'Where the Wild Things Are' author Maurice Sendak dies
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
“And now, let the wild rumpus start!” declared Max just after he was anointed the king of all wild things.
The man behind those words and those beautiful images, Maurice Sendak, died May 8 at age 83 from complications from a stroke he had just days earlier. Sendak wrote and illustrated over a hundred books, but the one that everyone, whether child or parent, can recall is “Where the Wild Things Are,” one of the most remarkable books (not just children’s literature) ever printed.
I remember my parents reading “Where the Wild Things Are” at bedtime. The wild things in the book looked frightening, but even then I could see why they would choose Max as their king. The little boy who traveled almost a year to this magical place was angry. They were angry. And it was okay for them to be angry.
Libraries initially banned the book when it was released in 1963. Maybe they didn’t want children to know that it was okay to be angry sometimes. On my way home I picked up a copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” at my local library and began to read it. Later that evening I watched the film adaptation that Spike Jonze directed and which Sendak was an executive producer. While the movie is good, the book has stood the test of time.
In 1970, “In the Night Kitchen” was subject to censorship when several states banned it due to the drawing of a boy running around naked. It has appeared on the list of the most frequently challenged books, alongside Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Before becoming an illustrator, Sendak worked for All-American Comics and as a window display curator at the legendary toy store F.A.O. Schwarz. Other highlights from his life and career include illustrating the books for “Little Bear” (which became a Nick Jr. animated series) and working as a set designer for productions of his work on stage. He would eventually design sets for productions of “The Nutcracker” and “Hansel and Gretel.”
No matter what he was doing, Sendak continued to illustrate and write. His most recent book, “Bumble-Ardy,” was published last year, and his final work, “My Brother’s Book,” is set to be released early next year.
Sendak refused to sugarcoat stories for children. “I didn’t set out to make children happy or make life better or easier for them,” he said in an interview with Stephen Colbert. In one of his final interviews, Sendak appeared on “The Colbert Report.” When the faux-pundit asked the author for advice on how to get a children’s book printed, he wonderfully replied, “First of all, you got the first step done by being an idiot.” Colbert read his book “I Am a Pole (And So Can You).” After offering him some advice on how to sell the book to publishers (and turning down Colbert’s request to teach him how to draw), Sendak provided a blurb for the book, which was released last Tuesday. “The sad thing is, I like it.”