Maurice Sendak, children's author known for childhood classics like Where the Wild Things Are and Outside Over There, died today from complications from a stroke. He was 83 years old.
Sendak was widely considered to be one of the most important children's book artists of the 20th century, largely due to his way of "unsanitizing" typical nursery rhymes. While most author's offered minimal trouble and always happy endings in their books, Sendak offered dark, sometimes terrifying, stories that delved deep into the human mind's psyche.
His characters were often headstrong and disobedient. His stories told tales of kidnappings, disappearances, and being sent to bed without dinner (which some thought would give children abandonment issues.)
His works include more than a dozen stories he wrote and illustrated himself, and can be traced back to specific events in his life. For example, Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life is an ode to his beloved Sealyham terrier, Jennie, who died just before the book was published.
In the Night Kitchen is a salute to the New York of his childhood, and a tribute to the 1930s films and comics he loved. (Fun fact- it was censored by many libraries because the main character, Mickey, is nude.)
Where the Wild Things Are, published in 1963 by Harper & Row, was his career-making masterpiece. (You might have also seen the movie.)
His final book, Bumble-Ardy, was issued in September 2011. This was his first book in nearly 30 years that he wrote and illustrated himself. It spent 5 weeks on the New York Times children's best seller list.
In all, Sendak received countless awards, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and, the National Medal of the Arts. Twenty-two of his titles were names the New York TImes best illustrated books of the year.
And he always loved to receive fan mail from individual children who wrote to him (but he wasn't a fan of school-writing projects that forced students to write him a letter. He found that boring and arduous.)
Maurice Sendak, you will be missed. But your stories will live on for generations to come.
One more of Sendak's stories will be published posthumously. My Brother's Book is a poem that was inspired by his late brother, Jack, and will be published in February 2012.
In honor of Maurice Sendak, tell us-- which of his books was your favorite?