Known for his work on over a dozen storybooks, Mr. Sendak’s books were perennial reading room favorites with universal themes that echoed in the imaginations of children, both young and old. His work was often considered subversive for undermining the traditional, moralistic standards of children’s literature at the time. Book after book, story after story, he introduced us to characters that could be bossy, headstrong, troublemaking, or isolationist.
His lyrical use of language and lavish, self-taught pencil work brought him success with with his story about a young boy named Max who after a night of making mischief in his wolf costume, is sent to his room without supper. Max escapes from his room, by boat, and sails to the land of the Wild Things…a land filled with grotesque and fanged monsters, where the real adventures begin. The story, entitled “Where the Wild Things Are”, was published by Harper & Row in 1963. In 1964, the American Library Association awarded Mr. Sendak the Caldecott Medal, considered the Pulitzer Prize of children’s book illustration, for “Where the Wild Things Are.” The book, which has since sold over 19 million copies, has since been adapted in an animated short, a feature film, an opera — and had its own line of toys.
His book, “The Nutshell Library” inspired “Really Rosie,” a musical with a book and lyrics by Maurice Sendak and music by Carole King. The musical was based on Sendak’s books “Chicken Soup with Rice”, “Pierre”, “One was Johnny”, “Alligators All Around” and “The Sign on Rosie’s Door.” The musical, which was inspired by Sendak’s childhood, focuses on a demonstrative little girl who loves to sing and dance. A half-hour animated television special, based on the musical, aired on CBS TV in February 1975. It was directed by Maurice Sendak, with Carole King voicing the title character.
Last September, “Bumble-Ardy,” a new picture book by Mr. Sendak, the first in 30 years, was issued by HarperCollins Publishers. The book, which tells the story of an orphaned pig who gives himself a birthday
party to rival all birthday parties, spent five weeks on the New York Times children’s best-seller list. Next February, the publisher will release posthumous picture book, “My Brother’s Book.” The book, inspired by his love for his late brother, Jack, is based on a poem written and illustrated by Mr. Sendak.