Maurice Sendak, a man whose imagination helped generations of children discover their own, “who 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,” has died at 83 of complications from a recent stroke.
He was best known and beloved for “Where the Wild Things Are,” published in 1963. It’s the story of a boy named Max who travels in his imagination to a land of terrifying and joyous creatures, where he realizes that he is the most powerful of them all.
Sendak cherished the letters he received from curious children: “Dear Mr. Sendak,” read one from an 8-year-old boy. “How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there.”
He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Caldecott Medal, the Hans Christian Andersen Award and the National Medal of Arts. —ARK
The New York Times:
In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.
Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.
A largely self-taught illustrator, Mr. Sendak was at his finest a shtetl Blake, portraying a luminous world, at once lovely and dreadful, suspended between wakefulness and dreaming. In so doing, he was able to convey both the propulsive abandon and the pervasive melancholy of children’s interior lives.
.Va i ? ven. Arp (CC BY 2.0)
Max, in the land of the Wild Things.