Maurice Sendak was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. His Jewish family came to the United States from Poland and lost many members of their extended family due to the Holocaust. Maurice was a sickly child and had to spend a lot of time indoors. He spent a lot of time reading, drawing, and letting his imagination run free. Maurice learned to love stories as a young child when his father told him embellished versions of Bible stories. At the age of twelve, Maurice became very inspired by the animated world of Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.” From that time forth he knew that he wanted to be an illustrator.
Maurice started working as an illustrator when he was still in high school. He illustrated his first children’s book in 1951 at the age of 23. Within 11 years Maurice had written and illustrated seven books and illustrated 43 others. In 1964, at the age of 36, Maurice Sendak won the Caldecott award for his most famous book Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice described in an interview that he got the idea for this book from an experience he had as a child when he was sent to his room while his parents were having a party. The “Wild Things” were actually modeled after some of the adults that were at that party.
Many of the ideas for Maurice Sendak’s books came from the feelings, experiences, and nightmares that he has had during his life. Maurice Sendak and his books have won many awards over the years. However, he has also been criticized for writing books that are inappropriate for children because of the dark emotions and disturbing images that often appear in them. One thing is for sure, Maurice Sendak changed children’s literature with his new way of writing for and about the lives of children. His books will surely stand the test of time.
Maurice Sendak is now 84 years old. Last year (2011), he published Bumble-Ardy, which is the first book he has written as well as illustrated in thirty years. He explained in an interview that he did this as his partner of 50 years was dying of cancer and he was dealing with his own health problems. He wrote the book to “keep him sane”. Maurice Sendak is a gruff, witty, and vibrant character. He shows this unique personality in each and every interview that he does.
Books of InterestEdit
1. Very Far Away (1957) This is the second book that Maurice Sendak both wrote and illustrated. In this book Martin is feeling neglected because his mother is busy caring for the new baby. He decides to go “Very Far Away” where somebody will answer his questions and meets up with friends who also wish to go very far away. These friends eventually get on each other’s nerves and Martin decides to go home to his mom who he misses. The well-written dialogue in this text rings true for what a boy of that age would be thinking and feeling and will help the reader engage with story. The lesson in this story is taught in a subtle way through Martin’s unexpected insight which allows the reader to draw their own meaning from the story. Maurice Sendak’s illustrations are simple and charming. (Harper Collins, 1985: ISBN: 9780060297237)
2. Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months (1962) This book has a poem for every month of the year. Each poem includes the words “chicken soup with rice” and we are reminded at the end that “all seasons of the year are nice for eating chicken soup with rice!” The rhythm and rhyme of this musical text make it a classic read-aloud for children. There aren’t any unexpected insights or lessons learned from this text. It is a text written for the pure enjoyment of the sound of language. Maurice Sendak chose to use simple and fun illustrations to complement this simple and fun text. (HarperCollins, 1962; ISBN: 0060255005)
3. Where the Wild Things Are (1963) This celebrated classic, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, won the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of the year in 1964. The musical language and the beautifully done illustrations brilliantly capture an angry little boy's feelings and fantasies upon being sent to bed without any supper. Maurice Sendak’s use of understatement and unexpected insight allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about Max’s experience with the Wild Things and Max’s experience of being sent to bed without supper. Children of all ages will relate to story told by this classic tale. Children of all ages will be enchanted by its magical illustrations. (HarperCollins, 1988; ISBN: 9780060254926)
4. In the Night Kitchen (1970) This picture book, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1971. Maurice Sendak lives up to his imaginative and non-traditional style in this book about a boy and his nighttime adventures. The boy (Mickey) is awakened by a noise, falls out of his clothes, and “into the light of the night kitchen.” This book was banned in many schools and libraries because the boy is completely naked in some of the illustrations. Readers will love reading this book that demonstrates just how odd our dreams can be. Many readers will be busy making connections to some of the odd dreams they have had themselves. As in so many of Maurice Sendak’s books, he leaves the reader to make their own interpretations of the story. (HarperCollins, 1995; ISBN: 9780060266684)
5. Outside Over There (1981) This picture book, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1982. The musical language and the beautifully done illustrations in this book brilliantly tell the story of a little girl who saves her baby sister from goblins by playing her wonder horn. This book acknowledges the complexity of a child’s life—the responsibilities they feel, their awareness of the complex dangers and emotions in their parents’ lives, and their own fears and emotions. Maurice Sendak creates a fantastical story that deals with real-life issues in an understated way. This darkly told story will engage readers through its beautifully done illustrations, musical language, and meaningful subject matter. (HarperCollins, 1981. ISBN: 9780060255237)
6. Bumble-Ardy (2011) Bumble-Ardy is the first book Maurice Sendak has written as well as illustrated in thirty years. This book evolved from an animated segment for Sesame Street to a picture book about a pig who is adopted by his aunt and sneakily throws himself his first ever birthday party at the age of nine. His party gets out of hand, but his aunt forgives him and professes her love for him. The rhythm and rhyme of the musical language in this text will captivate its readers as well as the extremely detailed and imaginative illustrations. Children, who love birthdays more than almost anything else, will be engaged by this story. Readers will also gain the unexpected insight that adults love and forgive their children. (HarperCollins,2011. ISBN: 9780062051981)
Maurice Sendak’s StyleEdit
Maurice Sendak often writes about the dark emotions and fantasies of children. He doesn’t write “for children” the way most children’s authors do. He acknowledges the complexities of childhood and is willing to address the negative emotions that children often have. One of the recurrent themes in Maurice Sendak’s books is that parents still love their children even if the children misbehave sometimes. In my opinion, Maurice Sendak stands out as one of the best authors of children’s literature because of his amazing and nonconventional illustrations and the musical language he uses to tell each and every story.
Sendak, Maurice. Bumble-Ardy, HarperCollins, 2011; ISBN: 9780062051981.
Sendak, Maurice. Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months, HarperCollins, 1962; ISBN: 0060255005.
Sendak, Maurice. In the Night Kitchen, HarperCollins, 1995; ISBN: 9780060266684.
Sendak, Maurice. Outside Over There, HarperCollins, 1981. ISBN: 9780060255237.
Sendak, Maurice. Very Far Away, Harper Collins, 1985: ISBN: 9780060297237.
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are, HarperCollins, 1988; ISBN: 9780060254926.
Sutton, Roger (2003). An Interview With Maurice Sendak, Horn Book Magazine, 79(6), pages 687-699.