Maurice Bernard Sendak was born on June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents. He was often sick as a child and spent much of his time indoors where reading was a major pastime. It was during this time that he began drawing, a passion that continued throughout high school. Shortly after graduating, Sendak published a number of illustrations in the textbook “Atomics for the Millions”.
Sendak began working for FAO Schwartz as a window dresser in 1948 and took night classes at the New York Art Students League. Four years later, he left Schwartz to become a full-time freelance children’s book illustrator.
By the early 1960’s, Sendak had gained recognition as one of the more interesting and expressive illustrators in the business. Where The Wild Things Are, published in 1963, brought him international acclaim and became a favourite among children around the world.
Over the course of his career, Sendak has created dozens of popular children’s books including “In The Night Kitchen”. Published in 1970, the book has been censored often for its drawings of a young boy dancing naked through the story.
Sendak has won numerous awards including the Caldecott Medal for “Where the Wild Things Are”, the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children’s book illustration, the National Book Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and others.
As well as his work as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, Sendak has produced both operas and ballets for television and the stage.
According to Harper Collins Rosenbach Museum & Library, “Where The Wild Things Are” has sold over 19 million copies worldwide (2008). A large collection of his work is housed at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia. His collection of approximately 10,000 works of art, and manuscripts, and books have been the subject of numerous exhibitions at the Rosenbach. In 2009, Where the Wild Things Are became a major motion picture directed by Spike Jonze and written by Jonze and Dave Eggers.
Sendak died in the morning of May 8, 2012, in Connecticut, after complications from a stroke.
The New York Times‘ obituary called Sendak “the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.” Author Neil Gaiman remarked, “He was unique, grumpy, brilliant, gay, wise, magical and made the world better by creating art in it.” Sendak’s final book, Bumble-Ardy, was published eight months prior to his death. A posthumous picture book is scheduled for publication in February 2013.
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