Maurice Sendak, the author of the children’s classic Where The Wild Things Are, and arguably the greatest writer for young people who ever lived, has died.
Mr. Sendak, 83, died Tuesday in his home state of Connecticut, according to The New York Times.
It would likely be difficult to walk the halls of any school, or any office building or city street for that matter, and round up more than a handful of people who hadn’t read the man’s work at some point in their lives, especially their childhood.
Sendak wrote nearly 20 books and illustrated many more and is credited, along with Dr. Seuss, with changing the very stale and boring face of children’s books forever.
Once a bastion of assembly line ‘Dick-and-Jane‘ type stories, Sendak’s arrival on the scene shattered the old guard‘s way of presenting literature and art to everyday children. As Margalit Fox with the Times so eloquently put it, Sendak ,”…wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche.”
Things in the school library would never ever be the same again.
Born to Polish immigrant parents in Brooklyn in 1928, Sendak once poignantly told NPR radio that “Childhood is a tricky business.” Adding, “Usually something goes wrong.” But it was also this insightful point-of-view that allowed him to meld the good and the bad together to create stories and illustrations that were wildly original. And over the course of the better part of a century, his name became synonymous with the kinds of creative imagination-driven books that kids all over the world, as well as their parents, fell madly in love with.
Sendak, a gay man, once told the paper that while he was growing up: “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he told The New York Times in a 2008 interview. “They never, never, never knew.”
But in the long run, the world is such a better place today because he was exactly who he was.
He will be missed.
(***Here is a link to a clip of a wonderful documentary about Sendak called, Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait Of Maurice Sendak. In it he talks about his life, and about death, too. It’s really beautiful. And what’s really cool is this: the film came out through Oscilloscope Films, which was the brainchild of another Brooklyn-born Jewish kid, Adam Yauch, of Beastie Boys fame. Yauch, 47, died this past week ,too, of complications from cancer.)
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