Maurice Sendak, 10 June 1928 – 8 May 2012
Illustrator and writer Maurice Bernard Sendak was born in Brooklyn, New York. Born to Jewish-Polish immigrant parents Sadie (née Schindler) and Philip Sendak, a dressmaker,[his childhood was affected by the death of many of his family members during the Holocaust.
As a boy, Sendak and his older brother Jack used to write stories. They then illustrated them and bound them into little books. Jack Sendak also became an author of children’s books, two of which were illustrated by Maurice in the 1950s.
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 watching Walt Disney’s film Fantasia at the age of twelve.
As a teen he spent many hours sketching neighbourhood children as they played. These children were represented in A Hole Is to Dig (1952), a book by Ruth Kraus that brought Sendak his first fame. Sendak went to art school for a short time, then went on to learn about his profession, on his own.
One of his first professional commissions was to create window displays for the toy store F.A.O. Schwarz. His illustrations were first published in 1947 in a textbook titled Atomics for the Millions by Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff. He spent much of the 1950s illustrating children’s books written by others before beginning to write his own stories.
Sendak’s ability to remember the sounds and feelings of particular childhood moments were demonstrated in his best-known work, Where the Wild Things Are (1963).
He won the 1964 Caldecott Medal for this book. He later wrote and illustrated two companion books: In the Night Kitchen (1970) and Outside Over There (1981). The latter received a 1982 American Book Award.
Sendak has said the three works are about “how children manage to get through childhood…how they defeat boredom, worries and fear, and find joy.”
Sendak illustrated some ninety children’s books. In 1970, he won the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for the body of his illustrated work. He was the first American to receive this highest honor in children’s book publishing.
In 1983, Sendak won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, given by the American Library Association for an entire body of work.
In 1996, U.S. president Bill Clinton presented Sendak with the National Medal of Arts.
Later in his carrer, the artist designed sets and costumes for the ballet and for a number of grand operas in the United States and England.
In 2003 Sendak received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the Swedish government’s international prize for children’s literature.
Throughout the past fifty years, Maurice Sendak has been one of the most consistently inventive and challenging voices in children’s literature.
His books and productions are among the best-loved imaginative works of their time. Like the Grimm brothers before him, Sendak has created a body of work both entertaining and educational, which will continue to be popular for generations.
Maurice Sendak Books Reviewed
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