Maurice Sendak Maurice Sendak

“Where Wild Things Are” Author Maurice Sendak Dies

Maurice Sendak died this morning due to complications from a recent stroke. The New York Times says he was “widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.” He wrote and illustrated dozens of books over the years, though he will always be remembered for his 1963 classic Where the Wild Things Are, which was also adapted into a 2009 feature film by Spike Jonze. Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski also directed an impressive 2010 NFB short based on another Sendak book, Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or: There Must Be More to Life.

Last January, Sendak did a hilarious interview with Stephen Colbert. If you haven’t seen it yet, take the time to view it today. It celebrates Sendak’s sharp and playful personality better than any words could.

  • Galen

    And oh, make sure you watch the very last moments of the second part of the Colbert interview! RIP, Mr. Sendak.

  • Ryan

    That’s really sad, but at least he lived a long life.

    In The Night Kitchen was my joint-favourite book (with Scarry’s “What Do People Do All Day?”) as a youngster.

    RIP Maurice.

  • Pity. At least he got to see his best story come to life. Rest in peace, good sir!

  • Steve Gattuso

    Let’s not forget “Really Rosie,” the excellent animated film from 1975. “Chicken Soup With Rice” still pops up in my mind regularly.

    Thanks for everything, Mr. Sendak.

    • Inkan1969

      Also, Gene Deitch did some animated versions of Sendak books for Weston Woods.

  • JWLane

    I saw the above mentioned interview. As I remember, Mr. Sendak was nobody’s fool, and at the same time a very pleasant individual.

    I enjoyed his books as a child. I have seen cynical adults get weepy eyed during Spike Jones’ movie.

    I think this photo says some nice things about the man: the old sagging chair that still has it’s place, the plain natural wood construction, and particularly the big, content dog.

  • This is a great loss. He was a brilliant artist and writer and the reason Stephen Colbert is currently on a book promotion tour right now. And he certainly was one of the greatest children’s book artists of the 20th century, but I think Dr Seuss also deserves that title.

    • The Gee

      I have no memory of his books being important to me as a kid. The same goes for Suess’ books. But, I think Geisel made it possible for Sendak and many others to shine they way they did.

      Sendak’s illustrations are great though. There’s an appropriateness to the lines that speaks of where he was coming from, where and when he grew up. Even if someone who knew the things to look for in his art had never heard, saw or read an interview with him, the art probably says says enough about him.

      It’s too bad he didn’t get more time though. He probably would have had more to express.

      • Which books do you remember? I grew up on Dr Seuss, but not Sendak, I’m just a tad too old for him. I also read A A Milne, Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll, and I had a lot of Walt Disney Golden books.

      • The Gee

        I’m not sure I really “grew up with” either. Friends my same age say they did. They cherish them more than I do even before they started raising their own kids.

        With Dr. Seuss, I’m pretty sure the animated specials were things I dove into before his books. Son of Sam was a weird news story before I ever associated it with Green Eggs. That still creeps me out.

        Richard Scarry’s books stand out. I really dug those a lot. Someone gave my family a lot of different Golden Books so the Disney stuff plus other ones were books I read. (everyone knew I drew so I always got dibs on illustrated anything.)

        I don’t know if one read *to* me as a kid. If they did, I hope I could remember it. I did read a lot on my own and before I understood what words meant, i looked at the pictures.

        Sendak’s “Wild Things”: I do have a copy of it. Reference art purposes, like a lot of things. There’s nothing nostalgic about it to me.

  • Clint H.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Sendak.

  • Rachel Gitlevich

    WHYY’s Fresh Air Program on NPR did a wonderful and very insightful interview with him a few months ago. You can listen to pieces of it here:

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I just listen to it. Basically it’s a recap of previous interviews the program has done with Sendak over the past 26 years I believe and it’s a little sad hearing his voice age every time.

  • Hatter

    This is awful first buzz now marice! :(

  • Northsmith

    A great illustrator has left us.

  • I’d met Maurice Sendak on a few occasions and had spoken to him at length at least twice. Even though I know this is an animation forum, I hope the moderators will allow me a little latitude and share the two things I learned from this wise man in regards to creating literature for children. In the long run, I think these are words of advice that can apply to so many aspects of what we create when we target younger audiences.

    1) It’s okay to be “subversive.” I put that word in quotes because we struggled a bit while talking to find the right word when it comes to creating the right kind of literature for kids. At first we contemplated “controversial,” but that wasn’t right because it invoked a political purpose that is usually not healthy creatively when approaching any kind of work. But “subversive” made sense because it implied that you never want to find yourself trying to appeal to the status quo when creating your material. If you don’t think your work is going to challenge your reader in some way, then it might not be worth writing.

    2) It’s important to understand how your pages turn. Consider this… children and adults read differently. When an adult reads a book, he tends to struggle through the book even when confronted with a passage that doesn’t make sense or is simply boring. We have become acclimated to the concept that whatever we begin we have to see through to the end. But most children have not learned that message. If they encounter a passage that they don’t like, then they’ll close the book and throw it across the room. (This is a line he liked to use a lot.) So the lesson is to make sure that your story flows well and that the language and illustration tell that story in such a way that a child is compelled to physically turn the page. Anything that is intended to be a surprise or an important moment should be on the left hand side of the spread to enhance its value as a surprise.

    He was a dark man to say the least. But brilliant in so many, many ways. And I will miss him.

    Goodbye and thank you, Maurice.

  • Great talent is always a great loss.
    The Colbert interview showed a mental awareness that is what allows life to be of value regardless of age. A unique vision honed over the years and not compromised.

  • Aymanut

    Another piece of my childhood dies. :(

  • Tony McCarson

    I hope he has a happy life in heaven with Jan & Stan Berenstain & Dr. Seuss.

  • Let’s not forget that there are animated versions of Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen made by Gene Deitch.

    • mee

      And a 1983 CG experimental version by Glen Keane and John Lasseter:


      In fact, I’ve been thinking that Beast looks something like the Wild Thing that’s on the cover of Sendak’s book. How did Glen and John choose that book to try their CG experiment with? I’ve been kind of wishing we could send Glen Keane a sympathy note, I bet it was his choice:

      — snip —

      Glen, is there a little bit of you in the Beast somehow?

      Glen Keane: Oh, yes. Yes, there’s a lot of me in the Beast. I had an unbelievable temper as a kid. I remember just smashing things in my bedroom. And my mom would come by, in her sweet Australian accent – she’s from Australia – but I – she’d come by and she’d say, “Is that my little Glennie?” And I was just like – God, that’s just a furious little beast. I – you know, I would have been under the curse of the Beast if there had been some sorceress or something. I could have easily been him. I really related to that character.

      — snip —

      My heart goes out to all grieving wild things, actually. A great loss for us all. RIP Maurice, and thank you so much for everything.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Of course that little Disney test only concentrated on Max and a sneaky pooch, it did showed what potential they had to merry 2D and 3D visuals as we would see in subsequent years, though the studio went no further on that project than for the 30 seconds seen here.

  • I remember him best for the Little Bear books, allthough the Nelvana series is what I saw/read most.

  • I remember as a kid, the tatty, well-thumbed copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” in the library was almost always out.
    I can happily say that it’s probably my earliest inspiration to persue a life drawing pictures

  • Matt B

    *Hat Tip* to a good man, a genuine man, a thinker & speaker of true thoughts, no false smiles, pretences, tactics or politics to be found. If only we were all a little more like that. Let us treasure his prolific works & his honest words. RIP Maurice Sendak.

  • Was My Face Red

    I had the honour of developing a show with Sendak for a while and though we never met face to face(I’m in the UK) we had some gloriously grumpy phone calls where he growled “People think I’m a kindly children’s uncle. I’m not a f*****g kindly children’s uncle” whilst large dogs barked in the background.

  • The Gee

    A partial transcription from a documentary about him.

  • Alas, I was one of those children whose parents did not “approve” of many of Sendak’s books. I only really got to know his work when I was in college, at a time when I was studying the “traditional” pantheon of great artists – Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt. There’s no doubt in my mind that Maurice Sendak’s work is right on that level. He was a master of technique, yes, but also someone who bent that prodigious talent toward the expression of something truly unique, children’s books that spoke to children in a way that many thought wasn’t possible or appropriate. Millions of children have proved them wrong.

  • “widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.”


    • I think that was a quote from the New York Times. New York is regional in their biases and preferences. He was a great artist / illustrator, however Seuss was equally unique and special. Apples and Oranges in design techniques and story themes.It should not be seen as a contest of positions.

  • Where the Wild Things Are is probably the gateway drug for me and many creatives of my generation. Dr. Seuss made kids think, Sendak made their parents think. I’ll miss him.

  • How sad, he was truly a treasure.

  • It is always important to tell the truth to children. Maurice Sendak knew this. Children can spot a lie on the moon!

  • The Gee—maurice-sendak-tribute

    That’s a link to part of the interview where Sendak discusses his two favorite works.
    If I understand correctly, this part wasn’t included in the interview aired back in January.

    It is a tribute to Sendak.

  • Jed G Martinez

    Last night, I was listening to “The Story” (another public radio show), and an interview with one of the stars of the live Broadway musical version of “Really Rosie” – who made friends with Mr. Sendak, almost from the get-go…
    Another project I will remember Maurice Sendak for was his work on a live stage version of Leos Janacek’s operetta “The Cunning Little Vixen” (which I saw on “Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS, over 20 years ago). I still have the literary version of the story, with lots of colorful illustrations by Sendak.