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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