Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak dies
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Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak dies

9th May 2012

Maurice Sendak, the bestselling author of the classic children's tale Where the Wild Things Are, has died at the age of 83.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1928 to Jewish immigrant parents, Sendak's early life was heavily influenced by the arts and in a later interview the author revealed he decided to become an illustrator after viewing Walt Disney's Fantasia in 1940.

Sendak spent most of the next two decades providing illustrations for other authors' work before writing and illustrating the seminal Where the Wild Things Are in 1963.

Criticised by some for its graphic depictions of monsters, the book captured the imaginations of children across the world and continues to feature on children's bestseller charts almost 50 years after publication, as well as being adapted into a feature film by Spike Jonze in 2009.

Sendak went on to write and illustrate a number of acclaimed works, including 1970's In the Night Kitchen, which also courted controversy due to the young protagonist, Mickey, being naked for much of the book.

His later career included collaborations with playwright Tony Kushner on an illustrated English version of the Czech composer Hans Kresa's children's Holocaust opera Brundibar, as well as creating the children's TV programme Seven Little Monsters.

Sendak was always keen to dispel the notion that he was a 'kiddie book person', claiming children were a better audience and tougher critics than adult readers.

After both his parents were killed during the Holocaust, the author said he knew that sugar-coating the truth was not what children wanted - or needed.

'It forced me to take children to a level that I thought was more honest than most people did.

'Because if life is so critical, if Anne Frank could die, if my friend could die, children were as vulnerable as adults, and that gave me a secret purpose to my work, to make them live,' he added.

Despite being aware he was gay from an early age, Sendak concealed his homosexuality for eight decades until finally admitting in 2008 that he had been in a relationship with the psychoanalyst Dr Eugene Glynn for 50 years, before the latter's death in May 2007.

Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins, which published Sendak's work, said his talent was only equalled by his mind and breadth of knowledge.

'He was a glorious author and illustrator, an amazingly gifted designer, a blisteringly funny raconteur, a fierce and opinionated wit, and a loyal friend to those who knew him,' she explained.

'Every once in a while, someone comes along who changes our world for the better. Maurice Sendak was such a man.'

Sendak died on Tuesday May 8th as a result of complications from a stroke suffered four days earlier.

© W&G Foyle Ltd