As you may have heard by now, Maurice Sendak has passed away.
Author of more than 20 books and illustrator of more than 100, Mr. Sendak was internationally famous for Where the Wild Things Are (1963), for which he won the Caldecott Medal in 1964. According to the London Guardian, more than 17 million copies of the slim volume have been sold to date.
Mr. Sendak’s work is known for being unsettling and provocative, which became its trademark. As Margalit Fox from the New York Times notes:
“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.... His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home.”
The Guardian, quoting from an interview with Mr. Sendak, cuts to core of his work: “I refuse to lie to children,” he said, “I refuse to cater to...innocence.”
It’s that sentiment that guided Mr. Sendak’s work, making his books both terrifying and irresistible to children and adults alike.
If you have the time and the inclination, NPR has a moving interview with Mr. Sendak that it conducted upon the release of his most recent book, Bumble-Ardy, published this past September. It ranges through many topics, including death, life, and—of course—Bumble-Ardy.
Mr. Sendak died from complications from a recent stroke, according to his long-term editor, Michael di Capua, whom Fox references in the New York Times piece mentioned above.
A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.