Maurice Bernard Sendak was a renowned American author and illustrator of children's books. Sendak illustrated over one-hundred-fifty books during his sixty-year career. He is best known for Where the Wild Things Are (1963). The book has been adapted several times in other media, including a 1973 animated short film, a 1980 opera, and a 2009 feature-film adaptation. As of 2009, the book had sold more than 19 million copies worldwide, including 10 million in the US.
Maurice Sendak was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents and decided to become an illustrator after viewing Walt Disney's film Fantasia at the age of twelve. His illustrations were first published in 1947 in a textbook titled Atomics for the Millions by Dr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff. He spent much of the 1950s working as an artist for children's books before beginning to write his own stories.
He has collaborated with such notable authors as Meindert DeJong, Tony Kushner, Randall Jarrell, Ruth Krauss, Else Holmelund Minarik, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. And he has illustrated classics by Mother Goose, the Brothers Grimm, Herman Melville, and Leo Tolstoy.
Maurice Sendak remains the most honored children’s book artist in US history. He received the 1964 Caldecott Medal, the 1970 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 1983 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the 2003 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. In 1996 President Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts in recognition of his contribution to the arts in America.
In addition, an elementary school in North Hollywood, California, is named in his honor.
In 1972 Maurice Sendak moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut with his partner of fifty years, the psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Glynn.
In the late 1970s, Sendak began a second career as a costume and stage designer, designing operas that included Krása’s Brundibar, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Prokoﬁev’s The Love for Three Oranges, and Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, as well as Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker.
Sendak died at age 83 at Danbury Hospital, from stroke complications.
The New York Times necrologies called Sendak "the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche."
Since Sendak’s death in 2012, The Maurice Sendak Foundation has overseen the publication of virtually all of his picture books in new and faithfully rendered editions.