Happy birthday Maurice Sendak!

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Maurice Sendak (June 10, 1928-May 8, 2012) was an American children's book author and illustrator. He is perhaps best known for his book, Where the Wild Things Are (1963). His work was marked by fantastic narratives about realistic characters.

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Sendak was born in Brooklyn, New York to Sadie and Philip Sendak. His parents were Polish Jewish immigrants. His childhood was marked by tragedy as many of his extended relatives died in the Holocaust, exposing him to the idea of mortality at an early age. He watched Fantasia (1940) at the age of 12, and combined with spending time reading books while sick in bed, it inspired him to start illustrating. Early in his career, he was working on the window displays for famed toy store F.A.O. Schwartz. It was there that he met book editor Ursula Nordstrom, who helped him get his first job illustrating for children's books.

An Illustrated Talk With Maurice Sendak from NPR's 'Fresh Air' (Drawings by Christoph Niemann)

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sendak1Sendak's illustrations were first published in 1947 in Atomics for the Millionsby Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff. He continued to illustrate for children's books throughout the 1950s, and even illustrated two of his brother Jack's books.

In 1963, Sendak published Where the Wild Things Are. He had written and illustrated it. The book was a sensation, partly because the protagonist, Max, contrasted so sharply with other children's book protagonists at the time as a complicated, realistic depiction of youth. He said in an interview, "In plain terms, a child is a complicated creature who can drive you crazy. There's a cruelty to childhood, there's an anger. And I did not want to reduce Max to the trite image of the good little boy that you find in too many books."

 

In 1970, Sendak published his next hit children's book, In the Night Kitchen. The book is frequently listed as one of the most challenged and banned books because it features a boy prancing naked throughout the story.

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Sendak also worked on the sets for stage productions including Really Rosie, featuring Carole King, and Mozart's Magical Flute at the House Grand Opera in addition to the stage productions of his own books.

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In the 1990s, Sendak worked with playwright Tony Kushner on a book of the children's Holocaust opera Brundibár. The book was named on the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Illustrated Books of 2003.

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In 1970, Sendak received the third annual Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration. Among many other awards, he received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1983 and the National Medal of Arts in 1996. 

Bonus: Alec Baldwin's touching tribute to Sendak in the Huffington Post

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 10 June 2014
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