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April 22

Editor’s Pick
MAY 8, 2012 11:26AM

Maurice Sendak has passed on at age 83

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I heard the sad news just a short time ago that famed author and illustrator Maurice Sendak had just passed on at age 83 after complications from a stroke.

While I was not a youngster when his books became so popular, my two sons were able to enjoy his works as youngsters. As someone in the visual arts I was amazed by his tremendous creativity that was consistent right up until his last days.

Just a few months ago Stephen Colbert interviewed Sendak in Connecticut at his home. I recorded the interview, but couldn't convert it to a digital format in time for this post. I thought to myself "How many times does Colbert travel to the home of the interviewee?  This might have been a first!" Anyway, it was a hilarious interview with the two characters playing off each other's sense of humor. (Comedy Central has a short clip of the interview here.)

Shortly after I graduated from college I taught some art classes at a local art center in Danbury, Connecticut and one of my students knew Maurice Sendak quite well as did her father. I hoped one day I might meet Sendak, but that day never came. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful feeling to know he lived six miles away (as the crow flies) just over the border in Connecticut.

I know a wave of sadness will hit millions, most likely billions, of his fans worldwide as news of his death spreads. I am reminded of how we are constantly losing so many talented people each year and now, unfortunately, Maurice Sendak has been added to that list.



QUOTESMr. Sendak’s work was the subject of critical studies and major exhibitions; in the second half of his career, he was also renowned as a designer of theatrical sets. His art graced the writing of other eminent authors for children and adults, including Hans Christian Andersen, Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, William Blake and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

In book after book, Mr. Sendak upended the staid, centuries-old tradition of American children’s literature, in which young heroes and heroines were typically well scrubbed and even better behaved; nothing really bad ever happened for very long; and everything was tied up at the end in a neat, moralistic bow.

Mr. Sendak’s characters, by contrast, are headstrong, bossy, even obnoxious. (In “Pierre,” “I don’t care!” is the response of the small eponymous hero to absolutely everything.) His pictures are often unsettling. His plots are fraught with rupture: children are kidnapped, parents disappear, a dog lights out from her comfortable home."

--Margalit Fox, The New York Times



For the full Times article click on the image below:





Maurice Sendak interviewed at his home in Ridgefield, CT.




The trailer for Where The Wild Things Are:



UPDATE: The News-Times of Danbury, CT has part one of the Colbert interview from January here in video form.




Below is the content from my post from 2009:


With the release last week of Where the Wild Things Are, I thought readers on OS would be interested to see where Maurice Sendak hangs out. If you were able to fly like an eagle from my hill and head a few miles to the east you would arrive at Maurice Sendak's place which is on a beautiful back country road. 

Several decades ago a local paper profiled him in a feature piece so I knew that he lived in the area from that point on. A friend of ours lives about half a mile from his house, but I don't know if she ever crossed paths with him. Certainly her children read his books some 10 years back when they were in grade school.

This general area north of New York City is home to many well known authors, such as Philip Roth.

If you ever wondered Where the Wild Things Are you now know the answer.



The distant ridge just to the right of the tallest tree in the photo is the area Where the Wild Things Are.




A quick photo shot from my car of the bucolic and lovely Sendak homestead.





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He was so great. What a rich and productive life. Sorry to hear that has died.
Another lovely story and pictorial. Let's hope Mr. Sendak has gone on to a happy land of wild things.
Bless him, and you, for this. r.
RIP, Maurice. My brother and I loved that book as kids. I won't watch the film on principle. I want to remember the original.
So sad. Loved his books and illustrations. He was so original and creative.

What a fitting tribute to a great artist!

I loved his books, and I enjoyed his work so much that I even went to the New York City Opera to see the sets he had created. We always had subscriptions for the Metropolitan Opera but made an exception just to see them, and it was well worth it.

He was so talented, and he will be missed by many.
We were do lucky that a person like Maurice followed his bliss and shared his vision with the rest of us. Truly an original artist.
Bleahhhh! Above should read "...so lucky..."
Well done.. a sad day indeed.
My momma's birthday is tomorrow. She would have been 84. She taught me to read with the Little Bear books, my first exposure to Mr. Sendak. While I've followed his work ever since, I've always connected most with Little Bear and his mother. In one story, on Little Bear's birthday, there's no cake. Of course at the end, his mother appears with a beautiful cake she's made for him, and says, "I never did forget your birthday, and I never will."

Nor me. Happy Birthday Momma Heron, RIP Maurice, and say hello to Edward Gorey and the Gashlycrumb kids.
We have a framed print from "In the Night Kitchen" in our kitchen, of course. Sendak is a wonder and an inspiration. I'm sorry to hear of his passing.
"Please don't go. We'll eat you up. We love you so."

Thank you D~.
I just got online and saw the news and I am so sad! I read "Where the Wild Things Are" as a kid and loved it - on a recent trip to the US, I even bought a little notebook with one of the illustrations on the cover. My brother also adores the book - he has a tattoo of the iconic image of the Wild Things with Max on his arm. Thank you for this wonderful tribute. I love how you took comfort in the fact that Sendak lived so close to you. It's sad your paths never crossed, but it's easy to feel how connected you felt to him. Very touching. RIP, Maurice Sendak, and thanks for the joy - and laughs - you brought to us!
Thank you for this befitting tribute to a great man who fired up many imaginations. I know my son and daughter grew up with him as I discovered him later in my life. May he rest in peace among all the good and wild things where he went.
He designed the sets for the PNW Ballet's Nutcracker here in Seattle. He will be missed. Great tribute John.
You have done him a real favor here and for us to. Thanks for the videos and the homestead. One is always so curious about these things or at least I am.
My children loved his books (especially "In the Night Kitchen") so much that we all went to the "Wild Things" ballet when they were adults. His death is a loss to children and parents everywhere.
A talented artist friend of mine in college wrote/did the artwork for a children's book as his senior project, while his cancer was in remission. The book was published after he died. Sendak wrote the foreword. As important as Where the Wild Things was to me as a child, Sendak was more important to me because of this. Thank you for honoring him with this post.
"... I remembered what life was like, and I didn't know what else to write about."
~ From the interview at home.
Thanks for this homage to a wonderful creator.
Great review. He will be missed.
Stephen Colbert showed another great clip tonight from his interview with Maurice Sendak, & I'm hoping NPR will repeat (if they haven't already) the interview they did with him a few months ago -- a beautifully honest interview that had me in tears, driving down the road in the car, listening. My kids (& grandkids) loved his books, & I loved reading those books aloud.
Heard Terry Gross (Fresh Air) interview him not long ago. It was fascinating and also surprising; they were talking about religious beliefs and he professed atheism yet seemed to be so wistful and ambivalent about the possibility of life continuing after death. He knew he didn't have much time left. At one point he started crying and told her how much he'd miss her. It clearly caught her off guard and it was so touching; you could hear how moved she was by his words. He sounded like such a beautiful soul and really understood children.
I have to echo Midwest Muse. "Oh, no" said the Wild Things. "Please don't go. We'll eat you up we love you so."

Thank you Mr. Sendak
Thanks for this fascinating tribute.
Pierre is one of my very favorite characters of all time. And I remember my mother reading Chicken Soup with Rice to me at bedtime. That book and Pierre and a couple others came packaged in a tiny "house." It's amazing how his death has saddened people but brought us altogether since so many people have a memory or association with him. Thanks for showing us where he lived.
Many, many, many thanks to everyone who commented with personal reflections and stories of how Maurice Sendak touched their lives!! You didn't just make my day...you made my year!
Thanks for this piece. Rated
Thank you for this and congratulations on the Editor's Pick. I felt so sad to hear that Sendak had died and also that he died on my birthday (which isn't that important, but to me it mattered). The only children's book that survived my growing up is a copy of one of his miniature books. How I treasure it. What a high bar he set for all of us who love to draw and who love children's books!