Wild Things author Maurice Sendak dies at 83


The BBC's Jonny Dymond says Sendak was taken aback by the fuss over his book

Maurice Sendak, the US author of the best-selling children's book Where the Wild Things Are, has died aged 83.

His long-time editor, Michael di Capua, told The New York Times the author died in Danbury, Connecticut, after complications from a recent stroke.

He wrote some 17 books and was a prolific illustrator, but was best-known for his 1963 tale of Max, who became the "king of all wild things".

It was made into a Hollywood film in 2009, directed by Spike Jonze.

Maurice Sendak and costume from operatic version of Wid Things Sendak saw Where the Wild Things Are adapted into an opera

There have also been several other adaptations including an animated short in 1973 and an opera in 1980.

The book, which became a children's classic in the US and sold more than 19 million copies worldwide, told the story of a boy who goes on a journey through his own imagination after he is sent to bed without supper.

Considered controversial for its images when it was first published - which some claimed to have scared children - the book went on to earn Sendak a prestigious Caldecott Medal for best children's book in 1964.

Born in 1928 and raised in Brooklyn by Jewish-Polish immigrant parents, Sendak said his own life had been clouded by the Holocaust and that the events of World War II were the root of his raw and honest artistic style.

His childhood dream to be an illustrator was realised in 1951 when he was commissioned to do the art for Wonderful Farm by Marcel Ayme and by 1957 he was writing his own books.

Ballet and opera

Other titles written and illustrated by the author include In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, Higglety Pigglety Pop! and The Nutshell Library.

His last picture book Bumble-Ardy was published in 2011. It tells the story of an orphaned pig who gives himself a riotous birthday party.

A posthumous picture book, My Brother's Book - a poem written and illustrated by Sendak and inspired by his love for his late brother, Jack - is scheduled to be published next February.

The author won a number of awards for his work, including the Hans Christian Andersen medal for illustration in 1970 and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association in 1983.

Sendak’s most-famous book had many well known fans

As well as writing, Sendak created costumes for ballets and staged operas, including the Czech opera Brundibar. He designed the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker production that went on to become a TV film.

He also acted as producer on various animated TV series based on his illustrations, including Seven Little Monsters, George and Martha and Little Bear.

President Bill Clinton also awarded Sendak a National Medal of the Arts in 1996 for his vast portfolio of work.

Children's Laureate and author of The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson paid tribute to Sendak, saying his death was "a great loss".

"I admired him just as much for his illustration of other author's texts as for his own work," she said.

"Particular favourites being Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, written by Charlotte Zolotow, and Else Holmelund Minarik's Little Bear books.

"His own stories tended to deal with quite powerful and scary emotions, but these were often alleviated by humour."

She added: "I feel confident that his work will live on because it had such a timeless quality."

In 2009 and 2012 US President Barack Obama read Where The Wild Things Are at the White House Easter Egg Roll.

When asked whether the president had any comment to make on Sendak's death, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he had not asked, but was sure Mr Obama's two daughters had read the book.

"I know every parent must be a little bit in mourning today and every child who grew up with that book. It's a sad day," he added.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Maurice Sendak lovers, I suggest you watch this funny and lovely "interwiew" with him by Steve Colbert made in January. I loved it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @96/DownTheShore He isn't survived by a companion of 50 years; he lost Eugene to lung cancer in 2007.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    My mother read this to me as a child. She was a fine artist, specializing in abstract expressionism. At age 15, she and I painted my whole bedroom to be like a forest beneath the moonlight, complete with whimsical inhabitants. I still miss the kind of sleep I used to get. Thank you, Mr. Sendak... may your journey invoke the wonder your contribution to the world inspired in me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    RIP Maurice and enormous thanks for not just my initial childhood enjoyment but helping me develop my ability to draw. Even in my forties there are still times when i curl up on a rainy afternoon to read Where the Wild things are. I love how your actual work was more important to you than chasing publicity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    ...and because we have a Tory government enforcing it's agenda onto the BBC there is absolutely no mention of Maurice's long term partner of 50 years because they were gay. If this article was about a heterosexual the BBC would have included details of their family.

    Say what you like to get votes Cameron but ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS. Same old Tories !

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    @ 93 - It's not really a matter of mentioning his sexuality. It's the matter than a public obituary usually names the next-of-kin, surviving family members, long-term companions. If Mr. Sendak is survived by a companion of 50 years, it doesn't matter what the gender of that person is. Omitting that person passes a moral judgement on Mr. Sendak that is not within the BBC's purview.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    "Let the rumpus start!!!!" We love you Mr Sendak. Your solemn pictures and your sensitive pen live on in our hearts. You had a great gift and shared it with others. The Little Bear Stories, the Light Princess and so many more wonderful images and thoughtful tales. You took the child seriously and you gave it respect and great art. The angels will enjoy a bit of rumpus in heaven. Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    My wife, myself, my six year old daughter and three year old son all know where the wild things are off by heart. I must have read it a 1000 times. It is as close to perfection as anything is ever likely to be in this life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    following from 92.

    For example if we are to note a persons stated sexuality and link it to their perceived talents and achievements, should we praise actors, footballers, writers, singers etc and note they are (or may be not) openly heterosexual? Any persons sexuality should not be used to score points, labelling such people with matters of no relevance to their talent invites discrimination imo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    85. Paul, hi. Further to my comments made at 73.

    Is it of any relevance that he was a gay man? All I am interested in was that he was an excellent author who seemingly brought joy to many. A good footballer is a good footballer not a good gay footballer. Why is his sexuality of any relevance to this topic or anybody's business but his own?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    It’s a shame Sendak is mostly known for only one book; I read most of them to my kids, and I’ve never been quite sure if he was the most profound author I’ve ever read, or just completely barking!

    Either way, “The Night Kitchen’ ‘Outside Over There’ ‘The Nutshell Library’ and ‘Higglety Pigglety Pop!: Or There Must Be More to life than this’ deserve to be far better known.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Maurice Sendak will be missed, his books were scary but kids love being scared like this!
    Similar to Roald Dhal it is the darker side of kids stories but good for adults and kids and we should be reading more books like these to our kids.
    Thanks Maurice- rip
    Thanks Maurice

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I really, really loved Where the Wild things Are.

    Good on all the parents who read to their kids. I will do too when the time comes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I had vague recollections of a book about wild things and a room turning into a forest from my childhood but when I saw Where The Wild Things Are for sale in a bookshop a couple of years ago, I instantly recognised it and bought it to read to my little boy. He's now three and a half and we read it at least once a week. Timeless classic. Sendak = Legend!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    I still remember borrowing "Where the Wild Things Are" from my local library (in NW England, not the USA, mind you) when I was young in the early 1970s, and being amazed by it. But I've had just as much pleasure from it reading it to my own children. I particularly like the points when his bedroom becomes the world all around, and when he sends the Wild Things to bed without any supper ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    where the wild things are - read as a schoolboy of 6 and bought for me as a dad aged 43 - brilliant book. I'll dig it out and give it another read. RIP Mr Sendak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Yet another obit of the man which has refused to mention that he was gay and had a 50 year long relationship Eugene Glynn. This has been open since at least 2003, and even the NY Times mentioned it.

    This refusal to name openly gay people is how the closet is built and maintained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I loved Where the Wild Things Are as a child. There simply was nothing else like it. I now have two young children of my own and we LOVE this book. The greatest honor I could give to the magical Mr Sendak is from the words the Wild Things use when Max leaves them, 'Oh please don't go - we'll eat you up - we love you so!' From a Dad of 40, Elizabeth aged 4 and Chris aged 2. Wild Things forever X

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Man, I love that book.


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