Thursday, May 10, 2012

Maurice Sendak: The King of Wild Things and More

Maurice Sendak, children's book author and illustrator, passed away on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012--leaving a renowned body of work (despite his protestations to the contrary to friend and fellow author William Joyce), including the classic tome Where the Wild Things Are. Photo left © Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Ira Nowinski/CORBIS.

While Wild Things may be Sendak's best-known work (which would have been titled Where the Wild Horses Are were it not for
Sendak's inability to draw horses), it was far from his only accomplishment.

For more than forty years, the books
Maurice Sendak wrote and illustrated nurtured children and adults alike, challenging established ideas about what children's literature is and should be. The New York Times recognized Sendak's work for "bringing a new dimension to the American children's book and helping to change how people visualize childhood."

described Sendak as "indisputably, the most revolutionary force in children's books." Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are, in 1970 Sendak became the first American illustrator to receive the international Hans Christian Andersen Award (given in recognition of his entire body of work.) That body of work also garnered Sendak the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the American Library Association in 1983.

Beginning in 1952, with A Hole Is to Dig by Ruth Krauss, Sendak's illustrations enhanced many texts by other writers--including Little Bear and other Little Bear books by Else Holmelund Minarik; children's books by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Randall Jarrell; and The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm. Dear Mili, Sendak's interpretation of a newly discovered tale by Wilhelm Grimm, was published to extraordinary acclaim in 1988.

In addition to Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Sendak both wrote and illustrated The Nutshell Library (1962), Higglety Pigglety Pop! (1967), In the Night Kitchen (1970), Outside Over There (1981) and We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993). He also illustrated Swine Lake (1999) by James Marshall; Brundibar (2003) by Tony Kushner; Bears (2005) by Ruth Krauss; and his first pop-up book Mommy? (2006) with paper engineering by Matthew Reinhart and story by Arthur Yorinks. The TWU Libraries collections contain many of these works by Sendak and more.

Beginning in 1980 Sendak designed the sets and costumes for highly regarded productions of Mozart's The Magic Flute and Idomeneo; Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen; Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges; Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker; and Hans Krása's Brundibár.

In 1997 Sendak received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton, and in 2003 he received the first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an international prize for children's literature established by the Swedish government. Wikipedia

In a candid and revealing 2004 interview with Bill Moyers, Sendak revealed some of the early childhood memories and surprisingly dark influences behind his work. Shaped by immigrant parents and the tragedy of the Holocaust, Sendak provided frank insight into his complicated psyche and a rare window into the soul of an acclaimed artist. He also discussed how he shaped the character of Max, the mischievous main character in Where the Wild Things Are--and what Max might have been like as an adult. Illustration above right: Max, the king of all wild things, with 2 of his subjects. From Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.


Maurice Sendak--now and forever the real king of all wild things.

Let the wild rumpus go on and on and on!

--Sandy Cochran

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