Wild rumpus starter, Maurice Sendak was born on this day in 1928. Best known for his children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Sendak spent much of his frail childhood in bed drawing neighborhood kids playing outside. In school, he excelled at art, and in his teens, Sendak worked part-time at All American Comics. While working as a window dresser for F.A.O. Schwarz, in the 1940s, Sendak met children’s publisher, Ursula Nordstrom. She admired his work and hired Sendak as an illustrator. It wasn’t until 1956 that he wrote and illustrated his first book, Kenny’s Window.
Sendak’s dark, edgy drawings and flawed characters drew complaints from some parents and critics. His books were a striking contrast to the idealized characters featured in children’s books of the time. Fork wielding Max and flamboyant Rosie displayed much more chutzpah than Dick and Jane or any of the Little Golden Books characters.
“In plain terms, a child is a complicated creature who can drive you crazy. There’s a cruelty to childhood, there’s an anger. And I did not want to reduce Max to the trite image of the good little boy that you find in too many books.” ~ Interview with Maurice Sendak, Biography.com
Sendak has illustrated over 80 books by other authors, written and illustrated over 50 books of his own, and received multiple awards including the Caldecott Medal, a distinguished honor awarded to picture book illustrators. He also collaborated with fellow Brooklynite, Carole King on Really Rosie (1975), a musical based on his nutshell gang books. In his later years, he designed sets for several operas. Maurice Sendak died on May 8, 2012, from complications of a stroke. His books continue to inspire and captivate new mischief making generations.
Fun With Dick & Jane Fact: Yiddish With Dick and Jane (2004), by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman is a parody of the once popular series. Siblings Dick and Jane are all grown up. Dick schmoozes, Jane schleps, little sister Sally teaches Transgressive Feminist Ceramics. Oy gevalt!
Fun Wild Thing Fact: The wild things were inspired by Sendak’s immigrant relatives. “They were unkempt; their teeth were horrifying. Hair unraveling out of their noses.” ~ Maurice Sendak