Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012

Maurice Sendak, beloved author and illustrator, has passed away at the age of 83. Sendak’s career began at twelve, when he was inspired to become an artist after seeing Disney’s Fantasia. A successful illustrator of other authors’ work throughout the 1950s, Sendak rose to fame with the now-classic Where the Wild Things Are in 1963, a book which brought his distinctive voice to generations of children and adult readers.

Since then, Sendak has always been a unique presence in children’s literature—never afraid to delve into the darker side of life, he caused a fair amount of controversy in his career, while at the same time garnering awards ranging from the Caldecott to a National Book Award to the National Medal of the Arts. He refused to sentimentalize childhood in his work, or to “lie to children,” as he put it in a recent interview, but the harsher realities and dangers in his work were always balanced by the unconquerable vitality and resilience of his protagonists…

Brave, headstrong, sometimes downright bratty, Sendak’s characters evince his faith in the ability of children, and maybe even humanity as a whole, to deal with the looming perils and lurking absurdities of life. What his art lacked in sentimentality, it more than made up for in humor, intelligence and inspiration. He was a brilliant, complicated, hardheaded and sometimes curmudgeonly genius, and he was wonderful. Today the world is a little poorer, and a little grimmer, for his absence, but his faith in us remains—all we can do is try our best to live up to it.


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