

He wrote the 1987 Weston Woods Studios/Krátký Film Praha short In the Night Kitchen (1987), as well as the “Pro­logue” seg­ment of the 1977 TV spe­cial Sim­ple Gifts. Sendak wrote, directed, and was art direc­tor of the 1975 CBS car­toon spe­cial Really Rosie, even pro­vid­ing the voice of Jenny’s bark. And in 2010, he was writer and exec­u­tive pro­ducer of the 2010 car­toon video movie Hig­glety Pig­glety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life.

He was dubbed by one critic “the Picasso of children’s lit­er­a­ture” and once addressed by for­mer United States pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton as “the King of Dreams.”

Sendak’s best-known books included Chicken Soup with Rice (1962), Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970).

Mau­rice Bernard Sendak was born in Brook­lyn, New York on June 10, 1928 to Jew­ish immi­grant par­ents from north­ern Poland, and grew up idol­iz­ing the sto­ry­telling abil­i­ties of his father Philip and big brother Jack. As a child, he illus­trated his first sto­ries on shirt card­board pro­vided by his tailor-father.

Aside from a few night classes in art after grad­u­at­ing high school, Sendak was a largely self-taught artist. His char­ac­ters, sto­ries and inspi­ra­tions were drawn from among his own neigh­bors, fam­ily, pop cul­ture, his­tor­i­cal sources, lit­er­ary influences and long-held child­hood memories.

He worked with such well-known children’s authors as Ruth Krauss, Else Minarik, and Arthur Yorinks, and illus­trated books by Leo Tol­stoy, Her­man Melville, Isaac Bashe­vis Singer, the Broth­ers Grimm and the poet Ran­dall Jar­rell. Sendak began a sec­ond career as a cos­tume and stage designer in the late 1970s, design­ing operas by Mozart, Prokofiev, Ravel and Tchaikovsky, among others.

He won numer­ous awards, includ­ing a New­berry Medal, the inter­na­tional Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen Award, a National Book Award, the Astrid Lind­gren Memo­r­ial Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the National Medal of Arts.

Read by mil­lions of chil­dren and adults, his books were trans­lated into dozens of lan­guages and enjoyed all over the world.

Philadelphia’s Rosen­bach Museum & Library has been the home of his pic­ture book art­work since the late 1960s.

Mau­rice Sendak’s com­pan­ion of half a cen­tury, Eugene Glynn, a psy­chi­a­trist who spe­cial­ized in treat­ing young peo­ple, died in 2007. No imme­di­ate fam­ily mem­bers survive.

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