Author and illustrator of over 50 children’s books during his lifetime, Maurice Sendak died Tuesday due to complications following a recent stroke. Most well known for his book Where the Wild Things Are (1963), he was both an award-winning author and artist. Nothing short of a character himself, Mr. Sendak graced us all with his unique perspective, timeless children’s literature, and expressive illustrations. We have lost one of the greats.
While Where the Wild Things Are is certainly one of his most well-known publications, Sendak’s other groundbreaking works include In the Night Kitchen, Outside Over There, Higglety Pigglety Pop! and The Nutshell Library. Bumble-Ardy, his first book in 30 years, was published by HarperCollins last year. A posthumous picture book, My Brother’s Book, is slated for 2012.
Sendak has said of his own writing, “I don’t write for children. I write, and then someone says, ‘That’s for children.’” He held similar sentiments for his art, and once said that he wanted to be acknowledged as more that a “kiddie-book artist”. By the time the accolades came in 1997 in the form of the National Medal of Arts, Sendak, already late in his life, had moved beyond the need for recognition. “I was accepted at the grown-up party,” he said in a 2002 interview. “The medal said, ‘American Artist,’ [but] by then, I didn’t need it.”
“The distinctions of fine art bore me to death,” Sendak added.
Regardless of the number or timing of recognitions he did or did not receive, the art of Maurice Sendak will surely live on to be loved by children and adults alike. There is something particularly engaging about the pictures he has given us. They have depth, movement, and a uniquely expressive quality that make them unmistakeable.
Not all that long ago, I watched Mr. Sendak in a two part interview with Stephen Colbert on his show The Colbert Report. My fiance, Chris, and I watch both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report each week night over a cup (or two) of coffee (or tea) – it’s sort of a ritual we have fallen into, and the Maurice Sendak interview was one of the funniest and endearing pieces either of us had seen in a long time. So much so that I turned to Chris and said, “I wish I could know him.”
Being inspired by him will have to suffice.