Maurice Sendak

by Rachel Baker on May 8, 2012

Maurice Bernard Sendak (June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012) was an American writer and illustrator of children’s literature. He is best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, first published in 1963.

Sendak was born in Brooklyn, New York to Polish Jewish immigrant parents Sarah (née Schindler) and Philip Sendak, a dressmaker. Sendak described his childhood as a “terrible situation” because of his extended family dying in The Holocaust, which exposed him at an early age to death and the concept of mortality. 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 viewing Walt Disney’s film Fantasia at the age of twelve. 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 gained international acclaim after writing and illustrating Where the Wild Things Are. The book’s depictions of fanged monsters concerned some parents when it was first published, as his characters were somewhat grotesque in appearance. Before Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak was best known for illustrating Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear series of books.

When Sendak saw a manuscript of Zlateh the Goat, the first children’s story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, on the desk of an editor at Harper & Row, he offered to illustrate the book. It was first published in 1966 and received a Newbery Award. Sendak was delighted and enthusiastic about the collaboration. He once wryly remarked that his parents were “finally” impressed by their youngest child when he collaborated with Singer.

His book In the Night Kitchen, originally issued in 1970, has often been subjected to censorship for its drawings of a young boy prancing naked through the story. The book has been challenged in several American states including Illinois, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Texas. In the Night Kitchen regularly appears on the American Library Association’s list of “frequently challenged and banned books.” It was listed number 21 on the “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-1999.”

His 1981 book Outside, Over There is the story of a girl, Ida, and her sibling jealousy and responsibility. Her father is away and so Ida is left to watch her baby sister, much to her dismay. Her sister is kidnapped by goblins and Ida must go off on a magical adventure to rescue her. At first, she’s not really eager to get her sister and nearly passes her sister right by when she becomes absorbed in the magic of the quest. In the end, she rescues her baby sister, destroys the goblins, and returns home committed to caring for her sister until her father returns home.

Sendak was an early member of the National Board of Advisors of the Children’s Television Workshop during the development stages of the Sesame Street television series. He also adapted his book Bumble Ardy into an animated sequence for the series, with Jim Henson as the voice of Bumble Ardy. He wrote and designed three other animated stories for the series: “Seven Monsters” (which never aired), “Up & Down”, and “Broom Adventures”.

Sendak produced an animated television production based on his work titled Really Rosie, featuring the voice of Carole King, which was broadcast in 1975 and is available on video (usually as part of video compilations of his work). An album of the songs was also produced. He contributed the opening segment to Simple Gifts,[10] a Christmas collection of six animated shorts shown on PBS TV in 1977 and later issued on VHS in 1993. He adapted his book Where the Wild Things Are for the stage in 1979. Additionally, he has designed sets for many operas and ballets, including the award-winning (1983) Pacific Northwest Ballet production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Houston Grand Opera’s productions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1981) and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel (1997), Los Angeles County Music Center’s 1990 production of Mozart’s Idomeneo, and the New York City Opera’s 1981 production of Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen.

In the 1990s, Sendak approached playwright Tony Kushner to write a new English version of the Czech composer Hans Krása’s children’s opera Brundibar. Kushner wrote the text for Sendak’s illustrated book of the same name, published in 2003. The book was named one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Illustrated Books of 2003.

In 2003, Chicago Opera Theatre produced Sendak and Kushner’s adaptation of Brundibar. In 2005, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, in collaboration with Yale Repertory Theatre and Broadway’s New Victory Theater, produced a substantially reworked version of the Sendak-Kushner adaptation.

He also created the children’s television program Seven Little Monsters.

Maurice Sendak drew inspiration and influences from a vast number of painters, musicians and authors. Going back to his childhood, one of his earliest memorable influences was actually his father, Philip Sendak. According to Maurice, his father would relate tales from the Bible; however, he would embellish them with racy details. Not realizing that this was inappropriate for children, little Maurice would frequently be sent home after retelling his father’s “softcore Bible tales” at school.

Growing up, Sendak developed from other influences, starting with Disney’s Fantasia. He has been quoted as saying, “My gods are Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Mozart. I believe in them with all my heart.” Elaborating further, he has explained that reading Emily Dickinson’s works helps him to remain calm in an otherwise hectic world: “And I have a little tiny Emily Dickinson so big that I carry in my pocket everywhere. And you just read three poems of Emily. She is so brave. She is so strong. She is such a sexy, passionate, little woman. I feel better.” Likewise, of Mozart, he has said, “When Mozart is playing in my room, I am in conjunction with something I can’t explain. […] I don’t need to. I know that if there’s a purpose for life, it was for me to hear Mozart.”

Sendak was not a fan of ebooks, stating, “Fuck them is what I say, I hate those e-books. They can not be the future…they may well be…I will be dead, I won’t give a shit!”

Personal life
Sendak mentioned in a September 2008 article in The New York Times that he was gay and had lived with his partner, psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn, for 50 years before Glynn’s death in May 2007. Revealing that he never told his parents, he said, “all I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.” Sendak’s relationship with Glynn had been mentioned by other writers before (e.g., Tony Kushner in 2003). In Glynn’s 2007 New York Times obituary, Sendak was listed as Glynn’s “partner of fifty years”.

Sendak donated $1 million to the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services to memorialize Glynn, who had treated young people there. The gift will name a clinic for Glynn.

Sendak died on the morning of May 8, 2012, in Danbury, Connecticut, from complications of a stroke.

Kenny’s Window (1956)
Very Far Away (1957)
The Sign on Rosie’s Door (1960)
The Nutshell Library (1962)
Alligators All Around (An Alphabet)
Chicken Soup with Rice (A Book of Months)
One Was Johnny (A Counting Book)
Pierre (A Cautionary Tale)
Where the Wild Things Are (1963)
Higglety Pigglety Pop!, Or: There Must Be More to Life (1967) ISBN 0-06-028479-X
In the Night Kitchen (1970)
Ten Little Rabbits: A Counting Book with Mino the Magician (1970)
Some Swell Pup or Are You Sure You Want a Dog? (written by Maurice Sendak & Matthew Margolis, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak) (1976)
Seven Little Monsters (1977)
Fantasy Sketches (1981)
Outside Over There (1981)
Caldecott and Co: Notes on Books and Pictures (an anthology of essays on children’s literature) (1988)
We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993)
Maurice Sendak’s Christmas Mystery (1995) (a box containing a book and a jigsaw puzzle)
Mommy? (Sendak’s first pop-up book) (2006) ISBN 0-439-88050-5
Bumble-Ardy (2011) ISBN 0-06-205198-9, ISBN 978-0-06-205198-1

Atomics for the Millions (by Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff) (1947)
The Wonderful Farm (by Marcel Aymé) (1951)
Good Shabbos Everybody (by Robert Garvey) (1951)
A Hole is to Dig (written by Ruth Krauss) (1952)
A Very Special House (written by Ruth Krauss) (1953)
Hurry Home Candy (written by Meindert DeJong) (1953)
The Giant Story (written by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers) (1953)
The Tin Fiddle (written by Edward Tripp) (1954)
The Wheel on the School (written by Meindert DeJong) (1954)
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm (written by Betty MacDonald) (1954)
Happy Hanukah Everybody (written by Hyman Chanover & Alice Chanover) (1955)
Little Cow & the Turtle (written by Meindert DeJong) (1955)
Singing Family of the Cumberlands (written by Jean Ritchie) (Oxford University Press, 1955)
What Can You Do with a Shoe? (written by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers) (1955 recolored in 1997)
Seven Little Stories on Big Subjects (written by Gladys Baker Bond) (1955)
I Want to Paint My Bathroom Blue (written by Ruth Krauss) (1956)
The Birthday Party (by Ruth Krauss) (1957)
Little Bear, written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak (there was also a TV series based on this series of books)
Little Bear (1957)
Father Bear Comes Home (1959)
Little Bear’s Friend (1960)
Little Bear’s Visit (1961)
A Kiss for Little Bear (1968)
Along Came a Dog (written by Meindert DeJong) (1958)
No Fighting, No Biting! (written by Else Holmelund Minarik) (1958)
What Do You Say, Dear? (written by Sesyle Joslin) (1958)
Seven Tales by H. C. Andersen (translated by Eva Le Gallienne) (1959)
The Moon Jumpers (text by Janice May Udry)(1959)
Open House for Butterflies (by Ruth Krauss) (1960)
Best in Children’s Books: Volume 31 (various authors and illustrators: featuring, Windy Wash Day and Other Poems by Dorothy Aldis with illustrations by Maurice Sendak) (1960)
Best in Children’s Books: Volume 41 (various authors and illustrators: featuring, What the Good-Man Does Is Always Right by Hans Christian Andersen with illustrations by Maurice Sendak) (1961)
What Do You Do, Dear? (written by Sesyle Joslin) (1961)
The Big Green Book (written by Robert Graves) (1962)
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (written by Charlotte Zolotow) (1962)
The Singing Hill (written by Meindert DeJong) (1962) (Harper Row)
Dwarf Long-Nose (written by Wilhelm Hauff, translated by Doris Orgel) (1963)
The Griffin and the Minor Canon (written by Frank R. Stockton) (1963)
How Little Lori Visited Times Square (written by Amos Vogel) (1963)
She Loves Me…She Loves Me Not… (written by Robert Keeshan AKA Captain Kangaroo) (1963)
McCall’s: August 1964; VOL XCI, No 11 (featuring The Young Crane by Andrejs Upits and Illustrated by Maurice Sendak)
The Bee-Man of Orn (written by Frank R. Stockton) (1964)
The Animal Family (written by Randall Jarrell) (1965)
Hector Protector and As I Went Over the Water: Two Nursery Rhymes (traditional nursery rhymes) (1965)
Lullabyes and Night Songs (written by Alec Wilder and edited by William Engvick) (1965)
Zlateh The Goat (written by Isaac Bashevis Singer) (1966)
The Bat-Poet (written by Randall Jarrell) (1964)
A House of Sixty Fathers (written by Meindert De Jong) (1966)
The Saturday Evening Post: May 4, 1968; 241st year, issue no. 9 (features Yash The Chimney Sweep by Isaac Bashevis Singer and is illustrated by Maurice Sendak)
I’ll Be You and You Be Me (written by Ruth Krauss) (1973)
The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm: Volumes 1 & 2 (Translated by Lore Segal with four tales translated by Randall Jarrell) (1973 both volumes)
King Grisly-Beard (by Brothers Grimm) (1973)
Pleasant Fieldmouse (by Jan Wahl) (1975)
Charlotte and the White Horse (by Ruth Krauss) (1955)
Fly by Night (by Randall Jarrell) (1976)
The Light Princess (by George MacDonald) (1977)
Shadrach (by Meindert Dejong) (1977)
The Big Green Book (by Robert Graves) (1978)
Nutcracker (written by E.T.A. Hoffmann) (1984)
The Love for Three Oranges (The Glyndebourne Version written by Frank Corsaro based on L’Amour des Trois Oranges (by Serge Prokofiev) (1984)
Circus Girl (by Jack Sendak) (1985)
In Grandpa’s House (by Philip Sendak) (1985)
The Cunning Little Vixen (by Rudolf Tesnohlidek) (1985)
Dear Mili (written by Wilhelm Grimm) (1988)
Sing a Song of Popcorn (by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers with various illustrators including Maurice Sendak) (1988)
The Big Book for Peace (by various authors and illustrators, cover also by Maurice Sendak) (1990)
I Saw Esau (edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie) (1992)
The Golden Key (by George MacDonald) (1992) ISBN 0-374-42590-6
We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy: Two Nursery Rhymes with Pictures (traditional nursery rhymes) (Harper Collins) (1993)
Pierre: or, The Ambiguities: The Kraken Edition (by Herman Melville) (1995) ISBN 978-0-06-118009-5
The Miami Giant (written by Arthur Yorinks) (1995)
Frank and Joey Go to Work (by Arthur Yorinks), also has additional illustrations by Ky Chung (1996)
Penthesilea (written by Heinrich von Kleist and Translated and Introduced by Joel Agee) (1998) ISBN 0-06-095632-1
Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom (by Ursula Nordstrom – Author, Leonard S. Marcus – Editor) ISBN 0-06-023625-6
Swine Lake (written by James Marshall) (1999)
Brundibár (written by Tony Kushner) (2003)
Sarah’s Room (written by Doris Orgel) (2003)
The Happy Rain (written by Jack Sendak) (2004)
Bears! (written by Ruth Krauss) (2005)

The Art of Maurice Sendak (by Selma G. Lanes) (1980) ISBN 0-8109-1600-2
The Art of Maurice Sendak: From 1980 to the Present (by Tony Kushner) (2003) ISBN 0-8109-4448-0
Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation (by Gregory Maguire) (2009) ISBN 0-06-168916-5

1973: Where the Wild Things Are (story)
2009: Where The Wild Things Are (story)
2009: Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak,” documentary filmed by Lance Bangs and Where the Wild Things Are director Spike Jonze.[22] Released in the US on DVD by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
2010: Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life (story), an animated/live action short adapted and directed by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (Clyde Henry Productions), produced by Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay and Marcy Page (National Film Board of Canada)

Wikipedia contributors. “Maurice Sendak.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 May. 2012. Web. 8 May. 2012.

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